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First, a word to our vegan friends: I’m in awe of you. It’s tough enough to be a vegetarian, but vegans have to summon the discipline to say “no” to butter, eggs and cheese, some of the staples of Mediterranean cuisine.
While that makes it a brain-teaser for vegans to order Italian and Greek food, options are still available that go beyond salad greens. So, for both our veg and vegan readers, here are some guilt-free dishes at Downtown eateries:
My Big Fat Greek Restaurant – Everything at this Arizona Center restaurant is big, including the portions and the menu. So here’s a quick rundown: Vegetarians can choose from two appetizers, three different pizzas, and four yummy pita-bread dips, including Baba Ganoush and Tzatziki, which is also vegan-friendly. Everyone can order the Mediterranean Grilled Vegetables, and vegetarians can dive into two classic Greek dishes, Spanakopita and Tyropita.
PastaBAR – Critics and diners alike have had a fairly ecstatic reaction to PastaBAR, owned by Wade Moises, who put in his time working for superstar chef Mario Batali. (Note: Chef Wade, left, also has a heavy hand in the outstanding menu at Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery & Wine Bar.) With the restaurant’s emphasis on organic and locally grown produce, vegetarians and vegans will love the Local Farm Vegetables. The pasta is homemade, including the Bavette al Cedro, a simple, satisfying dish made with lemon, Italian butter and Parmigiano.
Crust Italian American Fusion – Order your favorite pie at this casual, open-kitchen pizza spot, located in the Convention Center. Their Sicilian-style pizzas include several vegetarian-friendly choices, and vegans can go for the “Create Your Own Pie” option.
Focaccia Fiorentina – This friendly, family-owned eatery has twice been named “Best Downtown Lunch” by Phoenix New Times. Try the Giardiniere sandwich, made with grilled zucchini, mozzarella, tomato and olive oil or any of 10 hand-stretched pizzas that are veg-friendly. Nearly all the pastas, including the Penne alla Vodka – be still my heart – are made without meat, chicken or fish. Vegans can order the Plain Pasta, which is anything but.
Pizzeria Bianco – Waiting in line at this acclaimed eatery is like standing at the Gates of Heaven: the wait is long and you may not get in, but if you do, your envious friends will give you hell. The Rosa, made with red onion, Parmigiano and pistachios is a slice of…well, you know. The Margherita pizza passes the veg test, too, and the Marinara, made without cheese, should be fine for vegans.
Cibo – I love this charming spot, a converted bungalow from 1913, and its varied, excellent menu. Try the wonderful Pear Salad, made with arugula, pears, pecorino cheese, honey and toasted almonds, or any of seven veg-approved pizzas. Vegans will go for the Mixed Vegetables dish, which includes roasted red peppers, zucchini and sweet potatoes, an unexpected touch.
Want more Downtown Dining?
Text “FOOD” to 25866 or check out the 2010 Downtown Dining Guide (now in digi-mag form!)