Plant-based foods are having a moment — from documentaries on Netflix to the impossible Whopper at a Burger King near you, to the recent news that 11 Madison Park, a high temple of gastronomy in New York City, was converting to a 100% vegan menu (no other Michelin three-star restaurant in the world is completely vegan).
You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy a plant-rich diet, but incorporating those foods into what you’re consuming can be both more environmentally sustainable and more health-conscious.
I’ve always been an omnivore and have considered those who limit consumption of delicious food because of their animal origins to be cheating themselves of many of life’s simple pleasures.
This past year, my daughter, who identifies as vegan, relocated from Philadelphia to Boston. When I visited the city of brotherly love to help with the move, we ate meatless takeout from a variety of places in University City.
Until then, I had avoided vegan pizza because I’m an obnoxiously snobby chef who believed there was no way to enjoy a plant-based facsimile of one of my favorite meals.
I could not have been more wrong. The two pies we devoured from 28th Street Pizza, which were 100% plant-based, were amazing. My mind was blown. This was not the non-dairy cheese of my youth.
Lots of folks in Winston-Salem have been chattering about Dom’s moving into the erstwhile Spruce Street Garden space.
Upon returning home, I knew that I had to dine there because they were doing some really fun things in the plant-based food arena.
Dom’s began life as Mozzarella Fellas on Summit Square Boulevard, opened by Brian Ricciardi in 2016 as a classic homage to his Italian-American roots.
By 2020, he was solely in charge of the restaurant and had shifted his focus to an entirely plant-based menu.
With the pandemic shaking things up for restaurants everywhere, Ricciardi rechristened his restaurant (after his childhood nickname, a tribute to his great grandfather) and moved to his new address downtown, looking to expand his audience.
I enjoyed an early dinner there on a recent Thursday night, before the mask mandate was lifted. I shared some appetizers with friends not known to abstain from meat.
We began with Buffalo Cauliflower, which had a wonderful texture and a faithful representation of those piquant, earthy flavors; Korean Barbecue Cauliflower, with sesame and scallion, swimming in a ginger-soy sauce; and Three Bean Nachos, which had a touch of smoke in the beans amid a vibrantly colorful, beautiful plate (I must confess that I do love watermelon radish).
They were each deliciously flavorful and well-balanced. I would order each one again.
For entrées, we all dug into baked Penne Arrabiatta, with chilies, tomatoes and cashew ricotta; Chick’n Parm, more delicious than most animal-involved versions I’ve had lately; and the Penne Carbonara, my personal No. 1 one for the night, with plant-based sausage, peppers, peas and green onions.
The portions were ample, and flavors were true. My meat-eating friends did not miss the meat. I don’t feel that I can stress this enough: You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy this delicious food.
Plant-based meat substitutes have been available for many years. MorningStar Farms breakfast “sausages” were popular in my home in the ‘80s, and I have served fried tofu atop salads for decades as a restaurant cook from coast to coast.
In light of current concerns about the climate crisis, supporting sustainable food production and a plant-based diet is easier than ever because chefs and magazines are creating delicious dishes.
When I followed up with Ricciardi a few days after my meal, he said that he was truly excited for his dining room to be at full capacity and looked forward to transitioning his menu with new and exciting dishes that don’t have to work well in a to-go box.
It’s a testament to the rich and varied culinary landscape of Winston-Salem that we can support forward-thinking entrepreneurs.
I think it’s best to finish with Ricciardi’s own words: “I would just like people to give us a chance. I know it’s not popular,
but we just want to exist for those who have these dietary restrictions, and to offer some diversity to grow our food scene in our great city.”