No, I'm not actually a vegan.
Last summer, I stopped eating beef, poultry, and pork. And I've stopped eating most dairy products within the last few months, save for a squirt or two of half 'n half in my coffee.
But I still eat seafood once a month, and I do enjoy my eggs over-easy about once a week, as well as in my pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods, as a binding agent.
However, when it comes to pizza, the product that I eat nowadays can typically be labeled as 'vegan', as it's devoid of cheese, meat, and other animal products, for the most part.
Most of the pizza we eat is homemade, but we still feel like ordering out on occasion.
You can tell quite a bit about a pizza joint by ordering a pie with all vegetables and no cheese. Without the greasiness and saltiness of all the cheese and dairy fat to mask other flavors, you'll learn a lot about the quality of the vegetables, sauce, and other ingredients that are used.
Up until now, we've stuck with safe bets when ordering out... Napa Wood Fired Pizzeria and Naked Pizza. Both of these places make it a point to advertise their use of fresh, natural ingredients, as well as the availability of vegetarian and vegan options.
Ever since ditching the cheese, we haven't tried ordering from the more traditional pizza joints that we grew up with... the places where we'd get a large mushroom and pepperoni pizza with two dozen medium wings.
Yeah, it tasted really good.
But fourteen wings, four slices, and three beers later, I'd be withering away slowly on the couch, gradually drowning in a greasy, bloated coma of indigestion and wretched gas.
Not a pleasant way to spend the evening.
But just last month, a new pizza joint called Clemenza's Pizzeria opened up just a few miles down the road in Mendon - the next town over.
Click HERE to see the menu.
Aside from your typical pizza offerings, you've got mozzarella sticks, wings, meaty subs, pizza logs... seems like your traditional 'greasy pizza joint' fare.
Yeah, the offerings suggest that it was just another typical greasy pizza joint. And there's nothing whatsoever that alludes to any vegetarian or vegan offerings. But yesterday afternoon, I was really in the mood for some pizza, and I'm always open to supporting a new, local business.
After perusing the menu, I decided on a small pie with artichokes, roasted red peppers, fresh garlic, and broccoli... and tomato sauce, of course. When ordering a pizza without cheese, it's a good idea to include fresh garlic or onions, as the roasted, caramelized characteristics of these ingredients do a great job standing in for the missing cheese.
I called them at 624-5545 and placed my order with Joe.
"No cheese at all?" asked Joe. "You don't want any Parmesan sprinkled on there?"
"No thanks," I said.
"OK, so we have a small pizza with artichokes, roasted red peppers, garlic, and broccoli. That sounds like a really good pizza. Fifteen minutes work for you?"
"Yep, sounds good."
"Thanks, Dave. We'll see you then."
Joe actually called back a few minutes later just to confirm that I wanted red sauce on the pizza... which I did. Props to Joe for making the effort to double-check.
When the clock on my computer hit 1:45, I grabbed my keys and wallet and hopped into the car to pick up my lunch. Within ten minutes, I was back in our parking lot with the windows rolled down and Jim Rome chattering on the local FM sports station.
I hungrily opened up the pizza box and...
No, there wasn't a piece missing.
I just ate the first piece before I could snap a picture.
It was that good.
What I saw in that pizza box was the best-looking pie I'd laid eyes on in quite awhile. Thick crispy crust... lots of delicious-looking vegetables... and the aroma of the fresh garlic was making me drool.
I made a selfish grab at the biggest slice and took a gluttonous bite...
Wow... that was some good pizza.
What impressed me the most was that this pie was from what looked to be just another greasy pizza joint. And yet, the pie lacked all of your typical 'greasy pizza-joint' characteristics.
My crappy little cell phone camera
really doesn't do this pizza justice.
The vegetables were delicious, and the garlic complemented the red sauce wonderfully.
And what's this 'cheese' thing that everybody's talking about? Whatever it was, this pizza certainly didn't miss it.
Within ten minutes, all four slices were gone... demolished... devoured.
For the remainder of my lunch, I sat in my driver's seat with the windows rolled down, while Jim Rome continued to discuss the Dallas Mavericks and their recent NBA Championship.
Of course, I can't comment on the wings, pepperoni pizza, meatball subs, or any of the other meaty or cheesy delights that are available at Clememza's Pizzeria.
Last year at this time, I would have tried a dozen medium wings, and I'll bet they would have been delicious.
But when I'm in the mood for a vegan pizza, I'll definitely be giving them a call again.
Even if you're not a vegetarian, do yourself a favor and order a pizza from Clemenza's with three or four different veggies. If you're feeling really adventurous, ask them to leave off the cheese.
You'll be pleasantly surprised, and your stomach will thank you.
No leftovers... No surprise there...
And I even picked up a free magnet for the fridge.