In this week's installment of Kitchen Gadget of the Week, we are featuring something that may not…
zpizza: creative, vegan-friendly, California-style pizza joint that serves up tasty food that will be sure to satisfy. If you are out with friends and want to give them a taste of vegan pizza without scaring them – this is an excellent choice.
Looking for Vegan Pizza, Backstory
I was recently traveling for work and that always requires a little bit of effort to figure out where to eat. Before departure I consulted the Happy Cow website and discovered that there was a restaurant, around the corner from the hotel, that offered a few straight vegan options as well as the choice to make most of their other items into vegan by substituting non-dairy cheese, so vegan pizza was a possibility. It’s called zpizza, a chain that started over 25 years ago in Laguna Beach, California. This is casual dining with a nicely varied menu of salads, sandwiches, and pizzas with that classic “California” spin.
Because I was going to arrive at my hotel a little late I decided to swing by zpizza before checking in (but after the obligatory stop at a supermarket to ensure I had some fruit for the room and the days ahead).
I knew from Yelp reviews that zpizza uses Daiya Mozarella as their vegan substitute cheese. It’s great that Daiya is so readily available around the country and it’s pretty good cheese, but I was disappointed that they didn’t have their own, home-made option, but it is a solid choice.
As soon as I arrived, the overcast skies opened up with a downpour, so I dashed across the parking lot to zpizza’s door. They had an attractive, clean, and brightly lit space that smelled invitingly like garlic and baking bread.
Once inside I picked up a take out menu and asked the man at the counter how it worked with the vegan preparations. He explained that it was as simple as asking for any cheese, in any dish, to be substituted with the Daiya.
The Menu at zpizza
I sat down with the menu and really looked around. I was happy to see an imaginative variety and quite a bit more than the standard “pizza place” fare (but certainly some of the classics were on the list). This is a place for everyone, and every diet, so there were plenty of salads, sandwiches, and pizzas loaded with animals which always makes me sad and disturbed – it’s never far away. My stomach was hoping for a substantial amount of food and I was stuck between the Berkeley Vegan pizza and the Tuscan. The waiter solved my quandary but suggesting a half and half. So I order a large (I was hungry!) with Berkeley on one side (vegan from the start) and the Tuscan (feta and Mozarella replaced with the Daiya) on the other.
The Vegan Pizza
The pizza arrived in a jiffy (about 8 minutes) and looked wonderful! The crust was nice and thin, tasty, and crunchy—delightful. The veggies on the Berkeley side were bright and delicious and the onions, mushrooms, and herbs on the Tuscan side were rich and perfectly cooked.
I ate the entire thing right there and then.
While I enjoyed zpizza and every bite was yummy I do have a small negative: the Daiya cheese. The accommodation of a vegan in a chain restaurant is enthusiastically welcomed but Daiya is not exactly like dairy cheese in its texture, melti-ness, and taste. In my opinion they used way too much of it and it detracted from the wonderful tastes and textures of the other ingredients. However, your milage may vary, as it depends on your taste for that specific product.
In the end, zpizza did not disappoint. They have a creative menu, nicely designed interior, easy to read signage, polite employees, quick service, and open arms for the plant-based/vegan customer.
A big thumbs up and worth seeking out.
Update: later on the trip one of the team members picked up take out from zpizza and I ordered a Yuppie Veggie sandwich (“avocado, provolone, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, Italian dressing, on fresh-baked baguette”) which sounded amazing. Provolone was replaced with the Daiya.
Unfortunately, the sandwich did not live up to its description (or my anticipation). It was disappointingly light on the fillings (a few tiny little pieces of artichokes, a couple very thin avocado slices, a bit of lettuce, two slices of tomato) and the bread was absolutely not fresh – it tasted more like bread that had been sitting in a refrigerator for a bit. Plus, the Daiya again. It’s just not ready to be used cold and shredded in a sandwich like that. If I gave the sandwich another try I would leave the cheese out all together, ask for a generous filling and toast the bread.