It is the morning of Thursday, June 25, 2015. The smell of Pan con Chicharrón wafts through the National Mall as volunteers scramble to hang the last vibrantly colored decorations and prepare the dancers for the opening ceremony. Soon, the lawn will be filled with throngs of costumed performers, esteemed guests from Peru, and tourists, all trying to take in the gorgeous sight that is the 49th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
This year, the Festival showcases Peru, a nation steeped in culture, and, apparently, home to some of the most delicious ingredients and flavors. The Festival chose the Peruvian Brothers, a prominent food truck in DC, to help showcase the cuisine of this year’s celebrated nation. Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone, the founders of Peruvian Brothers, spent months preparing for the Festival. The brothers and their staff now had to plate thousands of meals a day, a far cry from the few hundreds they typically put together on the streets.
Giuseppe, a former Olympic rower and one half of the charisma and drive behind the business, recalled how he and his brother prepared for the event, “We’d been getting ready for about four months…Our team went from twelve people to forty-five people. The Peruvian community has been great to us.” When asked how he found so many extra staff members, Giuseppe explained, “I posted on our Facebook…We had the kitchen staff already, we just added a few more people to help put everything together…just more people around, more hands.”
The one pair of hands Giuseppe says the whole operation could not live without is his brother. “Working with [Mario], I am the luckiest there is. Honestly, I would not pick anybody else other than my brother…The first truck from the beginning, it would not be happening without him,” Giuseppe remarks. The two had always “wanted to start something together” and it was their mother who said, “Hey, why don’t you start a food truck?” Growing up in Peru and then even after moving to America, Giuseppe and Mario had always cherished their home country’s cuisine, so they jumped at the idea and started their business.
The brothers each had their strengths and together formed a, what turned out to be wildly successful, food truck team. Giuseppe began handling the logistics and entrepreneurial aspects of Peruvian Brothers, while Mario quickly became the soul behind the said food. Though both of them can skillfully cook, Giuseppe says, “My brother is the one that cooks mainly. He’s been cooking since I can remember…although I could cook, he could do it a little bit better [laughs]. And not only that, when he grabs a recipe or has an idea, he won’t stop until he gets it perfect every single time.”
The recipe that has proven to be most successful? The Pan con Chicharrón. A delicious layered sandwich with baked and then grilled sweet potatoes, pork tenderloin, and the brothers’ signature Criolla sauce. Beaming, Giuseppe adds, “We’ve had people drive all the way from Pennsylvania just to pick up some Pan con Chicharrón to take back [home].”
For the Festival, Peruvian Brothers are partnering with Avocados from Peru to make sure they have the freshest, highest-quality avocados. Many of which will be used in their new recipe, Ensalada con Palta Y Quinua. The dish “is pretty much a mixture of vegetables with quinoa topped over half an avocado. And we were very lucky to join forces with [Avocados from Peru] for this event,” says Giuseppe. The avocado is apparently a fantastic “superfood” that has more than twenty vitamins and minerals and the Lanzones say they love working with the ingredient. According to Xavier Equihua, the president and CEO of the Peruvian Avocado Commission, it is actually “the first time in history they’re serving, on the National Mall at the Folk Festival, fresh avocados, that has never happened before.”
As crowds gathered around the Peruvian Brothers’ booth, all that could be heard were exclamations of delight from customers, eating their meals as quickly as they could. And then going for seconds. Giuseppe’s charismatic girlfriend, Frances Holuba, too, gushed about the food, “Mario’s an amazing chef… He’s really, really talented. He sourced from the whole family all the recipes that they love so much.” With such positive feedback, it came as no surprise when Ms. Holuba announced that Washingtonian Magazine had just named Peruvian Brothers the Best Food Truck of DC.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival continues until July 5th, and, thankfully for us, the Peruvian Brothers will be serving up meals from their delicious menu all week. So, pop by Jefferson and 4th to grab some of their Pan con Chicharrón, or whatever you’re in the mood for, and enjoy the Festival.