PUREZZA’S VEGAN PIZZA – A REVIEW
Jake Levy, Brighton.
Imagining a pizza without meat was just about tolerable. Imagining a pizza without cheese, too, was just not something I was prepared to entertain. What a silly idea. But on the advice of a very trustworthy Italian, I gave Purezza a go. I left impressed, surprised, and most importantly, proven utterly wrong.
When Filippo Rosato abandoned a career as an architect to dedicate his attention to pizza, he had a clear vision: show the world that all the foods we love have excellent plant-based alternatives, with no compromise on flavour whatsoever. This inspiration has been brought to fruition in his vegan pizzeria, Purezza, born in Brighton but now also delivering a dose of veganism to London at their sister restaurant in hipster central, Camden Town.
The first step is always the hardest. This has never been truer where finding an alternative for the nation’s beloved cheese is concerned. The ‘mozzarella’ found on Purezza’s range of pizzas is the result of over two years development in a laboratory, which reflects rather well the enormity of the task. Persistence has indeed paid off though. As I rather messily indulged myself in their sourdough balls, the oozing, melting goodness found inside was impressively reminiscent of cheese. Perhaps it held a closer resemblance to camembert than mozzarella, but this is by no means a criticism. Inventively produced by fermenting Italian brown rice, their mozzarella features alongside a number of other options including a creamy coconut cheese and a raw cashew one – the latter of which is used in their ‘Cashew Dream’, Purezza’s take on the classic Italian Tiramisu.
Cheese under their belt, and in more literal terms, under mine, let’s turn to the matter the of dough. You’d think this was a doddle in comparison to producing vegan cheese, but an astonishing number of pizza restaurants fall well below the admittedly exceptional benchmark set by Neapolitan pizza chefs. Whilst true Neapolitan pizza dough should be thin at the base, the sides should puff up and air bubbles should be visible. I have been told on excellent authority that if the crust of the dough bounces back after a prodding, then it is the real deal. Of course, Purezza’s dough is exemplary – freshly made each day and matured for 48 hours before being stretched. Whilst their sourdough is already super healthy due to the use of type 2 flour, Purezza also offer a dough made from hemp flour which is even healthier.
Purezza’s lovingly made dough is then decorated with an array of only the finest ingredients, all freshly made in-house or sourced very meticulously. Their red tomato sauce prides itself on the use of scintillatingly sweet San Marzano tomatoes, mixed with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of pink Himalayan salt. Grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, San Marzano tomatoes are widely celebrated for being amongst the best in the world. It only took one bite to see why. I firstly tried their Pesto Manifesto – which proved to be significantly more effective at delivering its’ promises than most of the lousy politicians leading the disillusioned political world we find ourselves in today. Purezza’s freshly blended pesto is without a doubt some of the best I have ever tasted, showcasing the perfect balance between sweet and salty. Splotched in generous amounts, it is accompanied by the yummiest caremalised onions and roasted courgettes, garnished with some red micro basil. I didn’t stop here, and just about managed a few slices of Purezza’s most expensive offering – Here Comes the Truffle. The delicious red base is substituted for a luxurious coating of black truffles, and finished off with wood smoked tofu and wild forest mushrooms. Oh how this made me feel nostalgic, taking me back to very happy times under the Tuscan sun. An evening at Purezza left my palate very much satisfied, and most notably, not once did I find myself longing for the taste of meat or cheese.
I finish on a point of reflection, and ask myself where my initial scepticism of vegan food truly originated from. Now many vegans will have very little difficulty conceding that certain vegans have prioritised the importance of ‘telling people they are vegan’ over the actual principles that veganism stands for. They will also grant that shaming people is not only an unwise tactic when trying to push a cause, but also just plain wrong. However, the key point to make is like with any fundamentalism, more often than not, the cause has been hijacked by a very small minority. Of course, hardly any vegans barge into steakhouses, singing ‘Meat is Murder’ and proclaiming the diners monsters left, right and centre. The phrase a few ruin it for the rest comes to mind. Whilst a shame, in many cases vegan fundamentalism has dissuaded many meat-eaters from coming close to considering veganism. In my case, however, to focus on this too much would be disingenuous. Being a creature of habit, the main reason I had dismissed veganism is that plainly, I found the idea of food without meat and cheese, to be as dramatic as possible, completely unendurable. How could food possibly taste nice? An evening in Purezza proved how ridiculous this question was.
For more of Jake’s work, see www.dinersdigest.co.uk