Nickel City Gritty: Pete Cimino

Photos by  Ryan Kell

Photos by Ryan Kell

Where's lloyd?  And more importantly, who's lloyd? 

Lloyd can be anyone at any time.  He can be a Kung Fu master, a rock star, a championship bowler, an underwater basket weaver, or even Chuck Norris.

Who's lloyd?  We may never really know for sure.  But who invented lloyd?  The answer to that question is Pete Cimino. 

Pete is one of the co-founders of lloyd taco trucks and now TWO lloyd Taco Factories.  Pete and his friend Chris Dorsaneo started the very first food truck in Buffalo in 2010.  Their first truck, the OG, soon became a raging success and paved the way for the now massive Buffalo food truck scene.  Quickly, their one truck turned into a fleet of four, and soon after, their brick and mortar restaurant lloyd Taco Factory graced us with its presence on Hertel Avenue in 2015.  I'm actually there one a week.  Seriously...taco obsessed over here.

But one Taco Factory was't enough.  Pete & Chris opened up their second restaurant in November 2017.  What do I recommend getting when you visit?  Literally everything.  You can't go wrong.  The ingredients are always fresh and super delicious.  I do have a regular, though.  One crispy fish and one dirty south taco or a chicken burrito, no beans, mild with queso.  I should have a frequent flyer card at this point.  

So, this Nickel City Gritty interview is super special.  Not only because I was at one of my favorite restaurants, but because I had the chance to collaborate with my very good friend Pat Sandora-Nastyn of PSN Creative to bring you a VIDEO!!!  In the video below, I asked Pete a couple of rapid fire questions just to keep him on his toes and have a little bit of fun.  Make sure to give it a watch before we get started!

Please enjoy listening to Pete's playlist below while you read the rest of the interview.  

Also added to the playlist (but unfortunately not available on Spotify!) are the following two songs:  

*Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang by Dr. Dre

*Breakadawn by De La Soul

This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Pete Cimino of lloyd. 


Tell me a little bit about why you wanted to start your own taco truck business.

It was a little mix of insanity and not feeling content with what was currently available to people in terms of a healthier option.  Nobody had really reinvented tacos around here, so that was definitely part of it.  Maybe ten percent of it.  The restaurant was more of a business decision than anything.  I fell in love with the trucks because I thought that they could be super efficient.  You know, the idea of taking your food and your product to the masses, rather than being them depending on a particular location and walking in the door.  I thought that was really interesting and it like, flipped the model on its head.  Once we got into it, though, and one truck turned into two, two trucks turned into three, we were rapidly outgrowing the commissary spaces that we were renting.  So it was either, "This is gonna be a ten or twenty truck operation" or "we're gonna have to shift gears."  Because this is Buffalo and not San Diego, you are always dealing with the weather, and it just didn't make sense to try to make a huge investment in building our own commissary for that type of a truck operation.  The supporting trucks, most of them don't operate year round like us, so it would have been silly to think that they would want to occupy this space, and what we had seen in other parts of the country were these huge 50 truck things where everyone pulls in, they break their trucks down, they do all of their prep and everything out of the area, which is really a necessity, no one's done it here.  There's just not enough volume.  So I swore up and down that I would never get involved in the restaurant business but here I am now.  *laughs*  The reason why that happened is because for the same price, literally, that what we were paying, we could have a retail space.  We thought that if we could split it in such a way with two kitchens, that we could produce for the trucks out of the back, and also have a service kitchen, we could make it work.  It was more of a test for the brand than anything.  Once we got into it and got serious about it, we went to Chicago and we went to Pittsburgh and we went to Cleveland and went to New York, and ended up on the Restaurant Startup show and started to think about what it would look like if lloyd turned into a restaurant.  


Okay, so now onto the fun questions.  How would you describe your personal style?

Urban with paying homage to some classics.  I usually wear a button up, buttoned all the way up, and a pair of jeans in many different colors, and a pair of Chucks and usually a hat of some sort.  Either a snap back or a flat brim.  I'm experimenting with other hats, but usually something with a brim...always something with a brim. 

What's one story your family always tells about you?

They always tell the story about when I was in tenth grade in English class, and I had been out for a day or two previously and I came back to a test.  I didn't want to take the test because I said I wasn't prepared and I didn't wanna take the test, just give me a day, I'll take it tomorrow so I could study or whatever.  The teacher was adamant that I took the test right then and there.  She wasn't going to give me any extra time.  So when she passed out the tests, I took the test and I crumbled it up and I put it in my mouth and I spit it back out.  So, not my finest moment.  *laughs*  That's just a little snapshot about how I feel about authority sometimes.  I ended up at in-school and I missed my baseball game.  So, I don't know, for some reason they always tell everyone that story! 


What actor do you think would play you in a movie about your life?

Let's see...I don't know too much about what's hot in the actor or actress world, but I will say that the guy from The League, Rafi...everyone always tells me that I look like him and that I should always dress up as him for Halloween.  So I'm guessing, based on that alone, he should play me in the movie.  

What is one of the dumbest ways you've been injured?

