As a vegan, you understand all the benefits of choosing a plant-based diet. You enjoy the ability to minimize the chance that you'll develop a chronic disease as time goes on, likely don't have a problem maintaining a healthy weight, and have peace of mind in knowing that you're reducing the carbon footprint you leave on the world.
But just because you're a vegan doesn't mean that you can't enjoy eating out with friends and family members. Italian restaurants are an awesome option for vegans because so many of the menu items can be easily customized or eaten as-is. Here's how you can eat vegan at an Italian restaurant without having to settle for a basic salad.
Focus on the Appetizers
While appetizers are typically enjoyed before the main meal is served, there is no reason why you can't create a filling and enjoyable meal by foregoing the main menu and ordering off the appetizer menu. At any good Italian restaurant, it should be easy to find a variety of vegetarian appetizer options on the menu.
Most of those vegetarian options can easily be made vegan by eliminating cheese from the dish. For instance, fresh tomato platters that come with cheese usually also come with delicious toppings such as olive oil, fresh basil, olives, and balsamic vinegar.
Just ask the server to omit the cheese, and you've got yourself a vegan dish! Keep your eye out for appetizers that feature mushrooms, eggplant, or peppers in them, as you can usually order them vegan without confusing your server.
Build Your Own Pasta
Most authentic Italian restaurants feature an assortment of pasta and sauce options to choose from that makes it easy to create a customized meal, even for vegans. Ask your server which pastas are made with eggs so you know what to avoid, and then have your pick of the variety of options that are left.
Then top your pasta with a traditional marinara sauce or one made of olive oil and fresh herbs. Don't be afraid to ask your server about the ingredients in their pesto — many restaurants make it without the addition of dairy.
If additional toppings are available, pump your pasta up with some artichoke hearts and mushrooms. You'll be left with a hearty meal to indulge in with friends and family.
Consider Add-ons for Pizza
Pizza tends to be a favorite meal option because both the meal and the bill can be shared. You may not be able to have a share of the pepperoni or margherita pizza that the rest of your party orders, but you can create a custom pizza to enjoy and share with them.
Just order a cheese pizza without the cheese, and load up on your favorite toppings. The server may allow you to replace the cheese on your pizza with a topping of your choice at no extra charge.
If the restaurant has pine nuts, have them shave some nuts over your pizza right after it comes out of the oven. The nuts will give your pizza a cheesy effect and enhance the overall depth and flavor of the pie.
Get the Table Stocked
It's always a good idea to have your server stock the table with a variety of sauces and seasonings you can use to spruce up your meal when it arrives at the table. If your appetizer, pizza, or pasta seems a little bland after you eliminate the dairy ingredients, you can use the seasonings to liven things up and create a customized meal that you love.
Ask the server to bring you balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh herbs, and some roasted garlic. A big bowl of greens for the table to share will help ensure that you leave the restaurant nice and full. Just toss the greens with some vinegar, oil, herbs, and garlic for a fresh side dish that your entire party is sure to appreciate.
Visit Picano's Italian Grille for an authentic meal experience that both the vegans and the meat lovers in your party will enjoy.