Pizza + Ice Cream (made from plants)
I know what you’re thinking: Vegan pizza. Well, that was a nice idea.
I’m going to stop you right there and say two words: Virtuous Pie. This chic, cafeteria-style pizzeria in Toronto’s Little Italy serves gourmet slices a world apart from what vegan pizza probably brings to mind. Yes, the era of slippery cheese reminiscent of half-melted perler beads has passed. Stone-dense dough has been reinvented into crunchable thin crust.
Originating in Vancouver and with an outfit in Portland, Oregan, Virtuous (can I call you that?) is a yummy new addition to Toronto’s plant-based food scene. And they’re liquor licensed! Far from the fringes, this pizzeria has boldly set-up shop in a hood ripe with established pizza joints.
I don’t know what I expected when I first went in. Maybe someone to be screaming: Vegan pizza! No, it’s good! But actually the storefront keeps a pretty low profile. It’s well designed, brightly lit and not pretentious. I went around 8PM; the room was abuzz with young families and millennials on third dates.
I walked up to the board and read ingredients: “spicy buffalo cauliflower, queso fresco, herbed potato cream, truffle almond ricotta…” I was slack jawed and breaking a sweat. Pizza names ranged from “Ultraviolet” to “Grandma Pie” to “Superfunghi.” Small plates like “garlic knots,” “mac and cheese,” and “Italian meatballs” paid homage to old-world favs.
I opted for the“Chorizo and Artichoke” pizza, complete with san marzano, spicy chorizo, cashew mozzarella, roast artichokes, fennel, hot honey, and lemon almond ricotta. As if that wasn’t enough, I also ordered a small plate of Roast Harissa Cauliflower, with green harissa, paprika aioli and lemon. (For those of you who don’t know, harissa is a North African chilli paste.)
I scarfed down the cauliflower. It was spicy and delicious. The pizza that arrived next was a minor work of art. And it was every bit as virtuosic to eat as it was to look at.
I’m no food critic (ahem, don’t tell the bosses) but I’d say this pizza had all the notes in harmony: the fennel and lemon almond ricotta upfront; the creamy cashew mozzarella softening out the spice from the chorizo further back. Hot honey. I thought of all the times I had shoved insipid-tasting deep dish down my throat. Needless to say, I had been changed.
Then there’s the ice-cream bar. With options like “key lime pie,” “bourbon vanilla,” and “marionberry cheesecake” I had to order a flight and try a few different flavours. Nothing will beat Coconut Bliss’s Chocolate Peanut Butter ice-cream for me. But some of these flavours came close.
Bottom line, check out Virtuous Pie! And tell your friends too. Especially, your non-vegan friends. Because the whole “I could never give up cheese, I love pizza too much!” excuse might just be out the window.