I was recently presented the opportunity to try the food of a gourmet pizza shop located just a few blocks from Webster Hall. Viva Herbal Pizza, located at 179 2nd Ave( between 11th and 12th street) is a little hidden store near St. Marks that serves gourmet vegan pizza. Its slightly worn sign gives an aged and cozy look to the exterior while inside, the wood flooring and walls give off that vibe that make you feel like you’ve just walked into something special.
The selection of pizza sets this place far apart from any other pizzeria you have been to and almost all of the choices are vegan. And there are toppings galore- onions, olives, peppers, tofu, sundried tomatoes, and my personal favorite, artichokes. As a student, I have never been too keen on watching what I eat. I love healthy food but oily, rich, cheesy goodness always brightened my Italian soul.
But so do colorful toppings. I went for the craziest looking slices I could see. The Seitan Dream and the Zen.
The Seitan Dream
The Seitan Dream- a dream it is indeed, made with spelt crust. I asked Peter, the owner of Viva Herbal Pizza, about the materials put into it and he said that spelt flour was better for digestion. He does not use any white flour nor sugar in any of his pizzas. All ingredients are freshly cut and are organic. I took a bite into the Seitan Dream and I wanted to melt. It tasted of light and air and all that was good in the world. The textures rose up to me, dancing with the flavors of garlic, onion, and sundried tomatoes. The artichoke, oh my, the artichokes on top of everything were beautiful. The toppings made it almost meaty, without the meat.
The Zen was an interesting piece to try. Green tea mixed with tofu? A very interesting mixture that most people would probably turn away from because it seemed obscenely healthy for pizza. Perfect one to try. At first, it tasted like air. Not necessarily bland. But the flavors did not hit me right away. Confused, I chewed slower and thought on the pizza while consuming it. Then, it finally hit me. The clean fresh taste of green tea, mixed with the tofu and swirled together in garlic, onion, and mushrooms. It all was covered with pesto to perfection.
I come from Brooklyn. So to me, the most important thing to really decide the quality of the pizza is the crust. The crust was perfection. Crispy, crunchy, toasty, yet still bready enough to chew. The pizza has the perfect thin crust that managed to not fall apart and still hold its own in strength and flavor.
The owner Peter is incredibly nice. While enjoying my pizza he would occasionally walk by and ask how everything was. He answered all questions and was very informative. I myself do not know much about vegan food. So here is what the difference is between a vegan and a vegetarian and everything in between. I have taken this information straight from here <–
Vegetarian: A general term for a person who does not eat animals or seafood. It includes vegans and other sub categories, but mainly refers to someone who has less restrictions on what they can eat compared to a vegan.
Semi-Vegetarian: A vegetarian that eats dairy products, eggs, chicken, and fish but no other animal flesh.
Ovo-lacto Vegetarian: Vegetarians who do not eat meat, poultry, fish and seafood, but do eat milk and eggs.
Ovo-Vegetarian: Vegetarian that is closest to being vegan except that they eat eggs.
Lacto-Vegetarian: Vegetarian who would be vegan but they consume milk.
Vegan: A person who does not consume any animal products or by-products. Some do not consume honey or yeast, or wear clothing made from animal products (such as leather or fur coats).
As to why some very strict Vegans do not consume yeast, I have no found the answer and should have asked him this question since he himself is a vegan.
Going to this place opened my eyes to a brilliant new world of pizza that I had never knew existed. I also ventured into learning more about vegan-ism. Another thing I noticed is how much detail this man puts into his recipes. Vegans ( as you can see above) have a very restricted diet. Therefore every little detail of the pizza has to be carefully taken into account since pizza used to be a mechanism of getting rid of leftovers in old italian culture (take the leftovers, put it on bread, cover it with cheese, and WHALA pizza). The wheat flour is replaced with spelt flour. Most of the choices are gluten free. He offers the options even of cornmeal crust. All ingredients are organic. And to top all of that off, you can customize your pizza down to the very ingredients and toppings you want if you are an extra picky health conscience person.
Now what do you call a careful, meticulous person who makes things from the very idea to the crafting of the recipes into being? Who also allows the customer the choice of customization and personalization? Who presents their dream into what they create? That, my friends, is an artist.
What makes the entire experience even better is knowing that I found a treasure and can always come back for more.
So stay in touch for even more student savings to amazing places.
Sophia, Rochester Institute of Technology
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