Veggie Girl: Pizza By Marco (Part Deux)

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After the recent post on my not-so-great experience at Pizza By Marco, I received an e-mail from the restaurant's owner, Frank Nuccio, who wrote that he was disappointed and offered to personally deliver a re-try.

Now, I've written some unfavorable blogs in my day (OK...not as many as any self-respecting food writer should, but still), and never have I received such an offer. It took me all of ten seconds to say yes. Why not? Esquire's John Mariani gives restaurants a 'show me what you're capable of' heads up, after all. And it might prove interesting to see the difference.

Nuccio showed up at the Observer offices bearing a hot vegan special. He did his homework, too, and went light on the sauce, light on the cheese, and heavy on the fresh veggies: spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and best of all, fresh mushrooms. (The ones I'd called "canned" in my last post were actually sautéed and stored in a jar by the distributor--hence the dulled flavor.)

But before I ate, I had the chance to chat up Nuccio, who explained that he started offering vegan-friendly ingredients several years ago, after he became a vegetarian. Nuccio uses Follow Your Heart vegan soy cheese (no casein) and the crust is vegan, too--unlike the egg-based flatbread at the otherwise-promising Extreme Pizza , whose manager recommended that vegans and no-gluten folks bring their own crust along.

Seriously. He said he'd be happy to make any pizza on top of your crust.

But back to Nuccio. I had a million questions and tried to keep Nuccio engaged as long as possible. I wanted to know why he became a vegetarian--he kind of fell into it, it seems, but felt so much better that he stuck with it--and whether he had any crazy crust ideas. (Yes: He's working on a gluten-free version.) Of course, I was without a pen and struggling to memorize everything he said. Nuccio, for his part, kept looking nervously at the pizza box, and he finally convinced me to go eat it before it got cold. So we said goodbye, and I raced back into the break room with my prize.

"Vegan pizza!" I shouted. Nobody stirred. Surely they can't have tired of my vegan-cheese-in-the-microwave experiments and eerily dense baked goods so soon? Their loss, for it was good! Delicious, even! The soy cheese was subtle, and the vegetables were perfect; not even the spinach was overdone. Finally, the rest of our colleagues filed in, munching slices of a competing meat-lover's pizza and gloating about not having to eat another vegan oddity. Whatever. That meant more for me.

The moral of the story, then, is to order your vegan pizza consciously--at least if you're picky. Oh, and one other thing: Beware of food writers who put themselves through their ski bum years by making and serving pizza. It's like the man (woman) who knew too much.

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