Review: Gluten-Free and Vegan Pizzas from Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

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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
Value: 6.50/10
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:
Nutrition Facts:
not available

11 comments on “Review: Gluten-Free and Vegan Pizzas from Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza

  1. Chefprotoss says:

    Not sure how I feel about this. Vegans hurt my brain. Dairy is victim-less and plants can’t scream. Great review though. I’d try it in a heart beat.

    • Jade says:

      Male dairy calves are killed at birth, so certainly the mainstream dairy industry isn’t victimless. At least vegans are consistent in their ethics – they don’t believe it’s a human right to use animal products which (they feel) belong to the animal, so vegans don’t even use honey.

      I am definitely a meat-eater though, partly because imo it’s just part of the food chain and also I have a genetic form of insulin resistance so lean meat and fish are the best things for me to eat along with veggies.

      The pizzas look tasty, it seems like the vegan cheese is high-quality stuff.

      • Sarah says:

        I’d be interested in knowing your sources regarding the statement about male calves being slaughtered at birth- I work in veterinary medicine and have never heard of that practice, so I’m curious to know where that happens.

    • Justin ST says:

      I stand with you Protoss!

  2. Chefprotoss says:

    There are definitely issues with the dairy industry, but chickens have as much use for their unfertilzed eggs as we do for our toe nail clippings. I don’t get the moral reason for abstaining from them. I can understand being a vegetarian, but veganism…

  3. lex says:

    I think the issue is more how the chickens and cows are treated.

  4. Bekahs says:

    Personally, I could care less if the free-range chickens go into a depression when their non-fertilized eggs are removed from them.

    Sorry little chicken.

    And nice review. I think they both look fabulous. I’ve had some killer vegan pizza in NYC, so it can happen. 🙂

    BTW – my sister is vegan. She isn’t a “foaming” one though. We eat what we eat, she eats hers. There is no judging, no comments.

  5. Jack says:

    I hate to actually, oh, I don’t know.. get on topic here; but I just wanted to say that those pizzas look very good! Especially the vegan one – interesting to read more about the cheese. I’m not vegan myself, but I have a severe dairy intolerance and was wondering about that sort of cheese.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      I have never had vegan cheese either. Along woth wanting to try it, I wonder how healthy it is.

    • LazyIggy says:

      Jack-I feel you. I eat meat, but have a severe dairy intolerance too. With vegan cheeses, I read labels and just experiment with different brands. For example, I found that “Daiya” cheeses are great for when I want to make dairy free pizza or mac n cheese…great taste and closest to getting that gooey texture.
      With another brand (can’t remember), I made decent fried cheese sticks.
      Good luck!

  6. Ryan says:

    I had to delete about 25 comments. Back to 100% comment moderation we go. Thought I could take the leash off, but I guess some of you have proved me wrong. So our experiment is now over after about 5 weeks. It’s less of a headache to do this all myself again and check every comment before it’s posted.

    Sorry if anyone was offended by the comments left by some.

    Just to let you all know, I’m not exactly sure what will offend people, but I’m going to have to moderate everything again from now on and hope something offensive doesn’t slip through the cracks. If you care at all, please stop with the instigation and attacks. Keep comments on topic and keep it clean.