Following research, we loved what we saw about Sfizy Veg and asked to drop by to take some pictures. They were kind enough to provide us with the following meal, however all thoughts and opinions are – as always – formed independently and without agreement to be favourable.
Eating out is sometimes unavoidable when you travel, but for the most part over the two years we’ve been travelling, when we’ve chosen to eat something outside of our accommodation we only ever pick something local.
Over the past few months that have seen us go vegan we have had to change our eating habits and restaurant choices slightly in order to not only understand the vegan lifestyle on a personal level to see what foods do and don’t appeal to us, but also to better understand the variable options for travellers who are heading out on their own vegan travel adventure. So whilst we would normally wish to try the local German food available to us that is ‘accidentally‘ vegan; there are just too many fantastic options here in the capital that it’d be a shame not to bend our rules a little and try something a little different – maybe something Italian.
The Only Real Italian Food Is In Italy
Berlin being one of the worlds biggest and most visited cities, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture just how many Italian restaurants there are. Much like London or New York, there are a number of international cuisine choices available and Italian food is almost always one of the first picks from the menu – unless you’re Italian. Italians aren’t entirely keen to eat Italian food away from home. It’s almost never as good as they can make for themselves, for the most part its not a real Italian who owns the restaurant and works in the kitchen; and that’s before mentioning that some Italians own thoughts that their own cooking never quite compares to mamma’s recipe that she herself will swear to Dio is not as good as her own mother used to make.
It’s a question of trust. Can they trust the person in the kitchen to uphold the traditions and make authentic Italian food? They’ll pay, but not if its substandard. It’s partly for this reason that we never ate at a single Italian restaurant in the two years we’ve been on the road, but also because I’m so in love with Franca’s own unique take on the classics that we’ve tended to make them in the kitchens of our Couchsurfing hosts.
Sometimes that trust needs to be established ahead of time, either by reading great reviews or by the recommendation of a friend who you know is only going to point you in the direction of somewhere that brings a smile to their mouths and a rumble to their stomachs as they pass the information on to you. We were lucky enough to have that trust built for us by both VeganNomNoms and IndefiniteAdventure who picked out Sfizy Veg as the one and only place to get not only an authentic Italian pizza, but one made with 100% vegan ingredients.
Doing Our Research
If we can help it we don’t plan out our travels, but when someone points out something exceptional and integrating we can’t help but delve a little deeper to investigate and understand for ourselves what all the fuss it about.
Having read Sam’s great review of Sfizy Veg we spent a little time over on our Pinterest account (feel free to come join us!), we started to love what we saw of the punk-edged eatery in the heart of the street art covered Neuköln district of Berlin.
We loved the look of its kitsch decoration and jigsaw puzzle design. Outside it may look quite ordinary and much alike most cafes, restaurants and bars in the city with a few tables and chairs outside, but on the inside the interior design is not only eye catching, but almost entirely distracting. So much so that you’ll spend your time moving your eyes from picture to painting, from book spine to poster, all with the smells of the kitchen entering your nose.
Punk With Purpose
For the two Italian proprietors of Sfizy Veg there’s no question that the lifestyle their chose is 100% genuine. It’s not an over night crazy, whim or way to make a fast buck since veganism has become a large growing trend.
Their just two Italians who moved to Berlin in the hopes of making a new lives for themselves and it just so happened that for them it was a not only a great place to find vegan food, but also to meet with one of the most connected vegan communities in Europe (if not the world); and though they and the restaurant might fit into what many people would bracket as ‘a punk kinda thing‘, they’re attitudes go further to promote further awareness of animal rights and veganism, but also on to show that punks aren’t the scary golem that has long been presumed.
Italian, Italian, Italian
What makes Sfizy Veg so remarkable is not only their motive to create and serve incredible vegan cuisine, but also their dedication to providing the exact same food that you’d expect to find in any pizzeria from their native northern part of Italy.
Using the same ingredients from home that their own parents and favourite restaurant owners might use, they create special meals with products typical from their region of Lombardy that they pay a higher price for than they would for buying produce from local grocers, purely for the reason that “most produce we see locally is imported half way around the world and is mostly substandard“; something both Franca and I can certainly agree with.
