Hoboken People’s Court: Everyone vs. Ali

Ali’s Food Truck under fire again in Hoboken, NJ

Back in 2009, Ali’s Food Truck was suddenly the subject of controversy, when a new restaurant around the corner (Rome Pizza) was struggling for business – and blamed Ali for their economic woes.

Well, that problem went away, as the case was ruled frivolous, and tossed out.

Fast forward to 2011 – and now MORE nearby businesses are blaming Ali for their troubles (will mention who at a later date). These businesses, which are more upscale, dinner establishments – think that Ali again is stealing customers that would otherwise patronize them.

Ali has been a staple of downtown Hoboken for over 16 years – and has a distinctly different client base than these brick & mortar restaurants. The breakfast & lunch crowd, people who want to eat on the go (commuters), or those looking to get a quick meal for under $3.00. Not the same crowd who spends $40 at lunch every day on fancy burgers and cocktails.

So now, these businesses have clamored to Hoboken City Hall about Ali, and he’s getting hassled again. About where he parks, for how long, and so on.

Do you think brick & mortar restaurants have a legitimate gripe? Or are they just jealous?

Original Complaint letter regarding Ali’s Food Truck

5/28/2009 Update:

I got my hands on the original complaint letter regarding Ali’s Food Truck. Click image below to see what it entailed…

Also – it appears that a huge wave of supporters visited Ali this afternoon and evening to sign the petition (read comments to this article).

ali-food-on-wheels-complaint-letter-lolicato-hoboken-nj

Court is now in session

5/28/2009:

Have you heard of the situation downtown involving the new Rome Pizzeria and the longtime Ali’s Food on Wheels lunch truck? Dozens of emails were sent to Hoboken411 inquiring about this debacle – and today, I present you with “Hoboken People’s Court!” where I state their arguments – and YOU decide!

ali-food-on-wheels-lunch-truck-hoboken-rome-pizzeria

Case #001: Rome Pizzeria vs. Ali’s Food on Wheels

  • Plaintiff: Rome Pizzeria (20 Hudson Place, Hoboken NJ)
  • Defendant: Ali’s Food on Wheels (lives an hour outside of Hoboken – but sells his food products on River Street)

The “Charges”: The Plaintiff says the Defendant is improperly operating his food truck – and that it’s taking away customers from local brick and mortar businesses.

Plaintiff Rome Pizzeria’s Argument:

Owner John Lolicato Says: (in no particular order)

  • “Ali’s Food on Wheels (“the lunch truck”) operates too closely to competing businesses”
  • “The lunch truck parks in front of the hydrant”
  • “Other business owners are not happy with it – but are afraid to put their “name on paper” and file a formal complaint”
  • “They are in direct violation of the Peddler’s License Agreement with the city” (click to read it) [411 Note: These are the clauses he’s referring to: – No person covered by this Article shall sell or attempt to sell, in accordance with the terms of this Article, except as set forth in the preceding subsection, before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. prevailing time. – No licensee shall park his vehicle or dispensing container for a period longer than the time it takes to make a sale to a customer.]
  • “They can undermine the prices of other businesses, because they don’t have the same overhead, etc.”
  • “The city knows they’re in violation – but never does anything about it.”

Defendant Ali’s Rebuttal:

  • “I’ve operated this food truck from the same spot for 18 years without a single complaint.”
  • “I always put money in the meter.”
  • “I do park in front of the hydrant – but move it once a parking spot becomes available. And don’t see an issue – because just like the Mr. Softee ice cream truck – the vehicle is always manned by a driver, and can be immediately moved in case of fire.”
  • “Because I’ve been allowed by the city of Hoboken to operate this business in the exact same manner for so many years – without summons – Hoboken has set a legal precedent – and cannot force me to move, regardless of what the Peddler’s Ordinance says.”
  • “I have hundreds or even thousands of regular customers that love my food and fair prices – and no other business, including the bars/restaurants across the street have a problem with me. In fact, they often order lunch from me too!”
  • “Rome Pizzeria should have known my truck is parked here every day when they made the business decision to open up a restaurant around the corner.”

