by Andrew Morrison | When we briefed readers on the coming of Virtuous Pie last month I was careful not to reveal any instinctive prejudice. I mean…vegan pizza? Not by choice, thank you very much. I’m too red in tooth and claw; too entrenched in habit to bend to the wind and will of time and trend. But more to the point: based on the vegan pizza I’d endured in the past (always under professional duress), I wasn’t expecting much except maybe a mildewy discus of green things sauced with self-importance and sprinkled with dirt.
To me, pizza is like a beautiful planet that is subject to a clockwork-determined system of divine decadence. It is orbited by the delicious likes of mozzarella, capicola, prosciutto, burrata, parm-reggie, and sausage. It might suffer the occasional asteroid or meteor (eg. melanzano, funghi, pesto, tartufo), but the impacts are absorbed, never resulting in absolute extinction. The planet, such as it is, is seemingly impervious, even to pineapple.
So to think of the incoming Virtuous Pie as a comet foretelling armageddon would just be silly. The truth is pizza doesn’t have to be certified by the strict maggiori at Italy’s Vera Pizza Napoletana to be excellent (see Pizzeria Farina, Campagnolo, Barbarella, Don’t Argue); it just needs to taste really good. And there’s something for everyone at the new 21 seater at 583 Main St. in Chinatown. Even for me.
I’m not kidding, their Stranger Wings pizza is awesome. The thing is a tasty take on buffalo chicken – natch – with crispy cauliflower shards supplanting the chicken. Each floret sees light coat of zippy, palate-awakening sauce balanced by a drizzled zigzag of faux blue cheese crema, while the entirety’s surface comes studded with fried shallots and garnished with bright shavings of scallion.
Paired with cold kombucha (on tap), it was an experience – a naughty thrill a bite – far better than the other pies I tried (a distant second being the one with Costco-esque kimchi and cashew “mozzarella”) and not because it kept the meat-pretending to a believable minimum. It was just a well-conceived, well-executed pizza that would likely do well on any menu, virtuous or not. It was a novelty, to be sure, but if you asked me which pizza I’d prefer this week out of any in Vancouver I’d really have to think about it.
OK, so I just thought about it and it’s the one that’s lit up with capicola and jalapeno crema at the new Strathcona Beer Co. on East Hastings. That pizza is so off the hook it’s ridiculous. But I digress…
As for the crust, it pimpled nicely on the edges and never drooped at the vertex, even when loaded down with toppings (something for the structural engineers to marvel at). I’m not one to forsake gluten, so it was definitely in there. They can do pies without gluten for a $2 surcharge, but it’s beyond me why something should cost more if it’s missing one of its fundamental ingredients. If they took $2 off instead, maybe they’d inspire a legion of converts. And the comet cometh ever closer…