The Vegan Salsicce Pizza at Pizza Nea

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Vegan meat. That term might as well be the definition of the word oxymoron.

And yet, it’s exactly what you’ll find topping a few new pies at Northeast Minneapolis’ Pizza Nea, purveyor of wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas. Recently, Pizza Nea began offering simulacrums of traditionally animal-sourced toppings like pepperoni, sausage, and ham from the brother-and-sister team behind The Herbivorous Butcher, a vegan butcher shop slated to open in Northeast this fall.

All too often, meat-like products fail in their attempt to mimic the real deal, leading us to wonder why anyone would bother at all; veggies themselves can be so delicious without having to play meat charades — and require far less work to manufacture. So skeptical yet hopeful, we ordered one of our favorites pies from Nea — the Salsicce — with vegan meat. The Salsicce ($12.50, either vegan or regular) is defined by spicy Italian sausage, with roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and fresh basil along for the ride, so we felt it’d make a good test case. We’ve eaten it many, many times. So how did the version with the Herbivorous Butcher sausage (made from vital wheat gluten, vegetable broth, pinto beans, nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes, and other flavorings and ingredients) hold up?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Really well, it turns out. In appearance, we wouldn’t have been able to ID this pie as meat-free. But the proof is in the pizza, and after our first bite, we were impressed — in both texture and rich umami flavor, the meat-free-meat evoked pork. The only thing lacking was the characteristic rich fatiness of real sausage, which might be a plus if you want a “cleaner” meat flavor. Overall, the Herbivorous Butcher product delivered what we love most about a good Italian sausage — strong fennel and garlic flavor, with plenty of red pepper flake kick.

So we say to you, vegans and the vegan-curious alike, fear not the not-meat. We look forward to trying the pepperoni and ham variants, and also to the opening of the Herbivorous Butcher, if this is indeed a fair hint of what they have up their cholesterol-free sleeves.

(Pizza Nea, 306 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, 612.331.9298)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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6 Comments

  1. Max Hailperin 10/15/2015 Reply

    And what about the mozzarella?

  2. I’d like to hear more about the vegan mozzarella. Is that made by Herbivorous Butcher also our something else?

    • I don’t believe they have vegan mozz; they asked us if we just wanted the vegan salsicce or the whole pizza vegan (which may have meant no cheese whatsoever), and we said the former.

  3. leslie 02/05/2016 Reply

    They do have vegan mozz and I tried it last weekend on the Salsicce. My husband had a non-veg pizza and said he could not tell the difference between his mozz and mine.

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