2019 Pizzas #9: Goodfellas Pizza Romano Chargrilled Vegetable & Pesto

This is another oven pizza I had last week. I’ve been falling into the habit of oven pizzas again recently because they’re nice and easy to cook when I’m tired from a long run. It’s a habit I will need to get rid of as soon as I’ve done the London Marathon and I’m no longer doing very long runs all the time!

Goodfellas Pizza Romano Chargrilled Vegetable & Pesto
Goodfellas Pizza Romano Chargrilled Vegetable & Pesto.

This one has a great base (not too crispy) and a great sauce – it’s a really solid Mediterranean vegetable pizza. Definitely one to have again.

My twenty-year veggieversary

It’s fairly cliché to bemoan the fact that 1999 doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, so I won’t dwell on that. But even though it’s hard to believe it’s two decades since Easter Sunday, 4th April 1999 – the day I became vegetarian – I think twenty years is something worth marking.

1999 – the year I started making my way through the world as a vegetarian.

I was fourteen then. A child to my eyes now but a fully-fledged adult as far as I was concerned at the time. I’d been weighing up the pros and cons of vegetarianism for about two years, and took the leap because it seemed there weren’t many cons left worth considering. I’d always been uncomfortable with the fact that meat was actually just rotting animal corpses. I didn’t like most red meat dishes anyway, hated seafood, thought poultry was utterly cardboard-tasting. Pretty much the only remaining drawback was that I wouldn’t be able to eat gummy sweets because of the gelatine, and that seemed like a small price to pay for having a good excuse not to eat burgers (blech) or anchovies (double blech) whenever I was out for a meal.

I wouldn’t say it was hugely difficult to be vegetarian in 1999. Restaurants did always have at least one veggie option on the menu, even if it was usually lasagne. But it was a world away from 2019, where even vegans have a range of choices in many restaurants, and dishes are clearly marked. The most difficult thing was eating out in continental Europe, which was not (and is still not particularly) veggie-friendly, and threw up the side challenge of attempting to make a successful meat-free food order in a different language. I ended up developing a list of standby options that I knew were safe: spätzle in Germany, galettes and crêpes in France, tortilla española in Spain, margherita pizza in Italy. These have served me well to this day.

It’s funny how vegetarianism has become so second nature to me over time. I never feel deprived from not eating meat, or like there’s something missing, and it actually feels quite jarring when I have to explain to somebody new that I’m veggie – because it feels like such a normal thing not to eat meat. Standing in the meat aisle at the supermarket when Geth is choosing bacon feels like looking into a subculture I don’t understand – the animal flesh on display looks cold and clinical and completely unappetising – and because I’ve never eaten meat as an adult, I’ve never learnt how to cook it, so it just feels like something completely removed from my world.

I’ve been thinking about the above a lot over the last few months, because I’ve been trying to compare it to the experience of giving up alcohol. It would be nice to think that in twenty years’ time, I won’t miss alcohol at all or even think about its existence most of the time. However, I’m not quite that optimistic, as it’s not a totally comparable situation. I was never the biggest fan of meat anyway, and it’s not an addictive substance. I’m hopeful that sobriety will get easier, but I don’t think it will ever be as easy as vegetarianism.

I know I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the ‘where does the time go?’ stuff, but it is weird to think that I’ve not eaten meat since the 20th century. I still remember vividly the taste of the meatstuffs I did like – bacon, salami, real haggis – and maybe that type of memory won’t fade, but I’m happy for it to remain a memory.

Over the last twenty years of vegetarianism, I’ve been stricter sometimes and looser sometimes. I’ve occasionally had gelatine lapses, though I can say for certain that I’ve not eaten animal flesh since the 4th of April 1999. I’m not as strict with rennet-derived cheese as I used to be. Sometimes I’ve eschewed leather products, sometimes not. I’ve occasionally considered going fully vegan due to my increasing discomfort with the dairy and egg industries, and I’ve occasionally considered dialling it back to pescetarianism (despite my dislike of seafood) in an attempt to get more protein into my diet.

But on the whole, right now, I’m very happy being a common-or-garden lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I think that’s where I’ll stay for the foreseeable future.

2019 Pizzas #8: Dr Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella

I treated myself to this oven pizza on Thursday night, because Geth was out boardgaming and I wanted something quick to bung in the oven when I got back from Pilates.

Dr Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella
Dr Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella.

