This article originally appeared in the Source Weekly; written by Eat Drink Bend author, Nancy Patterson
Disclaimer: I am still relishing in a euphoric state induced by cuisine from Sunny's Carrello. Maybe it was the velvety texture of the house-made Semolina pasta. Or the bright and savory characteristics of their homemade pesto. Or perhaps the balanced crunch of Maldon salt flakes, delicately sprinkled over grilled focaccia bread.
Some food carts in Central Oregon tend to hibernate during the winter months; it's cold, snowing, and oftentimes outdoor seating is the only thing available—can you blame them? However, that's not the case for Sunny's Carrello, which opened its doors—er, windows in November. Amy Wright, who co-owns Sunny Yoga Kitchen with her wife, Courtney, trained as a chef in northern Boston, with Italian cuisine as her foundation. When the opportunity to open a food cart presented itself, casual Italian fare was an obvious choice.
It was a bit of serendipity, and a few Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulations, that led the Wrights to launch the carrello, Italian for "cart." Beer-brewed cocktails paired with a 100-layer lasagna (yes, it really had 100 layers) were on the menu for a pop-up brunch hosted by Sunny's and The Ale Apothecary. OLCC rules dictate an establishment must offer at least five different "substantial" food items when the place serves alcohol. Catering to hungry patrons at The Ale Apothecary would allow the tasting room to serve barrel-aged cocktails—thus inciting the aspiring business partners to make Italian food a permanent fixture at the Century West spot.
Wright has built a menu reflecting her early career training and visits to Italy. She welcomed me into her cart an hour before opening time and gave me a choice between their best-selling agnolotti—pasta stuffed with cannellini beans, basil pesto and roasted Brussel sprouts—or the carbonara-style pasta. I chose the more photo-worthy carbonara for its vibrant yellow coloring coming from the egg yolk and the pasta's natural golden hue. While bacon crisped on the griddle, Wright tossed semolina pasta in egg yolk and cream.
Carbonara doesn't traditionally include cream, but as Wright explained, "Carbonara can sometimes be served relatively room-temperature—this, of course, is to ensure that the egg doesn't scramble. I love the warmth that cream adds to this dish."
Meanwhile, Wright continued to prepare an antipasto: focaccia served with white bean puree and pesto. The house-made bread is grilled with olive oil and served alongside a cannellini bean puree, topped with house-made pesto. Admittedly, I would not have ordered this appetizer had I not seen how beautiful it turned out. As she sprinkled a bit of Maldon salt over the hot, crispy focaccia slices, we headed into The Ale Apothecary for the fun part.
The carbonara was more savory than I could have imagined. Smoky bacon bits, a sunny-side egg and creamy yolk sauce come together, creating harmonious umami across each and every taste bud. I'd prefer not to dramatize this experience too much, but I was nearly brought to tears. Moving over to the plate of focaccia, the first thing I noticed is the beautiful crunch from coarse salt paired with a vibrant, citrusy pesto. From that I understood what people mean whey they wish for time to stand still.
All right, coming back to my senses.
Sunny's offers genuine hospitality from people who are passionate about the food they serve, as well as offering locally sourced ingredients—including Camas Country Mill flour, Home Farm Foods eggs, Carlton Farms bacon, Volcano Veggies, Shepard's Grain flour, Rogue River cheeses and Agricultural Connections' Pacific Northwest veggies.
The cart can also make things vegan and gluten-free, when available. "We offer many dishes like this at Sunny Yoga Kitchen, so I wanted to stay in line with that for our current customers," Wright states. Not to mention, you'll undoubtedly be greeted by Amy's contagious smile and enthusiasm upon arrival.