By Charlie Pogacar

Dean Medico has built up an impressive list of people he’s cooked his signature Neapolitan pizzas for. Celebrities like Martha Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman, Dennis Leary, Jake Gyllenhaal—the list goes on. His pizza truck, Pizza Luca, has been featured on the Cooking Channel and in The New York Times and Entrepreneur magazine.

What’s perhaps more impressive, however, is the astronomical rise of Pizza Luca, which Medico started in 2011. What began as a wood-fired pizza oven mounted on the back of a 1952 Chevy flatbed truck has turned into a fleet of six pizza trucks that serve markets in Southern Connecticut, Upstate New York, New York City and Long Island. During warmer months, Medico’s six trucks are all booked up. On weekends, a single truck might work several different events, churning out artisan Neapolitan pies for those in the mood to celebrate.

That’s Medico’s first lesson of the pizza-truck business: Don’t say no to a job that seems a bit far away. “A lot of my competition won’t take the 100-mile job,” Medico said. “Sure, there’s a travel cost associated with it, but we just charge for it. We build it into the quote. It’s up to you to give somebody a quote on that job and then provide the value to them once you get there. But there’s no reason to say no to business if they’re going to make it worth your while.”

Related: Despite Massive Drop in Sales, a Pizzeria Refuses to Move

A blue 1952 Chevy flatbed with a pizza oven mounted on the back. A graphic reads "Pizza Luca" on the driver's side door.

Here are a few other tips Medico would give to operators starting a mobile pizza business, based on his experiences operating Pizza Luca over the past 13 years.

Earn Media Attention

Prior to becoming a trained pizzaiolo, Medico was in the printing business. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, Medico sold his company, took a year off and ultimately decided he wanted his next venture to be a passion project. He already had a love for pizza making: A wood-fired grill had been installed on the back patio of his house. He decided to formalize his pizza-making skills and spent a year training at the French Culinary Institute.

When Medico launched Pizza Luca, his homebase was an industrial kitchen in Greenwich, Connecticut. The first place he set up shop, however, was on a street corner in Westchester County, New York. He estimates that he sold about three pizzas on his first day.

Related: How to Earn Media Coverage For Your Pizzeria

A beautiful Margherita pie by Pizza Luca with brown leoparding on the crust.

But Medico knew he had a great story. Here he was, a formally trained pizzaiolo with a full wood-fired oven on a flatbed ‘52 Chevy. He used the finest ingredients he could find, importing everything from tomatoes to flour straight from Italy, and his pizzas were downright amazing—this was a common refrain from the few who had tried them at that point.

So he pitched his story to a local newspaper, and it was picked up. From there, his business spread like wildfire.

“You have to have a story,” Medico said. “Once I explain what I do, the typical response is, ‘That’s so cool!’ If you can get that story out there, people are going to want you to come to where they’re at and eat your world-class pizza.”

Fish Where the Fish Are

One of Medico’s favorite sayings is “fish where the fish are.” In other words, from the very start he didn’t want to start a brick-and-mortar business and worry about how to attract people to him. He thought finding where hungry people were at and bringing his product to them would be simpler. That’s proven correct. During the month of June—which Medico refers to as the “magic month”—his trucks are so busy that he occasionally has to turn business down because not a single one of his six trucks can make it. What he’s not doing? Sitting around hoping people come through the door to his shop.

“It’s a saying that I heard from somebody when I was first getting into the business: ‘You have to fish where the fish are,’” Medico said. “Once you start producing events in local areas, the word spreads through those communities. Then you have your own little system working for you on its own. For many years, I didn’t have a single salesperson because the business sold itself.”

A spread of pizza, wine and flowers sits in the foreground with a pizza truck and wood-fired pizza oven in the background.

Find Co-Partners

Medico has built relationships over the years with people he now, somewhat playfully, considers his “co-partners.” These are people who “sing your praises behind the scenes,” Medico said.

“When I met Martha Stewart and did events for her, she started talking me up to all of her friends in the neighborhood,” Medico said. “She’s great like that: She can recognize a small business with a great product and say, ‘Hey, check this out.’”

That eventually unlocked a world of clients who wanted Pizza Luca to cater their events. Stewart had become Medico’s first unofficial salesperson—a co-partner cheering on his business and earning him more catering jobs.

Dean Medico holds a pizza peel as Martha Stewart holds one as well, with a pizza atop it.

“If you’re taking your job of entertaining people and making them great food at an event that’s meant to be a celebration, they’re going to remember you,” Medico said. “And look, it doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart either. There are so many people out there with that same type of personality, who are the connectors of their own community. If you can get on board with them, it’s like having an ambassador for your business that you don’t even have to put on the payroll.”

Build Up Revenue Streams

Medico’s busy season runs from April through October. In order to meet demand for his services, he added a pizza truck at a time in order to take as many jobs as possible. He didn’t like saying no to people. He still doesn’t.

But that meant the winter typically left him with time on his hands, so Medico came up with an idea for a new revenue stream that has taken off: a sandwich ghost kitchen, run out of the 1,500-square-foot facility he uses as the homebase for Pizza Luca. The virtual brand, Milladoro, serves high-end Italian sandwiches that have proven so popular they will be folded into the Pizza Luca menu, which, in addition to pizza, offers salads, platters and even some Italian entrees.

To Medico, this has only proven that if you have a special product and you let the right people now, success will follow. “It starts with publicity,” Medico said. “That’s how you get the word out.”