By Nancy Tannler
1126 SE Division St.
Mon – Fri 8 am – 11 pm
Sat, Sun 9 am – 11 pm
In order for a new idea to become a good idea it’s often a matter of timing. That’s what partners Jim Vesal and Lia Loukas had going for them when they opened their first plant-based pizza and ice cream restaurant, Virtuous Pie in Vancouver B.C. in 2016 (and recently opened here in Portland). Their vision to serve favorite foods in a way that is good for you while supporting a healthy planet is proving to be just what people want and are ready for.
With the abundance of information about good farming practices and sustainability, progressive people are beginning to take responsibility for ways to help preserve our sweet old planet. One of the ways is to be aware of our eating habits and how our choices affect the environment.
Jim Vesal is the chef and he found that there weren’t many places in Vancouver that catered to people on a completely plant-based diet. That’s when he and Lia decided to open a restaurant. After experimenting for months in his apartment, he created pizzas, cheeses, sauces and ice creams that are available in their restaurants today. The challenge was to make plant-based substitutions as delicious as what people expect when eating pizza or ice cream.
The manager of Virtuous Pie, Chelsea Boyer, said if people started to eat even one or two meals a week that were plant–based, it will make a difference.
The Southeast Examiner got to taste Chelsea’s favorite, the Ultra Violet-walnut pesto, cashew mozzarella, oven-dried tomatoes, purple kale, caramelized onion and pine nuts. In a few words, it was delicious, satisfying and filling and we didn’t miss the dairy at all.
Along with the assortment of housemade pizzas to choose from you can build your own from a variety wit different bases, faux meatballs, vegetables and nut cheeses that include: tofu feta, cashew mozzarella, almond ricotta, lemon chevre and blue cheese tahini. The crust is gluten free and there is a selection of dipping sauces that keeps everything tasty down to the last bite.
Virtuous Pie has an espresso bar that opens at 8 am serving local Heart Roasters’ coffee and pastries from Shoofly Bakery. Saturday and Sunday brunch serves breakfast pizza, tater tots, tofu scramble, maple breakfast sausage, breakfast bowl, and a breakfast sandwich with chorizo patty, scrambled tofu, jack cheese, cashew hollandaise, chipotle aioli, and oven dried tomatoes on a house-made brioche bun, served with a side of cajun tater tots.
The small batch ice cream is 100 percent plant-based using seasonal ingredients. It’s served in a housemade waffle cone, scoop, affogato, icecream sandwich, and is available in floats and by the pint to take home. Check the website for the flavor of the day.
One of the main considerations in designing the interior of the Virtuous Pie was to create a welcoming community space. “We want people to feel like they can linger or gather with family, friends or even meet new people,” said Chelsea.
There’s an upstairs lounge area and counter and table seating downstairs overlooking the sparkly kitchen and warm oven. The ambiance complements Portland’s love of the great outdoors. The floors and wallpaper replicates checkered picnic tablecloths, and the repurposed wood, lots of plants and great daylight brings the outside in.
Virtuous Pie supports thirty + employees here in Portland who arrive early each day where they begin making all the food from scratch. They choose local wineries and breweries for the alcohol they serve as well as many of the non-alcoholic beverages.
Their commitment is to be a part of the movement towards more mindful eating one slice at a time.
Happy Hour offerings are available Monday through Friday from 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm, and late night, Friday through Sunday from 10 pm – close.