Other story notes:

Rome Pizzeria filed a formal complaint with Frank Sasso, city Health Inspector. And as a result, since the complaint has been documented – Lolicato says that the police are forced to move the truck every day. Ali disagrees with that – and says that it’s in fact Rome Pizzeria calling the Hoboken Police on a daily basis asking that the truck get moved.

Additionally – Ali has a petition from loyal customers (hundreds of signatures as of this publication date) – that support Ali’s food truck – and want him to remain where he always has.

Ali drives an hour each way – each day – to sell his food to weary PATH commuters and area businesses, and operates approximately between the hours of 6:30am – 3:00pm.

What is your verdict?

Have you frequented Ali’s Food Truck? Does Ali’s argument make sense? Or should the city abide by the laws it enacts? Is this just the case of a struggling new business owner trying to eradicate any and all competition?

Gallery:

109 Responses

  1. Employed Here says:

    I stopped by Ali’s today for the first time after hearing of the new pizza guy’s dispute from someone in my office.

    The food is good and cheap and Ali is sincere and friendly. Now I’ll never go to Rome. Pizza guy is digging his own grave; a new Hoboken villain.

  2. MountainMan says:

    I’ve been a visitor to Hoboken several times over past twenty years – and, you know, have always felt Ali’s Fast Food Truck an integral part of Hoboken life’s charm. Take it away – and the city is shooting themselves in the foot.

    And Rome – Geez, don’t you need a liquor license to serve so much “Whine”? Come on, grow on up from the “it’s just not fair”. Learn from an upstanding community business person like Ali. Concentrate on improving your own business model, and making something that benefits the community – and they will come to you. Don’t try to derail someone’s successful business because they have a better brain than you do. No one is stopping you from getting a food truck – or Ali from opening a pizzeria for that matter!

  3. elvisroberts says:

    So if we are going to go after Ali then we have to go after the hot dog truck on Willow and 4th. Then we have to go after the ice cream guy at Park and 4th, and at Pier A. Maybe this would fulfill the letter of the law, but it would make this town all the more soul-less.

    it sounds to me like a regulation that was dated from the pushcart era when horses and pushcarts were clogging the streets. I’d like to block out the fact that Rome had a bunch of Cammarano posters up… Maybe some City Council person will step up and amend the code. Who cares if the business is taking up a parking space – as long as he’s feeding the meter he’s playing just as “fair” as every business owner in town. I eat at Ali’s probably 1-2x week and I’ve never EVER gotten sick. if you want an inspirational story sometime ask him about when he first came to the US from Egypt in the 1970s – it’s a GREAT story!

  4. wvilla57 says:

    I have been going to Ali for the last five years for my daily coffee, etc. He is a hard working, decent man that should be praised instead of being harassed by people who do not really have a good business model to begin with and who also lack the decency to play fair. Very unjust!I hope the City of Hoboken can see beyond obscure regulations. I hear that there will be a hearing by the end of this month. Let’s all go and support Ali!

  5. wiskeytango1 says:

    if that pizza place has good pizza people will frequent it..competition is great ..This Rome
    must have chitty drab pizza…There is room for both establishments..Maybe poppa john
    can give rome a few pointers or maybe even bennie T..funny stuff

  6. wiskeytango1 says:

    btw ali has been there when rome was an embryo…Its called free enterprise..coffee and egg sandwich in the am and pizza in rome afternoon…funny then i guess all the bars in the river and hudson st area should close because of competition..funny chit.

  7. BklynHobo says:

    I am guessing it the Clam Broth House from your hints (I know I’m brilliant). That is insane, they need to get their own house in order instead of complaining about a lunch truck. I called there recently about having a private party there and they took my information and never called me back. It made my decision easy. Make your customers happy, and you won’t have to worry about Ali.

  8. Silva says:

    Maybe people in town are fed up paying for overpriced meals? Most of these places are run poorly, with average food and these owners can’t figure out what the problem is.

    Must be Ali.

  9. bizownerfoodie says:

    It’s pretty amazing that this issue keeps coming up. Ali has been a part of the Hoboken hospitality scene for years and his food can’t possibly take business away from the “up-scale” restaurants in Hoboken. If those places have issues with filling their seats, it’s their own crappy food/service/decor that cause problems. Competition is what keeps our economy going, and saying that it’s “not fair” that Ali has lower costs is absurd.

