On the corner of South First and West Live Oak streets stands an orange trailer complete with a mustache painted on the back and fresh flowers in pots on the windowsill. The Arancini trailer, reading “Italian comfort food,” is a welcoming sight for those craving a little taste of Italy.
“It’s comforting because it stems from family recipes, creating a sense of nostalgia,” said Katrina O’Donell, chef and co-creator of the Arancini trailer. “It has classic European influence, but we do modernize with some American influence.”
Going against their original intentions of having a retro-modern design and complementary menu, the couple of 17 years, Katrina and Daniel O’Donell, went with a more lighthearted approach and played off the name Arancini, or a risotto dish which means “little oranges” in Italian because of its color.
Their style of arancini is the Sicilian version that Katrina grew up eating and cooking with her Italian family. Arancini is a classic risotto dish lightly covered in bread crumbs and shaped into a ball before being fried, while the inside of the ball remains al dente in texture. The Romano cheese in combination with the rice creates a creamy saltiness with a bit of a pungent flavor. Katrina also adds bacon for a smoky appeal and the peas as the stand-alone vegetable. Katrina had difficulty describing the way it tastes, only able to call arancini “cheesy goodness.”
Although arancini is one of the more classic dishes on the menu, the O’Donells have put a more modern twist on classic Italian cuisine.
Originally, they began trying out new flavors on classics to bring in a more diverse crowd, but in its brief opening, the trailer has created dishes some locals have never tried. The meatball sliders come as the classic beef, vegetarian or even turkey basil with a choice of side sauce, whereas the manicotti, a crepe dish, comes with the specially-made garden marinara sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
As someone who likes to garden, Katrina makes sure her toppings and flatbreads are always fresh, since the ingredients she uses change depending on what’s in season at the time. The O’Donells ensure fresh flavor and quality ingredients by making constant trips to Central Market and other local farmers’ markets, keeping fresh Italian flavors present in modern dishes.
“Italian food is old. Between the Italians, French and Greeks, most of us have had some influence from their culture,” Katrina said. “As far as sophisticated cuisine, [Italian food] is simple, believe it or not, it tastes the best because [Italians] always use the freshest ingredients.”
The O’Donells have said they are excited to have the opportunity to bring Italian food to the Austin community and be able to expand their following with hopes of one day having their own Italian restaurant.
“[Cooking] is therapeutic. It’s the simple pleasure of creating something, and people liking it,” O’Donell said while playing with her hands, in a way, reminiscent of kneading a piece of dough. “That joy for that one moment in time.”