It’s great to see more vegan options becoming available across the country in chain restaurants and I think many of us are forgetting our local independents in the rush to give them a try. I’m guilty of this myself so I recently decided to return to one of our old favourites, Cal’s Own, when a friend was visiting from overseas.
As well as serving up Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) accredited pizza, the kitchen also offer a few select specials dependent on the seasonal ingredients Cal picks up. I was happy to hear that Cal’s would be able to get some vegan cheese in for us as we’d given a couple of days notice. That’s not to say we couldn’t have just turned up and enjoyed the famous Marinara (a tomato sauce topped pizza for those not familiar), but we quite liked the idea of trying the dairy-free alternatives that had been sourced.
What we hadn’t expected was that we’d also be able to enjoy starters and a dessert too. Cal had devised two vegan starters for us to try out using vegan ingredients he’d sourced locally.
First up was an Eggplant Parmigana, crafted using one of Violife’s substitutes instead of the usual dairy cheese . It came with wedges of warm toasted sourdough to dip into the rich molten tomato sauce. This would have probably sufficed the three of us dining – our meat-eating companion gamely said he would have whatever we were having for starters – but Cal wasn’t finished.
We were also treated to beer-battered Artichokes that had been deep fried. The texture and taste was akin to something the Colonel would serve up, which might not be to the taste of every vegan I know but pleased me greatly. Beautifully presented and served with a dip made using Mr. Organic’s vegan mayo, we were all wowed by this inventive starter. Followed by a pud and I’d have gone home happy, but we were there to introduce our pal to the star of the show. We’d billed Cal’s Own as the best pizza in the North East and wanted him to try this before he jetted back home to Porto Alegre. He opted for a Margherita, topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, sea salt, & extra virgin olive oil
The leopard print crust garnered from the wood fired cooking and soupy centre were a big hit with him.
Our vegan alternative was topped with Violife for Pizza Mozzarella, which melted better than I’d anticipated. It has a ‘sticky’ texture compared to dairy cheese which is why I personally prefer the Mozzarisella ASK Italian use instead. It’s available locally at vegan stores. That said, Cal’s pizzas are in a different league to anything you’d encounter on the high street and are also cheaper. It’s crazy to think that people actively choose to pay Pizza Hut’s extra charge for vegan pizza than frequent an accolade-holding independent instead. Horses for courses, I guess.
Bursting at the seams, we’d decided we were going to take some of our pizza home with us when we were told there was also dessert on offer too. Well, we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to try out a special! Bananas stuffed with dark chocolate were wrapped in tin foil and popped into the oven. Once cooked through they were topped with dairy free ice cream. Such a simple but tasty sweet ending to our meal.
With SFV beers and wines available (we checked Barnivore before we ordered as there isn’t labelling on the list) Cal’s Own are happy to accommodate vegans. I’d much rather support a business like this than line the pockets of a chain as the money goes back into the local economy. We should all try to champion regional businesses where possible to avoid a stale and homogeneous food scene in the area.
Thanks for reading,
We’ve listed all of the places in Newcastle you can enjoy a vegan cheese-topped pizza here.