    Besides, think about how many businesses thrive selling their products at a premium in a market that is typical price-driven. What about Starbucks, who charges basically double for the equivalent at Dunkin Donuts? Do you think they went to town hall to complain about Dunkin Donuts keeping their prices down and stealing customers? HELL NO! Even at a premium, if you can provide the value to the person buying whatever it is you’re selling they’ll come back for it.

    Seems like all of the restaurants should stop complaining about Ali, and should take a look at themselves to solve their problems.

    :END RANT: :mrgreen:

  10. ninamelendez says:

    Now in 2011, I think this is by far, the dumbest waste of tax dollars. I walk past Ali’s Food Truck every morning. Sometimes I buy, sometimes I just stop in to say hello. He bothers no one. My building has it’s own Cafe and despite that, we STILL visit Ali’s truck for good, fast food, and great prices. If I want something more vegetarian, it is my choice to walk up to Washington Ave, etc… and get it. In addition to that, there are about 4 different food trucks parked right in the back (parallel to River Street location of Ali ) along Frank Sinatra Drive. Tacos, Italian, Vegan, and what-nots. So I really don’t understand how this one man is hurting these secret 3 businesses.

    Um, did it ever occur to them that people just might not like their food? As for Rome Pizzeria — IT SUCKS and always will. I remembering going to them when they first opened. First visit, I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. Their energy was cold and they just stared watching me eat. No smiles, no friendly service. I tried it a second time, oh and this is lunch hours and 2nd attempt the place is still empty, and it still sucked. So I never went back. Ali had nothing to do with it. Start ups really need to take a look in the mirror at their OWN business model, food, and service first before trying to throw the blame on someone else. The fact that Ali has been doing this for over 16 years tells me that his model is solid. Now I’m going to enjoy my lunch that he made for me today. Peanut Butter/Jelly on slice white and some juice.

    ~ Nina 😡

    • DaveH says:

      As a customer of 5 years and friend of Ali I am disgusted to read what has been going on. I say friend because like most of the 90+ individuals who post here Ali treats every one of his customers as a friend. People are not exaggerating when they say that if you are a dollar or two short he will give you your food on credit. Who else does that? I call in every day to order my breakfast ten minutes before leaving my apartment and when I arrive to the truck without even having to ask he will recognize me and wave me over with my order in hand.. always with a friendly greeting. If I go on vacation he will notice my absence and ask me about it when I get back. That kind of service simply is unheard of and makes dealing with Ali the best part of my morning. In addition to the quality of service, his food is phenomenal and having ever met Ali you could tell he takes tremendous pride in it. The man is an extremely hard worker and role-model. Rain, sleet or snow he will be there trying to make a living (quite literally I’ve seen him drive that truck through heavy snow). Incredible service, great food, low prices and hard work are attributes generally not associated with today’s marketplace as they do not correlate to the highest profitability and quite frankly it is a ton of work. 9.5 out of 10 people could not do what he does.

      Instead most places in Hoboken overcharge for lower quality food, with inferior service, and poorly managed lines. This overpriced assembly line style service is the model for most and quite frankly they’ve noticed Ali is undercutting them in every way. With him out of the picture they would have longer lines, higher prices and would be able to offer lower quality. Instead he is keeping them honest and that is exactly what they resent. How many places in Hoboken mess up your orders on a continuous basis. In five years Ali messed up my order once (forgetting the ketchup on my sandwich), and the next day without me saying anything he apologized for forgetting. This simply doesn’t happen. If any of the places complaining about Ali followed his business model they too could easily see his kind of success. In fact I’m sure if they asked him for advice he would provide it.

      Instead business come into Hoboken trying to make a living and see him as an obstacle to making money. If you choose a location to provide a service, you should survey the area and make sure that the demand is greater than the cost of doing business. You do not choose an area that would work great if you could get rid of the already existing competition. To me this is the lowest form of a person. Quite frankly its stealing, taking someones established living for yourself and doing it intentionally. Not through hard work and a better product but by trying to take him out with a loop hole. In the end every man/woman has to look themselves in the mirror and if I were any of the owners who complained about Ali I would be ashamed to do so.

