Best Pizza in Florence, Italy by Ace Pai

Pizza in Italy is not like pizza back home, there are less crazy toppings and no garlic dipping sauces (for non-american readers, yes that is apparently a thing in the US). Here, pizza is simple, served as a whole pie and often eaten with a fork and knife (hands are okay too). However, not every pizzeria is created equally and it is possible to have terrible pizza even in Italy. In the city of Florence there are a lot of tourist traps, so here is a guide for where to eat pizza in Florence.

1. Santarpia

42 hour fermented pizza dough and quality ingredients.

Ranked #24 out of 50 in the 50 Top Pizza guide by Gambero Rosso, Santarpia’s pizzas are some of the best you can find in Tuscany and certainly one of the best in Florence. Although it is located a little farther from the center near Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, the pizzas here are definitely worth a little detour (plus the area is less touristy). Santarpia is a trendy pizzeria among locals, so reservations are highly recommended. Gluten-free pizza dough and lactose-free mozzarella are available upon request (although I don’t recommend the lactose-free mozzarella) and should be mentioned during reservations if needed. Because their pizza dough is fermented for 42 hours and they use quality ingredients, the price point here is slightly more expensive than other places. However, instead of eating at a tourist restaurant (such as la Bussola) where a Margherita can cost up to 15€, go to Santarpia for a real taste of Italian pizza.

Best vegan option: Marinara Gialla senza acciughe

*menu changes seasonly

Address: Largo Pietro Annigoni, 9, 50122 Firenze FI


2. Il Pizzaiuolo 

Near Sant’Ambrogio, Pizzaiuolo is OG pizzeria that all Florentines love. Delicious pizzas at a reasonable price point.

If you ask a local Florentine where to have pizza, the most common answer will be Il Pizzaiuolo as this is one of the city’s most historical pizzerias. Established more than 20 years ago, Pizzaiuolo offers not only great Neapolitan pizzas but also many other dishes faithful to the Neapolitan tradition. The restaurant has a lovely traditional ambiance and is a must for those seeking to experience a more authentic dining environment. The pizzas here are not only delicious but very reasonably priced. On the menu, you can find pizzas that have their origin from the Campania region.

Best vegan option: Boscaiola (tomato, artichoke, mushroom, oregano and basil)

Address: Via dei Macci, 113r, 50122 Firenze FI


3. PizzAgnolo

A street away from Santa Croce, Pizzagnolo is a relatively new spot where the hip and young go.

Pizzagnolo_acepai.com

Formerly Pizza Man, PizzAgnolo is a hip little place with a menu full of traditional and more experimental pizzas (such as pizzas topped with sweet potato chips). Here, you have the option to substitute the pizza dough with whole wheat, multigrain, or gluten-free dough. The doughs are all left to rise for no less than 24 - 36 hours. PizzAgnolo is great for both dining in and take away.

Best vegan option: Vegeteriana senza formaggio

Address: Via dell'Agnolo, 107 Rosso, 50122 Firenze FI


4. Mercato Centrale - La Pizzeria Sud

Open from 10 am to midnight, and located above Mercato Centrale is the best place to grab pizza when everywhere else in Florence is closed.

Pizza. Mercato Centrale.

Mercato Centrale may seem touristy, but its actually a place where many locals frequent. When I first arrived in Florence and didn’t know about places such as Pizzaiuolo and Santarpia, the pizza stand at Mercato Centrale was my go-to as the pizzas here are soft, fragrant, and tasty. Today, La Pizzeria Sud is still one of my favourites as not only are the pizzas delicious but also because of the great atmosphere of the food hall at Mercato Centrale. At La Pizzeria Sud you can find a short list of the most common Italian flavours, and although there aren’t as many options here as there would be in a restaurant, you can be assured that they are equally as delicious.

Best vegan option: Pizza Marinara

Address: Mercato Centrale, Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 3, 50123 Firenze FI


5. L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

Real Neapolitan pizza in Florence. Here the pizzas are bigger than your plate!