When asked about local produce from the region of Berlin itself they were sure to point out that they do pick seasonal vegetables and other little bits and pieces quite frequently, they import so many ingredients and other little extras that you just won’t find elsewhere, all at considerable expense to themselves, purely for the sake of quality.
Pages Of Possibility
Sfizy Veg purchasing so many differing products makes for a vegan menu selection like no other that we’ve seen during our stay in the capital. At somewhere around twelve pages, the menu puts even the most quickly decisive minds such as mine into a flutter as I scan page after page of interesting varieties of pizza toppings and a selection of pasta dishes too.
Typically when we’re walking along city streets and we see a menu that resembles a brochure we tend to just keep on strolling right by as – in our experience – any restaurant that needs to have that diverse a menu is clearly looking at the bottom line of their accounts and not the quality of their kitchens output. It might be a slight generalisation, but for the most part if you stop somewhere with a menu that barely covers a page you can rest easy in the knowledge that your chef for the evening is an expert in each one of them.
We were so happily proved wrong at Sfizy Veg.
From the menu we selected two pizzas to try, both popular selections by their clientèle, which is always a strong reassurance that the meal you can expect is going to be the best off the menu. Whilst I would start with the speck and vegan Gorgonzola before we swapped them both around at the halfway point, Franca chose the unique option of a ‘green pizza‘, served with a base sauce of a vegan basil pesto – rather than the more typical tomato – with a selection of vegan cheese, mushroom, artichokes and vegan salami.
We can count ourselves lucky that the last time we ate a true Italian pizza was only about two months prior to our meal so we had something recent in our memory to benchmark against, but this was our first real experience of vegan cheese, a product of which is often a topic of much discussion in the vegan community as so many people look to replicate the texture and taste, but without the need for dairy.
As keen as Franca was to finally try some vegan cheese for herself, she was all to aware of the talk online about how this cheese doesn’t taste quite right, or simple just doesn’t melt like you’d expect cheese to on a pizza. She was blown away. Without exaggeration, she couldn’t quite believe how the cheese not only melted well, but was full of a diverse mixture of strong flavours that she’d expect to find only in a dairy product. I too was also amazed at not only how particular the flavour was, but also how the team in the kitchen had managed to marry some great flavours together with it without the cheese disguising the other individual subtleties.
The speck was quite nice, though its often hard to really replicate in a faux meat product. As an increasingly bigger fan of these substitutes and the complex flavours they contain, I was more than satisfied with the combination with the vegan Gorgonzola.
Always Room For Dessert
Both pizzas were typically Italian – stretched out to a thin base and enormous in size – so ordering one pizza per person is most certainly going to fill the stomachs of everyone who wishes to visit Sfizy Veg whether they’re vegan or not. However, no matter how full we seemed to be by the end our meal we couldn’t help but feel our second and larger stomach strictly for desserts opening wide in anticipation.
Made on site and entirely vegan, there are always a range of cakes and sweet treats to finish a meal with. For the two of us it was a simple case of choosing one each and doing our mid-bite swap.
Tirimisu has been my chief vice ever since Franca and her incredible skills in the kitchen entered my life, but after going vegan we’ve not really had the opportunity to try and replicate it for ourselves with vegan substitutes; so having a glass to share between us was obviously something we were keen to do, and it was entirely worth it. There was also a stracciatella cake too which had both a sweetness that wasn’t overly too powerful with a sponge-like base; again entirely vegan.
For us, an enjoyable restaurant experience is split into three important elements:
- Tasteful food
- Interesting design
- The right kind of people
Without a happy marriage of food made with love, somewhere interesting and with an enjoyable atmosphere, and owners who want to share their vision with you; we’ll never be happy enough to not only enjoy our mean, but either to recommend said restaurant to friends and family, let alone return to eat there for ourselves.
Not only would we recommend Sfizy Veg to each and everyone of you no matter if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or meat eater; we’d also return not just once more, but repeatedly if we did decide to live here for the long term such is the the quality of the product and the attitude of the owners. In fact, lunch there today sounds like an ideal plan.
Have you ever tried a vegan pizza before?