      Now speaking to the actual issue of parking and legal rights. I understand the parking laws but quite frankly, after 18 years, Ali should be grandfathered in. Is it fair that Ali should have rights that no other food truck does? I say it’s just about as fair as taking away a mans living after 18 years faithfully serving his community. I have a solution…

      Carlo’s bakery prior to the Cake Boss Phenomenon was just a typical bakery. All of a sudden after the show came out it was packed and Hoboken declared the small portion of Washington St. to be Carlo’s Way. How about declaring the small side part of Newark btw Hudson and the water (where Ali parks now) as Ali Court? After 18 years and being a fixture in the city that was built around him he should be honored not pushed aside. The obvious love of his patrons should be just as valuable to Hoboken’s City Hall as a silly cable tv show.

      I apologize for the rant but really pray that someone who can make a difference reads this because, Ali will be fine. If Hoboken kicks him out he will find somewhere else to park his truck and I have no doubt that in very little time he will have endeared himself to that community and will be as profitable as ever. We on the other hand will have lost something that all of these complainers have to intention of replacing and Hoboken will be worse off for it.

      Turkey, egg and cheese on a roll with tomato, mayo and ketchup… thanks Ali! [quote comment=”208901″]Now in 2011, I think this is by far, the dumbest waste of tax dollars. I walk past Ali’s Food Truck every morning. Sometimes I buy, sometimes I just stop in to say hello. He bothers no one. My building has it’s own Cafe and despite that, we STILL visit Ali’s truck for good, fast food, and great prices. If I want something more vegetarian, it is my choice to walk up to Washington Ave, etc… and get it. In addition to that, there are about 4 different food trucks parked right in the back (parallel to River Street location of Ali ) along Frank Sinatra Drive. Tacos, Italian, Vegan, and what-nots. So I really don’t understand how this one man is hurting these secret 3 businesses.Um, did it ever occur to them that people just might not like their food? As for Rome Pizzeria — IT SUCKS and always will. I remembering going to them when they first opened. First visit, I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. Their energy was cold and they just stared watching me eat. No smiles, no friendly service. I tried it a second time, oh and this is lunch hours and 2nd attempt the place is still empty, and it still sucked. So I never went back. Ali had nothing to do with it. Start ups really need to take a look in the mirror at their OWN business model, food, and service first before trying to throw the blame on someone else. The fact that Ali has been doing this for over 16 years tells me that his model is solid. Now I’m going to enjoy my lunch that he made for me today. Peanut Butter/Jelly on slice white and some juice.~ Nina [/quote]

  11. debra says:

    I wish people would just leave Ali alone. I’ve been a patron of his truck since the day he pulled up on River Street and have never had bad service nor bad food. On the other hand, my daughter-in-law and I went to Rome’s around the time they opened up and as stated above we both were sick the next day. Service was terrible too. I don’t understand how just this one food truck is preventing other businesses to do business. Like bizownerfoodie stated “seems like all of the restaurants should stop complaining about Ali, and should take a look at themselves to solve their problems.”

  12. jjryan923 says:

    The fact that the city would even entertain a complaint like this is absolutely ridiculous. I work in the Hoboken land building and would miss Ali’s truck very much if he had to move. Sometimes I buy lunch or breakfast from him, and sometimes I go to Energy Kitchen, Rejuice, Dunkin, or Starbucks. I like having VARIETY!

    Ali is a very nice addition to this community. His food is great, affordable, and quick! None of the CONSUMERS want him to go anywhere!!!

    • wiskeytango1 says:

      923 question.. Is this the same as the farmers mkt parked out side of Kings food store on hudson st uptown every thursday?? 6 of one.[quote comment=”208904″]The fact that the city would even entertain a complaint like this is absolutely ridiculous. I work in the Hoboken land building and would miss Ali’s truck very much if he had to move. Sometimes I buy lunch or breakfast from him, and sometimes I go to Energy Kitchen, Rejuice, Dunkin, or Starbucks. I like having VARIETY!Ali is a very nice addition to this community. His food is great, affordable, and quick! None of the CONSUMERS want him to go anywhere!!![/quote]

  13. Journey says:

    I’m betting the complainers are newer eateries and that the owners also have narcissistic tenancies.