L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele from Naples is one of the oldest and most well-known name in Italy. Luckily, for those who don’t have time to go down to Naples but still want to try their pizza, they now have a restaurant in Florence! At the original location in Naples, they only serve two types of pizza: Marinara and Margherita, however, here in Florence, they also offer several other flavours. Dining at Da Michele is a truly unique experience as the pizza here are larger than the plate beneath it (known as pizza a ruota di carro or “cartwheel pizza“). L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele has been an Italian institution for more than a century so, now that it’s in Florence, come and try it for yourself!

Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 22R, 50123 Firenze FI


6. Mister Pizza

Not bad for pizza at 4 a.m.

MisterPizza.Acepai.com

Mister Pizza is probably one of the most touristy pizzerias in the city and is not the first pizzeria I would recommend you to try in this list. However, it is the only pizzeria/restaurant open until 4 in the morning.. and desperate times calls for desperate measures. In all honesty, Mister Pizza is not terrible, but the dough does not live up to the standards of other pizzerias. Two things that you should definitely stay away from would be the gluten-free dough and the vegan cheese (bleh..). The Mister Pizza itself is a popular option and quite delicious. A tip for those who like their pizza crust crispier: order it ben cotto (well-cooked).

Best vegan option: Vegeteriana con i funghi porcini senza formaggio

Address: Via Pietrapiana, 82, 50122 Firenze FI

Piazza del Duomo, 5r, 50122 Firenze FI


Brunch at AbcV by Ace Pai

Brunch at abcV, chia bowl, steamed tofu, dosa

AbcV is, hands-down, my favourite spot to have brunch in Manhattan. It's a trendy place, so it's somewhat difficult to get a reservation on Saturday/Sunday if you don't book a couple of days ahead. However, lots of people still come in to wait for a spot at the bar (aka me). Every non-vegan friend that I've brought to this place has loved it and told me that it had transformed the way that they think of veg food. 

But this is how plant-based food should be, not processed faux meat or artificial cheeses but rather fruits and vegetables that nourishes and energizes the body. The menu at abcV is diverse, and there are lots of options to choose from savoury or sweet, but the dosa with coconut yogurt, avocados and sprouts is something I can't help but order every time I return. If it's your first time at AbcV, my two must haves are the Dosa mentioned previously and the fresh steamed tofu

** If you are vegan, make sure to mention that to your waiter because some dishes contain dairy and/or eggs but many dishes can be veganized (e.g. the dosa and steamed tofu both contain yogurt but can be made vegan by replacing with Coconut yogurt)

 
 

The sweet potato brunch bowl is also a warm and filling savory dish that is exclusive to the brunch menu. If you're craving something spicy, the beluga lentils drizzled in a special home-made chili oil is a great choice. For something flavourful and aromatic, try the fried wild rice with winter veggies. On the other hand, if you're looking to try something more 'uncommon' go for the slow roasted beets that seems to be a vegan version of 'carpaccio.' These dishes, however, are also available on the lunch and dinner menu. 

My must haves for the sweet brunch items are the vanilla chia bowl and the wild blueberry bowl. The vanilla chia bowl is very fresh and light but also filling because of the chia seeds. The wild blueberry bowl is equally tasty but more dense due to the peanut butter. Unless you're reaaally craving pancakes that day, I would pass on the vegan einkorn pancakes

 
“In America, breakfast is always too sweet, too heavy, too much bacon. We wanted to create much more savory recipes. When I was in Asia, I tried congee, dosa, and these things blew my mind. So we decided to offer something really new." 

For dessert, the matcha creme brûlée is divine; so creamy and rich. The salted caramel chocolate tart was good but the tart crust was too hard to cut into. The one item the I would say to avoid ordering from the brunch menu is the vegan pastry basket. As tempting as it sounds, the mini croissants are just too small to work and the muffins are a bit too sweet for my personal tastes. If you would like to try those items, a much better alternative would be to come for breakfast on Monday to Fridays where they have full sized plain and chocolate vegan croissants

Have you ever brunched here? What are your favourite dishes that you think I should try? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

My Must Haves & Must Avoids

Savory must haves: Dosa with coconut yogurt, Fresh steamed tofu.

