Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the third annual Pie Social Saturday, November 3, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. We've got an all-star lineup of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now til Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one. We challenged each to make us a dish -- other than pie.
Today: Tonya Saidi of Mamma Toledo's Pies makes egg sammies with horseradish cheese.
t's Sunday morning and we're driving around a North Phoenix neighborhood, on our way to have breakfast at the home of Tonya Saidi. As luck would have it, finding this "Pie Lady" is not too hard a task. As we turn down her street, a bright red Chevrolet food truck sits in the driveway with the words "Shut Your Pie Hole" painted across it. Tonya greets us at the door in athletic shorts and white tank top. "You said to just be myself!" she laughs as she invites us into her home.
She walks us through the living room now turned office to Mamma Toledo's Pies. Hard to believe that a business which was only started a year ago has taken off with such crescendo- then again, Mamma Toledo's is the only pie truck in town.
The whole idea of a pie food truck was 7 years in the making, and originally Tonya just wanted to just have a homemade dessert delivery truck. But the pies themselves, and the baking as a whole (Tonya says she can also make a mean cake), were coming out of the oven long before that. Tonya grew up in the restaurants business. Her family owned restaurants in Casper, Wyoming; and while Tony would always watched her mother cook, she never really learned as a child.
Her self taught treat-making skills came into play later in life, albeit in some of the most unsuspecting places. She worked in construction, real estate, and even pursued a career in nursing, taking the job as a nurse aid at a residential care facility. At each career venture, her pies became reputable. "Baking was my gift to people, it made me happy."
As we sit down in her rather quiet kitchen, Tonya explains that everyone in the house is still recovering from working the Best of Phoenix A'fare the night before. Tonya and her team have become accustomed to long nights and early mornings, working doubles almost daily. With the help of her friends and family, Tonya is booked solid nearly everyday at farmers markets, festivals, you name it. The demand for pie has become so heavy, that Tonya has created a system to get her preservative-free pies baked fresh and on the truck each day.
Sunday, for example, has become the day for crust production. Tonya explains that if she can make all her crusts for the week ahead on her "day off" then it becomes a lot easier for her to make and pour her various fillings in the days following. "I can bust out about 80 pies in three hours that way." she says with both pride and exhaustion. As she's explaining her pie routine she opens the fridge and begins taking out the necessary ingredients to make egg sandwiches.
It seems so funny to be having the "Pie Lady" herself, making us breakfast, but apparently this is something she's actually been thinking about incorporating into her business. She tells us about a breakfast pie she made recently using an oatmeal-based crust, fresh yogurt from Superstition Farms, and a raspberry puree. Suddenly Mamma Toledo making breakfast no longer seems like a silly idea, it seems like an novel one.
We stand in the kitchen leaning on the counter and snapping the occasional photo while she makes breakfast. These days, her home kitchen sees few things other than pie. "I used to eat eggs all the time," she says as she cracks one into a frying pan, "I used to love to cook. But now I'm so busy with the pies.... and after eating all the great food off the other trucks, I've become spoiled!"
She works her way around the kitchen, toasting and buttering bread, melting horseradish cheese (a favorite of hers), and explains one of the major differences between her truck and many others -- no kitchen. Once the long process of making the pies and getting them on the truck is done, Tonya finds herself with a lot of downtime. Not that she minds, she loves interacting with customers and other members of the food truck community, but she admits that it would be nice to have something to work on during all that waiting around.
In fact, Tonya would like to start selling savory pies (shepherd's, chicken pot, and, most recently, a pork green chili pie with soft cornbread crust) but it only makes sense if her truck has a kitchen. Truth be told, the number of people who enjoy a cold savory pie is pretty small.
As the smells of egg sandwiches and melted butter begin to fill the house Tonya's youngest daughter Sarah and her friend Ty join us in the kitchen, sleepy eyed and hungry. Tonya's assembly line / mother mechanics kick in and she begins serving up egg sandwiches one right after the other.
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We all sit on stools around the kitchen counter as Tonya talks about her kids and the friends of her kids that she's unofficially adopted. Her youngest daughter who's still in high school plans on going to culinary school and helps her mom not just with the sales but also the pie production. She's embarrassed as her mom squeezes her and plants a big kiss on her cheek just as the camera goes off.
It's endearing how casual Tonya is in front of complete strangers, how publicly she displays her affection for kids and for her pies. Her familiarity with the people she meets both on and off the truck, is probably the very reason why people all over Phoenix now know her as the pie "Mamma."
Want to read about the other competitors? Brady Breese Makes Pumpkin Bread Joan O'Connor Makes Mediterranean Pasta Salad Monti Carlo Makes Banana Bread Muffins Mamma Toledo Makes Egg Sammies with Horseradish Cheese Slade Grove Makes Gluten-Free Amaretti Cookies Jeff Kraus Makes the "First Time Crepe" -- Nutella, Elderflower, Spiced Walnuts and More David Duarte Makes Peanut Butter Crunch Bars Winnona Herr Makes Butterscotch Bananas Foster Pudding