    A narcissist has the belief that they are perfect. If they fail at something, it must be someone else’s fault. If their great business plan at a great location is not performing to expectation, they need to blame someone.

    Rome Pizza might have thought they had a great location, but it different than Texas Arizona, Roma gets less foot traffic.

    Clam Broth is sit down and wait sort of place, Ali’s is quick.

  14. trueblue11 says:

    I have never been to Ali, but I know where the truck is, and after all this, I will make a point to purchase something from Ali.

  15. bmullins says:

    I say this is room for both parties to make a living – Brian.

  16. Agomah says:

    Hello everyone! This is Ali’s daughter. I wanted to chime in and behalf of my father, my mother and myself say thhhhaannnkk you for your support. Also, I want to clarify that Rome pizza is under new ownership and in no way is a part of the recent disputes surrounding Ali’s food truck in Hoboken. Quite the contrary he has verbalized support for the business and has declined offers by others I won’t mention to do otherwise. I know that the old store in 2009 was the source of the attacks on the truck and I just wanted to make sure the new owner wasn’t held responsible. Again, thank you so much. Go enjoy a gyro for me, I rarely make it to Hoboken.

    • veezie139 says:

      It’s unbelievable that a pizzeria can have any issues with Ali’s Food on Wheels when their business has no competition or fight over customers of Ali’s when mostly Ali sells people from my company breakfast. If anything, the pizzeria should not be worried at all since they (i am sure of it) do not sell breakfast. ❗ [quote comment=”208982″]Hello everyone! This is Ali’s daughter. I wanted to chime in and behalf of my father, my mother and myself say thhhhaannnkk you for your support. Also, I want to clarify that Rome pizza is under new ownership and in no way is a part of the recent disputes surrounding Ali’s food truck in Hoboken. Quite the contrary he has verbalized support for the business and has declined offers by others I won’t mention to do otherwise. I know that the old store in 2009 was the source of the attacks on the truck and I just wanted to make sure the new owner wasn’t held responsible. Again, thank you so much. Go enjoy a gyro for me, I rarely make it to Hoboken.[/quote]

  17. booey9 says:

    These complaints about Ali are in a word: PATHETIC! Leave him alone!

  18. tapprobato says:

    I’ve got to say that I was pretty surprised by the nature of some of the complaints. I’ve been going to Ali’s food truck since my company relocated here in 2002 bringing over 1000 employees to Hoboken. There are many times that we will fill the local restaurants and other businesses with co-workers, clients, and vendors. I will still go to Ali for my fast, good, breakfast fix. There is a big difference here: Ali provides high quality, fresh food for a reasonable price to take away. The brick & mortar restaurants provide high end meals for a sit-down stay. Even if it is brick & mortar place that encourages take-away rather than sit-down, the offerings tend to be different. There are some restaurants here in Hoboken that I will never frequent again. Poor quality food, service and atmosphere that embarrassed me in front of clients/colleagues. That is the reason why some places are failing. They are failing to deliver quality food & service. You can’t make yourself “the only game in town” to force everyone to eat your bad food and suffer through the poor service. I still go out fairly frequently and patronize the Hoboken restaurants. Just the good ones though. The bad ones remain with few patrons.

    As for the parking issue, I truly think that there is room to make allowances. Ali’s truck is always attended and can be moved if need be. He feeds the meters and is diligent. I have personally witnessed him assist the police when accidents have occurred and provided a social service to the people of Hoboken that is not repeated by others.

    I am going to continue to support Ali and his food truck. I will also continue to eat out and entertain at the GOOD local restaurants. I would suggest that some of the bad ones clean up their acts and try to extend a little professional courtesy to someone who is really not competing with them.

  19. Homeontherange says:

    If Rome Pizzeria is threatened by this truck that has been there
    for 18 years, that’s just sad.
    If their pizza isn’t selling, maybe they should get a liquor license,
    that could boost sales, & Ali’s will no longer be a threat, just a thought…

  20. hoboken411 says:

    For clarification, the Rome Pizza incident was two years ago, and things have since changed. New ownership at Rome, and the two businesses have a positive relationship today.

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