Converting a Tuk Tuk to take a slice of London’s pizza action
Mr Steve and the Tukshop team are well used to helping customers with ‘unusual’ requests, and in 2006 they received another.
That was the year brothers James and Thom Elliot had an idea – to give up their day jobs and follow a dream. The guys were excited about the burgeoning street food movement in the UK’s Capital and wanted their own slice of it. But if they were going to take pizza to the streets of London, James and Thom wanted to do it right. And that meant a quest to uncover the best-kept secrets of the pizza masters in the land of this delicious dish’s origin.
The missing ingredient – a Tuk Tuk
The brothers’ journey would take them from London to Italy, a trip of about 4,000kms. Oh and they wanted to do it in a three-wheel Tuk Tuk, learning all there was to know about cooking pizza en-route.
So James and Thom turned to the Tukshop. They came to purchase a Piaggio Ape TM van for their new street food business. Mr Steve helped them with their initial focus, which was to ensure the beast could safely and securely carry a 700km pizza oven in the back!
But once that was sorted, the next challenge arose. James and Thom were not content with the usual free delivery of their shiny new Tuk Tuk. No, our intrepid entrepreneurs decided to go get their iconic Ape themselves from Italy and drive it home. Collecting their vehicle meant the brothers could spend the long journey back meeting food producers, top chefs and passionate local cooks, to learn all they could about the art of making proper pizza, Neopolitan style.
Mr Steve helped to organize it so that the brothers could collect their van from a Piaggio dealer in Naples. He was also instrumental in enabling James and Thom to visit the Tuk Tuk manufacturer’s Italian factory.
Once back in the UK, the Elliots had their Tuk Tuk converted to carry the pizza oven and they were good to go.
From pizza truck stop to pop up shop
Armed with their Italian foodie knowledge, they set up shop (or Tuk Tuk) in Berwick Street Market in Soho selling incredible takeaway pizzas at a reasonable price.
The Tukshop Tuk Tuk coped supremely well with life on London’s streets, even with the heavy oven on board. It also made a number of appearances at various festivals on the summer circuit. In fact, it was at Bestival that Mr Steve sampled the brothers’ pizza for the first time and rated it as excellent.
A review in the Daily Telegraph of Pizza Pilgrims back in 2014 enthused, ‘if Neapolitan pizza is your thing, you will struggle to find it done better.’
Indeed, the brothers’ growing fan base frequenting Berwick St Market was testament to how their culinary adventure paid off. And after two years serving delighted customers from the back of the Tuk Tuk, they opened the first of their ‘pop-up’ restaurants. Today the number of Pizza Pilgrim places continues to grow throughout London. They’ve even opened their first in Oxford. More often than not, an image of that very first Tukshop Tuk Tuk has a prominent place in the interior design of each restaurant.
A multimedia melting cheese fest
The trek to Italy and back led to a road-trip movie which was shown on Italian television. In addition, the 2013 release of the Eliot brothers’ book Pizza Pilgrims: Recipes from the backstreets of Italy raised their profile further still. More 5-star reviews followed. Then the company went on to win a coveted place in Expert Market’s 2016 list of London’s Coolest Companies for the story of their origins. And it all began from the back of a skillfully converted Tuk Tuk from Tukshop.
As Mr Steve commented:
‘If anyone’s looking for a small practical load-lugger that’s just oozing Italian cool, character and quirky style - one that can be beautifully converted to vend everything from pizza and presecco to coffee, crepes and ice cream - simply contact
the Tukshop. You’ll find us used to the unusual!’
Whether you’d like to buy, hire, convert, customise, service or just talk Tuk Tuks, get in touch with Tuk Tuk Master Mr Steve and the team
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