You might be tempted to try the Rockin Moroccan food truck because of its catchy name. But the food will bring you back and turn you into a follower.
Lamb shanks so tender the meat falls off the bone because they’ve been simmering all day. And the Big Boss Burger — double gyro, a half-pound burger — so big that the box won’t even close.
The Rockin Moroccan also serves generous portions at reasonable prices. The lamb shank platter with rice, fries, pita, tzatziki and Moroccan pico is $12.
In addition to the tasty food, you can’t help but fall in love with owners Amina Guennoun and Mike Neel. And it can happen as quickly as the two of them fell for each other 12 years ago. More about that later.
On Sept. 23, Rockin Moroccan food truck will set up shop at Gibb’s Hundred Brewing where they will host Ethnosh, the international food adventurers group, to showcase the cuisine and culture of Morocco. At this NoshUp, you can meet owners Mike Neel and Amina Guennoun. A $13 ticket will get you a plate full of Moroccan cuisine. Beer from the brewery and other beverages are available at an additional cost.
The food truck dream
This business is a family endeavor. Neel’s mother, Maria, quit her job at the hospital to run the grill with Amina on the truck. The women cook together, elbow to elbow, turning out falafel and saffron chicken platters, gyros and lamb shanks like a synchronized unit.
“Them on the truck is a match made in heaven,” Neel says.
Neel, he’s the guy on the ground. He takes your order, making you feel like it genuinely makes his day to be there doing that.
“You want fries with that?” he asks. “We’re gonna load them up for you. No extra charge. We’re gonna take care of you.”
Then he delivers each ticket to his wife, with affection: “A falafel and a lamb shank, my love.”
“Honey, I need a Boss burger, no onion and chocolate cake. Thank you, love.”
Guennoun smiles down at him with the same gaze of affection she sees looking back at her.
The food truck made its first run to Summerfield Farms on July 4, and bookings have been steady ever since. This has been a dream of Guennoun’s for two years. The self-taught chef learned to cook by simply experimenting and trying new things. She and Neel love to eat and share their food with friends and family. She’s lived in Morocco, Holland, Italy and the U.S., and speaks six languages. Their meals reflect those influences. The truck’s fez fries are a twist on Dutch street fries, which are topped with raw chopped onions and a mayonnaise-based sauce.
Guennoun and Neel’s home is always open to guests.
“It’s like Central Station,” says Neel, a native New Yorker.
He also says, with a chuckle, that their friends call them “food pushers.”
Some of them inspired menu items, such as the Boss burger and the Moroc ‘N’ Rolls — Moroccan-spiced spring rolls, served with sweet and sour sauce.
Maria, who is Italian, says both Italians and Moroccans love food and to share it with others.
The couple always knew they wanted to operate their food business from a truck, with no plans for a brick and mortar spot. Neel, who grew up in the restaurant business, knows what it entails. As restaurant owners, there are few days off. With the truck, if they decide to park it a few days — or longer — for time off, they can. They also own it outright, without any debt. It’s a retired postal service truck that was customized. Their mobility also enables more people to discover them.
“To go to people is better than for them to go to you,” Guennoun says. “My favorite thing is seeing the expression on people’s faces once they bite into the food and truly enjoy it.”
Follow your heart
Now for that love story.
Neel was 18 when they got married.
He was leaving Walmart one day, when he saw Guennoun with someone he knew.
“Wow,” he said to himself.
“It was love at first sight. I’ve never felt that way when seeing someone,” Neel says.
She was also smitten.
“OMG, he’s so handsome!” she said to herself.
That friend helped connect them.
Their first date was dinner at a sushi restaurant. She impressed him by eating more than he did. He still has a photo of them on his phone. She was a 24-year-old, raven-haired beauty with dark eyes that sparkled.
“We just zinged!” Guennoun says.
“There was something about her that I can’t explain,” Neel says. “We were so compatible ... it felt like we knew each other forever.”
Three months later, they were married.
Maria was nervous about it because of their age and brief courtship. But there’s no doubt about her affection for her daughter-in-law. Both of their mothers play vital roles for them to run the business.
Her mother, Fatima, watches the kids — Mariam, 11, and 9-year-old twin boys, Osama and Nizar — while they’re all on the truck.
“Amina and I couldn’t do this without her mom and my mom,” Neel says.
There’s a similar storyline to both their immediate love for each other and their dream to run a food truck. Both came from following their hearts and having faith in one another. They had the courage to take risks and believed that things would work out.
“When you love something, you just go for it,” Guennoun says.