I've been injured a bunch of different ways and they're all pretty dumb.  I was coaching football and I was probably 21 or 22 and I was doing some stuff I wasn't supposed to.  All year the guys on the team were nagging me and we'd bust each other's balls with things like, "You were no good when you played," or "If you suited up you wouldn't be able to take me out or run me over."  So, on the last day of practice before the game, I snuck some pads out and threw them in a bag, and when it came time to go through some of the final drills, I put a helmet on and some shoulder pads and while we were running some plays, I was carrying the ball and one of the kids went to tackle me and I put my hand out, stiff armed him, and I actually broke my wrist.  At the time I didn't know it was broken, and then a few weeks later it just kept getting worse and worse so it really sucked.  I ended up having to have surgery because it wouldn't heal.  It was pretty dumb to do that.  


What is your spirit animal?

Maybe a bald eagle.  I've been fascinated with eagles.  They're really interesting.  They're kind of symbolic of, I really wouldn't want to say America because that's not where I'm going with it, but independence and freedom.  They kind of do their own thing.  Other than that I like cheetahs because they're extraordinarily fast.

What is on your playlist? 

It usually stays pretty consistent, actually.  It's a mix of old school hip hop and then just some M83 or Empire of the Sun, Alt J, Arcade Fire, or Tame Impala.


What do you strongly suspect but have no proof of?  

Oh wow, that's a really good question...

So for example, aliens or Bigfoot...

Definitely not Bigfoot!  I haven't thought too much about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.  Not really into that stuff.  I mean, I'd have to imagine that even though we think we know a ton, we really really don't.  The idea of being small in the sense that the universe is ginormous, is enough to make your head explode because we think we're so important.  I mean, we are important to ourselves and to know what it feels like to have this experience of living, but I don't think that the idea of other things living out there wouldn't make us less significant.  It's not like right or wrong or something.  Mathmatically speaking, I can't prove it, but just because of the combinations of what planets could and couldn't be, I think there has to be something else out there that's moving.  It may not look like us or what we would consider an "alien," it may not be grey with really weird skin and stuff, but the idea about thinking that there could be an ocean on Jupiter made of liquid nickel, like that's just...what else is possible?  I used to be really into NASA stuff.  So I guess the shitty stock answer would be, "There's other life out there, but I can't prove it."


What is one topic that you could spend hours talking about?

Not to be boring, but probably economics!  *laughs*  That or, I mean, the easy answer is food.  Specifically, as it pertains to food where I can get really geeky about how it's raised.  I'm very interested in learning more about how things are grown and how animals live their life.  The link between that and how food tastes or makes us feel.  I guess, maybe the link between food and health.  I feel like if we do what we're supposed to do and we respect the natural process, if we take great care in respecting how that plant came to be or how can we make that animal in its most natural state, that ultimately is best for them and it's ultimately is best for us.  

What is the title of the current chapter of your life?

It's been a really strange year and half for me.  Probably the weirdest year and a half of my life.  I don't think an appropriate title would be "Confusion" for the chapter, even though that's what I want to say.  "Flux" might sound cooler, but it's weird.  I'm in this place where I know what I want and I feel like it's within reach, but I keep getting pulled in different directions and different things keep happening to me so I think maybe there's some sort of greater lesson to be learned?  So "The Lesson" might be a good title.  


What are some of your favorite bars or restaurants in Buffalo?

Marble + Rye, Black Sheep, Toutant, and The Grange, in no specific order.  I just feel like those guys are really doing it right, you know?  They put care into what they're sourcing and their preparation and their execution.  Where would I grab a cocktail?  Well, I'd probably drink a cocktail at most of those places!  Buffalo Proper, for sure.  Dapper Goose, for sure.  Also, Kuni's, I'm in love with Kuni's too.  Elm Street Bakery is also great.

Where do you go when you need to relax?

I don't know, I need to find more of it!  I usually get a massage once a month to try to stay sane.  Other than that, lately the kind of yoga I do is not very relaxing, but in a way is cathartic, so I'd throw that in there.  I play hockey every week, but even though I'm moving, the game makes me feel relaxed.  Also definitely vacation.


"I still feel like i have so much more to do."

-Pete Cimino

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Well, when I was seven, I wanted to be an astronaut, and then shortly thereafter I wanted to be in the NHL, and then that got derailed pretty fast.  I think I was in the tenth or eleventh grade and I remember being at the doctor and you know, you go there and get your height measured, and I was like, "Okay, great, how much more are we gonna grow, where are we at?"  He was like, "Well, you're just about done!  Maybe two more inches, maybe about 5'6."  So, the reality of it made me give it up as a Junior.  It's still fun to dream about it though.  So what do I want to be when I grow up?  Well, I still feel like I have so much more to do.  And there's still so much more to do with lloyd.  But, I'll probably do something after lloyd, too.  Not probably, I will do something after lloyd.  Just because that entrepreneurial spirit still is strong within me.  I have too many ideas.  It'd be really great to work with other young entrepreneurs and try to add value to their team and ultimately become like an investor.  

Thank you so much Pete for taking the time out to chat with me and for taking part in our crazy little video experiment!  If you'd like to visit the lloyd Taco Factory, they have two locations:  1503 Hertel Ave in Buffalo and 5993 Main Street in Williamsville.

Thank you to my friends Ryan Kell for taking the photos for this post and for Pat Sandora-Nastyn for shooting and editing this incredible video!  If you would like to hire them for either photography or video work, please click on their names as I've linked their websites.