Review: Gluten-Free and Vegan Pizzas from Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
It’s often said that even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good. It’s tough to mess up something that’s made of melted cheese, tomato sauce, and bread. But, when you change a core component, it gets a lot easier to fail, and much more difficult to make something satisfying. Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, a San Diego-based chain with 17 locations in California and Nevada, has attempted to do just that, with their gluten-free and vegan pies. Using the Margherita as a baseline, I tried both the vegan and gluten-free version, and honestly, was pleasantly surprised.
The new vegan pizzas are part of a comprehensive vegan menu, which also includes tapas, salads, and entrees with Gardein Chick’n. To re-set expectations for the pizza, I started with oak roasted asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, and vegan mozzarella. It was a wise move. The worst thing you can do before eating something with vegan cheese on it is to go into the experience expecting it to be an exact duplicate of the same item with real cheese.
It immediately became obvious that vegan cheese does not behave like regular cheese. Instead of melting over the asparagus, it was brittle and flaky. The flavor was closer to parmesan than mozzarella, and because the cheese was not stuck to the asparagus, getting a bite of both at the same time was tricky. Luckily, the pizza was much better.
The hot oven made the vegan cheese behave more like regular cheese, and it did melt. I loved the squishy whole wheat crust, fresh basil, and the slightly spicy tomato sauce, but the cheese didn’t stand out. It was visible, which tricked my mind into thinking this was a regular pizza (albeit with non-dairy cheese), but from a texture and flavor standpoint, the cheese didn’t clearly register.The gluten-free version had the opposite problem when it came to the cheese. On this pizza, the creamy, silky cheese was prominent, and delicious. A simple tomato sauce (not as spicy as on the vegan pie) was complemented by fresh, torn basil, but without any gluten, the crust was flat, more like pita bread. Obviously, the best combination would be the toppings from the gluten-free pie on the whole wheat crust (which speaks well to Sammy’s standard pizzas), but neither the vegan nor the gluten-free pies were as satisfying as a regular pizza.
And that’s OK. When you give up gluten, or all animal products (including dairy), whether by choice or necessity, the joy of eating a chewy, gooey, slice of pizza will never be the same. Eating pizza becomes a compromise, and in terms of providing something that’s a fairly good riff on pizza for people with challenging dietary restrictions, Sammy’s did a commendable job.
Neither pie is an exact duplicate of a standard pizza, but that would be impossible. Since I’m OK with gluten and cheese, I’d stick with the regular pizzas, but the gluten-free and vegan versions are both viable alternatives.
Pros: Both pizzas are decent, ingredients are fresh and tasty
Cons: Even the best vegan cheese and gluten-free crust will never be as good as standard pizza components
Taste: Vegan version: 7.50/10, Gluten-free version: 7.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: N/A
Price: Vegan margherita pizza $14.50, gluten-free margherita pizza $14.50
Overall GrubGrade: 7.00/10
More Info: SammysPizza.com