Pizza without the cheese might sound akin to an Oreo without the creamy filling, but that didn’t stop foodies from lining up outside vegan pizzeria Virtuous Pie on a Friday night in September, shortly after the restaurant launched. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. In many ways, Virtuous Pie couldn’t be more Vancouver-in-2016: it’s by the corner of Main and Keefer, where buzzy restaurants like Juke and Juniper have opened in the last year; it serves a hybrid of Neapolitan and California-style pizza; and it accommodates a dietary preference, serving pizza topped with nut-based cheeses and coconut-based ice cream for dessert.
But what some might consider a limitation, Virtuous Pie has turned into an opportunity for experimentation (the obligatory Margherita aside). The Ultraviolet, with walnut and arugula pesto, cashew mozzarella, oven-dried tomatoes, purple kale, caramelized onions and pine nuts, is as good as it sounds—although not any better, as no one flavour really stands out. The Stranger Wings, however, lives up to its name. With crisp buffalo cauliflower, fried shallots, a blue “cheese” drizzle and scallions, the pizza bianca is not only addictive but pleasantly spicier than you’d expect—just the sort of surprise one hopes for in a vegan pizzeria.
The price point is similarly satisfying, at a reasonable $12 per pizza ($10 for the Margherita). Indeed, the experience is on the casual side of premium-casual(the $8-per-glass wine comes from a tap). Seating is at long tables with benches, meaning you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with a stranger or two. With brick exposures on one side and a busy open kitchen on the other, Virtuous Pie feels a bit like a cafeteria—albeit a beautifully designed one. And at $30 for dinner for two (sans drinks), it’s an infinitely better takeout option than Domino’s, real cheese be damned.