Sweet must haves: Vanilla Chia Bowl 

Items to avoid: Vegan pastry basket


 

NYC | In Search of: Vegan Icecream - Van Leeuwen by Ace Pai

One cold January day, a friend and I decided to go for some icecream. We had both studied in Italy half a year ago and I had just gotten back from Florence (without getting the chance to eat gelato) so the icecream craving was strong. I suggested Van Leeuwen, a name I know of from the non-dairy icecream shelves of Wholefoods and a video I once saw on Facebook. 

I have tried their pistacchio pints before and I absolutely love the creaminess and the strong flavour of the pistacchio but I had heard that they offered special vegan flavours in their shops so I knew that I had to go and taste them for myself!

The new vegan flavour out at the time (available at all locations) was Planet Earth. The blue “ocean” is made of spirulina and has an almond flavour while the chunks of matcha cakes make up the green “land.” It was an interesting combination that I’ve never seen elsewhere. In my opinion, the almond flavouring was a bit artificial tasting but I enjoyed the matcha chunks. I didn’t quite like it at first taste but it grew on me and now I occasionally crave this weird flavour while studying.

This definitely is something that I don’t think is for everyone. It’s probably a flavour that kids won’t love either. However, I think you should be the judge of that yourself ;) as it is apparently pretty popular and has been sold out at certain locations that I’ve been to.

IMG_0398.JPG

The other new vegan flavour that came out around the end of March was Dark Matter, a homage to Stephen Hawkings who had passed away on the 14th. The beautiful black colour comes from blending activated charcoal with its cashew milk and coconut cream base, chucks of vegan honeycomb candy are then folded in to add a nice crunch. The result is a wonderful flavour that is, in my opinion, similar to toasted coconut. 

Since my last visit, Van Leeuwen has come out with another new vegan flavour (horchata, I believe) that I have yet to try. When I do get a chance to, I will make sure to update this post! In the mean time, you should head on over to Van Leeuwen to try these vegan flavours for yourself! 

My Top 5 Veg Restaurants in Manhattan by Ace Pai

(In no particular order)  Price Reference is at the bottom of the page                     

ABCV 

E 19th St, New York, NY, 10003  (Flatiron)                                                               

Price: $$ - $$$

interior of abcV, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Located between the Flatiron and Union Square Park, abcV is the definition of whole foods plant-based cuisine. It is a refreshing take on vegan/vegetarian food in the US where processed vegan food are favoured and often used. Vegetables and legumes are the stars of the dishes as they do not use any mock meats or cheeses. The dishes are light, colourful, fresh and creative. Their ingredients are "plant based, non GMO, sustainable, artisanal and organic whenever possible."

 
"abcV is here to serve, inform and inspire a cultural shift towards plant based intelligence, through creativity and deliciousness."

My personal favourites for brunch are the dosa with avocado & coconut yogurt and steamed tofu. For dinner and lunch, the grilled Donko Shiitake, Green Chickpea Hummus and the Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric-tahini and PistachiosAs for dessert, finish off with the Matcha Crème Brûlée. For a more detailed post on AbcV check out my separate post on Brunch at AbcV.

*Reservations are recommended  (212) 475-5829                                                                                     

Mon-Fri 8:00-10:30, noon-15:00, 17:30-22:00   

Sat/Sun 11:00 -15:00, 17:30-23:00                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


JAJAJA PLANTAS MEXICANA

162 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002  (Chinatown)

Price $ - $$ 

Jajaja plantas mexicana, best vegan mexican food in Manhattan New York City

TACOS. Need I say more? But seriously, these vegan tacos are just as good, if not, better than regular tacos, taste wise and health wise. Instead of serving tacos with meat and dairy alternatives, all the food here are prepared with plant-based ingredients; you won't find any faux meats or Daiya cheeses here. With these naturally colourful dishes at a reasonable price point, Jajaja is a great place for friends to grab a bite together.

 
"There's a stigma about vegan cuisine and vegan food, and we're trying to do something against the grain -- something that’s still delicious”  - Koorosh Bakhtiar, co-owner
 

My must haves for starters are, hands down, Nachos with extra guac. It is so good that everyone, vegans or non-vegans loves it. I once heard an older lady at the next table (who was clearly not vegan), say to her vegan daughter "wow this tastes better than regular nachos!" As for the Tacos, my top three are the Mezcal MushroomPalm Carnitas and Buffalo Flower. My go to dessert is the Raspberry Trisome Cheesecake which is very light and refreshing.

