You know what they say about pizza: Even when it's bad, it's still pretty damn good. When it's good, though, it can be a revelation. And there's a new pizza joint in the East End that is sure to thrill all diners: vegetarians, vegans and carnivores.
At Spak Bros., in Garfield, you can get a pie topped with all the usual suspects such as pepperoni and anchovies. Or, get it vegan with soy cheese. The real cheese/fake sausage combo brought your correspondent near to tears of gustatory joy -- the pseudo sausage was sweet and juicy, with a gorgeous, bright fresh flavor, miles from the cardboard-y tubes found at the grocery store. Spak's also offers subs both meaty and not, steak sandwiches, perogies, fries and wings -- including veggie ones made of seitan.
"We saw the need" for a place where people of all dietary stripes could gorge on tasty snacks, explains co-proprietor Ryan Spak, 26. "We've had a really great outpouring from the vegetarian and vegan community," says the off-and-on vegetarian. Spak adds that both meats and fake meats sell well, and that non-vegetarian customers have their curiosity piqued by seeing the veg stuff.
The fare is made with the healthiest and most local ingredients available, Spak explains. Ingredients come from farmers' markets, farm shares, the East End Food Co-op and Strip District markets. The fake meat is made in-house, from scratch, which is unusual among restaurants that offer such substitutes. The salad greens come from a local hydroponic greenhouse, and plans are afoot to grow ingredients in either an on-site greenhouse or on the roof.
"It's what we believe in," Spak says. Both city boys, Ryan and his brother Nate, 24, have spent years working in the restaurant industry, and Ryan says some of what he saw in terms of produce-sourcing was "abhorrent."
Customer response so far has been overwhelming, he says. Most nights, the seitan wings sell out. In fact, the night I went, my dining companion snagged the last order. She shared, and they ruled.
"It's a different definition of healthy," Spak explains. "It might be fatty and greasy but it's not poisoning you."
But leave aside all the high-falutin' ideals, if you want. The grub absolutely speaks -- no, sings -- for itself.
5107 Penn Ave., Garfield