D.Ana Costello is from the Jersey Shore and has spent most of her life here. While teaching full-time in Toms River, she also worked at the popular LaVallette restaurant. Since then, she and her husband’s restaurant, Ohana, have also been transported by Ohana food trucks.
Ohana Food Truck is run by five people rooted in their love for the Jersey Shore. In addition to Dana and her husband James, the couple recruited three other teachers to join the track, now retired from teaching, Candy her Blake, Gavin her Decapua and Matthew Smith Dedicated to building trucks. Much like the restaurant itself, Ohana Food her truck brings James’ Hawaiian-inspired cuisine to the streets of New Jersey.
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best of new jersey We spoke to the Ohana Food Truck Team about their experience and mutual love for food truck transportation.
Best New Jersey Food Truck Interview: Ohana Food Truck
Best of NJ: Tell us about yourself.
Matthew Smith: I grew up in Lavallette and worked as a teacher. This is how I got the information to become a server at this restaurant (Ohana Grill). After working here for about 8 years, I became very good friends with James and Dana who own it.
Gavin DeCapua: I have been a teacher for 32 years. But I also ran a summer concession food stand at a private beach club in Monmouth County for about 25 years. I was preparing to quit teaching. There was a little overlap with the track.I had to make sure it succeeds first [laughs].
Candy break: I grew up in Manville.so i am a transplant [laughs]I have been here ever since I moved to the area from Manville in 1986. I have been in food service since he was 13 years old. Six or seven years ago she was offered a job by Dana here at her Ohana. I had the opportunity to be her partner on the track, so I joined.
Dana Costello: I was born in Paterson but raised in Manchester. Worked here when it was Bluewater Grill as a server. The man wanted to sell, so I called her husband and said, “Hi, we’re buying a restaurant.” [laughs]And then I bought a restaurant, but I wanted to do a little more. We always thought of doing a food truck, but it was always too much for the two of us. So I spoke with Candy and Gavin and Matt and decided to go all in.
James Costello: I grew up in Jersey City and moved to the coast in 1984. I used to work on the promenade all the time. That’s where I met Dana. But I’ve been in the bar business most of my life. Dana then called me about the offer and I left the company to purchase her Ohana. I’ve been almost the head chef since my first year.
BONJ: After years of working in established restaurants, is there a learning curve to adjusting to the track?
rain: I think there is a big learning curve to becoming a truck owner. I think I learned a lot in the three years.we are much improved from where we started.
Dana: Our first night on the track we ran out of water to wash the dishes. So we have to learn to save. You have to learn differently than in a restaurant environment.
Gavin: I’ve always worked in grills and fryers on the beachfront. I used to be good at fast food, but in high-end food, I just watched and learned.
mat: In my first year, I was doing a lot of everything.What did you need to work on, what food, what did not do it work on a truck? From restaurants to trucks, not everything is fine.
BONJ: How would you describe your cooking?
Dana: People ask a lot of things, but it’s hard to pinpoint. It’s often called Asian fusion. But we’re mostly American-Asian fusion.
James: Fusion of America, Asia and Hawaii [laughs]Hawaii itself is an Asian fusion, as most Hawaiian cuisine comes from about four different Asian islands. But we’re also trying to Americanize it and put our own spin on it.
mat: It is popular at birthdays and parties because it can always be adapted to what someone is looking for. You can do anything from burgers and fries to surf and turf.
BONJ: That carries over to catering, doesn’t it?
mat: right. It really depends on the person. You can go for all price ranges. If you want to stay on the low end, we have fish tacos, pulled pork, chicken fingers and fries. Alternatively, you can move to short ribs. Then you can go to shrimp. Crab cakes and lobsters are available for the upscale.
We are always ready for trucks too. Many people like the fact that the truck stops, cooks everything and serves everything. Then we clean it up, take the trash and leave.
BONJ: What are your favorite options for Ohana Food Truck fans?
Dana: Awesome lobster roll. Make warm lobster rolls.
rain: Our short rib tacos are very popular. they are huge.
Dana: I have the chili slaw with chipotle aioli and it comes with short ribs.
Gavin: I like to do blackened shrimp tacos. It’s a great seller. And we’re mixing it up a bit. That’s why we don’t do the exact same menu for every event. But we try to stick to a few key items.
BONJ: What does the restaurant menu look like?
James: The menu is full of seafood. Lobster tails, scallops and risotto, ahi tuna, and pecan-crusted salmon. We offer steaks and our popular pork chops. Specials are also available from time to time. I try to change the menu slightly a few times a year. Try seafood from around the world. We always try to get Hawaiian fish.
BONJ: What desserts are served to guests at Ohana Grill?
rain: I made a cookie skillet that was very popular. Desserts, all made here. Dana making cheesecake for dessert — People Love homemade cheesecake.
BONJ: What is the restaurant’s annual schedule like?
Dana: It is open 24/7, except during the summer months. It’s June until Labor Day.
BONJ: What does the future look like for Ohana Food Truck?
Gavin: Just keep rolling.
Dana: maybe a fleet of trucks [laughs].
James: I don’t plan to retire anytime soon, so I’m going to work ever…
Gavin: until it becomes physically impossible [laughs].
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All photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