CLEVELAND - In the middle of the battle of the sweet smells of Italian cooking in Little Italy Friday evening, three young ladies from New Jersey entered the fray in a truck, a food truck.
Their food truck, Nonna's Kitchenette, a food truck from Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race" , parked in front of La Dolce Vita selling food inspired by their grandmothers' home cooking.
"Everything we do on the truck is homemade," said Lisa Nativo. "We do homemade meatballs with our grandmas' homemade Italian sauce, we're doing rice balls, we're doing pitsels ice cream sandwiches."
From inside the truck, she talked through the small window facing the Mayfield Road customers, taking orders while talking of the cross-country food adventure that began five weeks ago.
"It's extremely challenging," she said. "The host Tyler Florence will throw challenges at us all the time so you never know what's going to be coming every weekend, but I'm having the most amazing time."
Nativo, Jaclyn Kolsby and Jessica Stambach, friends since childhood, make up the youngest of the eight teams cooking their way from Los Angeles to next week's secret location.
The winning team will be awarded a food truck of their own. The show provided the truck each team uses in the competition. A TV production crew chronicles every stop on their trip.
Entering this weekend in Cleveland, only three teams remain in the contest. Teams move on in the challenge by selling more than their competitors.
"Two cities left, if we win Cleveland, we head to the finale," the 28-year-old Nativo said.
They only discovered they were coming to Cleveland three days ago.
"Every city is a surprise, everything that happens to us every few hours is a surprise and we just take it as it comes and we work as a team and we've been doing really well, it's got us this far," Nativo said.
As their competition falls by the wayside, they know their goal is within reach.
"At this point, we're not going home without our food truck," she added.
Saturday, Nonna's Kitchenette will be at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Gordon Square later in the day.