*No reservations, only walk-ins     (646) 883-5453

Sun-Wed 11:00-23:00    Thur-Sat  11:00-24:00


BEYOND SUSHI

W 37th St, New York, NY 10018 (Times Square)

Price: $ - $$

Beyond sushi at west 37th street, vegan sushi restaurant in NYC

I'll admit, I was a little skeptical when I first heard about Beyond Sushi, after all what's sushi without fish? Sushi was one of my favourite foods before I went vegan and all the vegetable rolls I've had didn't give me quite the same satisfaction. However, after my first bite of beyond sushi I understood why it's so popular even among non-vegans. It is a modern approach to traditional sushi with ingredients like black beans, artichoke, chickpea, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. They've expanded their menu at the w 37th st sit down location with more delicious items like Sunchoke Farro and Eggplant pictured below. 

 
"Beyond sushi is the pioneer of the plant-based sushi movement. A 100% vegan eatery that celebrates the flavours and beauty of locally-sourced seasonal produce"

My personal favourite rolls are La Fiesta, Chic Pea, and Sunny Side. Keep your eyes out for the seasonal roll as my all time favourite roll was the seasonal roll of last fall/winter which was made with coffee-roasted Kabocha Squash! All the dumplings are amazing but Smokey Tom is always my go to.

*No reservations required, Beyond Sushi also has a pick-up/delivery app

(212) 564-0869

Mon-Fri 11:00-21:30    Sat/Sun: noon-21:30                                                         

(hours may vary for different locations, above are the hours for w 37th st loc.)


AVANT GARDEN 

246 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036 (East Village)     

Price : $$ - $$$

Avant Garden in East Village, vegan fine dining

This little eatery in East Village will make you rethink vegan food. Avant garden transforms vegetables into the main event of the evening with combinations that hit just the right spots. All the dishes are created with whole foods rather than meat or dairy alternative. The seemingly simple menu is in fact dynamic and bursting with flavour. It is a little gem for those looking to have a more refined and upscaled vegan dining in New York. 

 
"Avant Garden’s dynamic menu couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as New York diners are hungry for more upscale meatless options. This is excellent food that just happens to be vegan. "  - Michelin guide

My must haves are the Celery Root, Roasted Carrots, and Broccoli for the hot dishes. Any of their signature toasts are great but my top two are the Sunchoke and the Cremini Mushroom.  As for dessert, they don't have a set menu but for the two times that I've tried their dessert of the day, (olive oil cake and white truffle ice cream with pistachio cake) as good as they sound, they were the least exciting dishes of the meal. 

*Reservations are highly recommended (646) 922-7948

Sun-Thur  17:00-22:30      Fri/Sat  17:00-23:30


P.S. KITCHEN

246 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036  (Hell's Kitchen)     

Price : $$ - $$$

I've only been to P.S. Kitchen twice, both times for brunch and the french toast so I can't comment much on the lunch and dinner experience. However, after my first time there, I knew I had to include it in one of my top fives because of their concept:                                                                           

1. Creating jobs for those marginalized in New York
2. Donating 100% of profits to sustainable charitable work locally and overseas.

I'm usually not a big fan of sweet things but the french toast was not too sweet, very soft and had lots of strawberries (which I love). Again, I rarely eat fried things but the Truffle Fries were very good and had me wanting more. So props to them for getting me to want to eat things I usually would not eat. 

 
"PS Kitchen dishes out sophisticated vegan fare using fresh, organic ingredients."

Although my first experience at P.S. Kitchen was great, I'm sad to say that the food was not on par the second time I was there. The French toast was over done and not fluffy and soft like the first time. My friend's match waffle was also too hard and we both struggled to cut into our food (which is not fun). While most of the reviews are good, it seems that there are times when the food can be a hit or miss. I will, however, return for dinner as most people speak more about the dinner dishes than they do about the brunch dishes.  

*Reservations are recommended (212) 651-7247

Sun-Wed 11:00-23:00       Thur-Sat 11:00-2:00am  


Price