This pizza should not be confused with the Dr Oetker Ristorante Margherita, which also has mozzarella, tomatoes, and herbs on, but differently. I’m not sure if they still make the Margherita as I’ve not seen it for a while.

Anyway, Dr Oetker Ristorante pizzas have been my absolute go-to for oven pizza for a good decade or so. Geth usually has the Speciale for meat ‘n’ mushroom purposes, and I tend to favour the Mozzarella (they did use to do a nice spicy veg option called the Vegetale but it seems to have been discontinued now). It’s not quite the Italian restaurant pizza experience claimed by the TV adverts, but it’s still the king of oven pizzas.

2019 Pizzas #6: Jurys Inn The Kitchen Vegetarian Feast

This is a pizza that was on the menu at the restaurant at the Jurys Inn where Geth and I stayed in Inverness for the half marathon last week. We ended up eating at the restaurant all three nights, because it was a bit far to trek into town when we needed to save our racing legs.

Jury's Inn The Kitchen Vegetarian Feast
Jury’s Inn The Kitchen Vegetarian Feast.

This pizza was the perfect size (especially for pre-race carb loading!), with lots of veg and a really tasty sauce. It was so good I had it three times, which may explain some of my appallingly vast weight gain this last week!

2019 Pizzas #5: Morrisons Sourdough Mozzarella, Tomato & Pesto

My first oven pizza of the year! I don’t usually have them as I try to cook healthy and SW-friendly when I’m at home. When I was visiting the in-laws at the weekend, though, I needed something quick that I could just bung in the oven for lunch.

Morrisons Sourdough Mozzarella, Tomato & Pesto
Morrisons Sourdough Mozzarella, Tomato & Pesto.

The toppings on this one were really tasty – far nicer than most oven pizzas, which can be a bit cardboard-tasting. The base was too tough and chewy for me, though, and it was hard to get my teeth through it.

I’d have it again, but I might try cooking it for a shorter time.

2019 Pizzas #4: Fratello’s Margherita

I had this pizza on Sunday night while out for a meal with the family to celebrate Dad’s birthday.

Fratello's Margherita
Fratello’s Margherita.

Those cherry tomatoes on top were gorgeous, and the base was really nice, but the sauce was a bit bland. Still a solid restaurant pizza, and one I’m sure I’ll have a few times this year due to the fact that we visit that restaurant quite often!

2019 Pizzas #3: Livin’ Italy Margherita

As I mentioned on Sunday, Geth and I found a new favourite Leeds restaurant when we were in town for the Tears For Fears gig on Saturday night. Livin’ Italy Dough House specialises in pizza and cocktails. While my cocktail days are obviously over, I was super excited about the pizza!

However, a spanner was thrown in the works when we had bruschetta for starter. The Livin’ Italy bruschetta is the greatest, most incredible bruschetta I have ever had, and so anything less than a truly special pizza would have paled in comparison. Unfortunately, the pizza that followed was not quite special enough.

Livin' Italy Margherita
Livin’ Italy Margherita.

Don’t get me wrong. It was really well-made pizza – the kitchen took absolutely ages making the food, which is a sign of a good restaurant (but unfortunately a little anxiety-inducing when you’ve got a show to get to!), and it’s probably the closest thing I’ve found in the UK to actual Italian restaurant pizza, and it did taste really nice – but the base was a little bit dry and crispy for my taste, and they were a bit stingy with the toppings.

I’ll still have a slice next time I’m there, but I’ll be topping and tailing it with bruschetta and gelato (we didn’t have time for gelato on this occasion, and I’m desperate to try it ’cause it looks really good!).

2019 Pizzas #2: San Lorenzo Margherita con Bufala

As I’ve mentioned before, Geth and I went to a new (to us) Italian restaurant, San Lorenzo, on Sunday night. New Italian restaurant equals new pizza to try! There were various veggie options on the menu, but I went for a Margherita con Bufala.

San Lorenzo Margherita con Bufala
San Lorenzo Margherita con Bufala.

They also had a regular Margherita on the menu, but this one was advertised as having buffalo mozzarella in addition, so obviously I went for it. I love buffalo mozzarella. Unfortunately, the chef was a bit stingy with said buffalo mozzarella (this was a bit of a theme, as the caprese salad I had for a starter had barely any mozzarella on it as well) and so you couldn’t really taste any difference in the cheese, which was a bit disappointing.

The tomato pizza sauce was absolutely delicious, though!

Overall an okay restaurant pizza, but I think I’ll be trying a pasta dish next time I go there.