ITHACA, N.Y. — What if you found out that for a mere $2,115.97 you could open your own eatery, serving up fresh food you love making? That’s the reality Sam Bosco and Carolina Osorio Gil live through Bici-Cocina — it’s almost like a food truck, but on a bicycle.

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“It really stretches people’s concept of reality,” Bosco said. “It never ceases to impress people.”

Out of the back of the custom-made bike, which Bosco welded himself, the two serve up Colombian street food.

Arepas (corn patties) made on a comal and topped with black bean pate are served, along with Pastel de Yuca (yuca cakes) that are lightly fried in sunflower oil.

Arepas Chimi-Wow: A corn patty topped with black bean pate and cilantro chimichurri sauce served with a side of spicy latin slaw.

The recipes were originally from Osorio Gil — who is Colombian — but she said the food has progressed to be the creation of both co-owners, like the concept for the restaurant itself.

Bosco and Osorio Gil met at the Latino Multicultural Center Festival in September where they helped hold a banner together during the parade. Osorio Gil said they were quickly drawn to each other’s sense of community involvement and appreciation for Latin culture. They started dating shortly afterward.

“This idea of Bici-Cocina — the baby — started last December,” said Osorio Gil, who has degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities.

Bosco — also a Cornell graduate —  helped start a permaculture business, and was trying to think of a way to promote the company’s aspirations to morph grassy lawn space into sustainable garden space. After brainstorming together, the two came up with an idea.

Osorio Gil said they decided,”Let’s celebrate this very radical business by bringing people free food on a bicycle.”

Bosco said he’d heard of businesses run off the back of bicycles on the West Coast and wanted to localize the idea.

So they began advertising for an event where their fantasy was to somehow find a way to keep food warm while Bosco pedaled his bike and Osorio Gil handed out free food from the back. It was not well planned, they admitted.

Sam Bosco and Carolina Osorio Gil

“We weren’t ready at all,” Osorio Gil said about the days leading up to the event. Their savior from possible failure was the Tompkins County Health Department.

The two were told that their event did not meet health code requirements, so they canceled it.

Throughout the winter, the couple were told by several people how disappointed people were about not seeing the bike food stand come to fruition. So they started planning.

Using Osorio Gil’s connection with ¡Cultura! Ithaca and Bosco’s affiliation with Ithaca Generator,  they were able to collaborate with Cornell students this past spring semester about how to make Bici-Cocina a reality.

The two went at the project with the idea that they wanted to make the bike inexpensively, eco-friendly and an accessible goal that the average person could strive to emulate.

They said there is a social justice aspect to consider that people could just string together a few hundred dollars and start a business that could become one’s livelihood.

“It’s not too big to fail,” Bosco said.

Carolina Osorio Gil and Sam Bosco giving away free food at a soft opening in April.

The first day of business for the two was at Ithaca’s Cinco de Mayo Festival & Block Party. Then they made appearances at the Ithaca Festival, Bike to Work Day and Congo Square Market — and they continue to pop up at events and locations throughout the city.

Their weekly spot is at Press Bay Ally where they set up the stand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They said the business takes a lot of effort, sometimes up to 30 hours a week along with their other jobs — both are employed at multiple places and active in community activities.

But they said the effort is worth it to own a business of their own doing something they believe in.

“It’s the first thing I’ve owned,” Osorio Gil said. “But it’s a business and it’s a physical thing. I own it and I’m really proud.”

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.