No meat? No problem - November 10

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 20:00

If you think giving up meat to become either vegan or vegetarian will destroy your chances of eating out — think again. This monthly column explores the vegetarian and vegan opportunities in Eagle River and Anchorage area restaurants. It will also look at other healthy options available in area restaurants like whole grains and low fat.

Lunch at Eagle River Piccolino’s/Greek/Italian Cuisine on the Old Glenn; next to NAPA.

Immediately when you enter this restaurant, you are impressed by the Mediterranean décor and atmosphere that it is a fine restaurant. As I look at the menu, though, my heart sinks — not only is there no vegetarian list but the options for vegetarians are pretty much limited to appetizers and salads! Well, there are more, but they include cheese or olive oil — guaranteed to be high in fat.

Our friendly waiter, Jon, assures me that all the salads and sandwiches are made fresh for the customer. OK, that makes me feel better—I can order what I want. He also suggests eggplant parmesan (not on the lunch menu), or pizza. The marinara sauce here is flavored with anchovies, he tells me, if that would be a problem, so I ask about the pizza sauce. Hmmm, he’ll ask.

Jon is back quickly, “No the pizza sauce contains no meat or anchovies so vegetarian pizza would be a good choice for vegetarians. I decide on a vegetarian calzone, my husband goes for the eggplant parmesan. The servings are huge. He gets two very large slices of eggplant with a serving of spaghetti with tomato sauce. and my calzone is easily big enough for the two of us. A few minutes into the meal, Jon returns with the suggestion that the calzone usually comes with marinara sauce on the side and would I like something else? I request pizza sauce. Everything is delicious, though I regret not sticking to vegan and requesting no cheese in the calzone—it has a lot of mozzarella. The vegetables are hot but still crunchy—the crust is white. Is it the best? Well, no, to be frank it isn’t, but it is good.

Would I go to Piccolino’s again? Definitely. The vegetarian/vegan options aren’t great, but because of the helpfulness of the waiter and flexibility of the cooks, with effort it is doable. The results are worth it.

Jon brings me a carry out menu. It includes both lunch and dinner menus and a kid’s menu (also for seniors). I see the following appetizers: Dolmas, Bread sticks, Mozzarella sticks (deep fried, high fat guaranteed), Tzatziki, Grecian Bruschetta, Eggplant Croistini, Spanikopita. Probably some of these could be served without the cheese to make them vegan. The subs and sandwiches, which are made to order, have endless possibilities, but no whole grain bread, as do the pizzas and calzones.

Burgers — nothing vegetarian or vegan; but the pasta menu has Fettuccini Alfredo — well, vegetarian, but not low fat, Greek Spaghetti—same, Spaghetti Putanesca –maybe. Don’t hesitate to ask for no oil or cheese or to substitute marinara sauce with pizza sauce..

Italian specialties? Well, I think you could ask for pizza sauce instead of the listed sauces and the list goes on. Happy dining!

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A vegetarian since 1964, Ruth deGraaff lives in Eagle River after a career in teaching in Pa., Alaska and in international schools in various countries. Her grown two children, raised on a vegetarian diet, still follow the diet themselves. She is retired and does volunteer work for Adventist Community Services (ACS) and is a member of the Eagle River Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Adventist Church promotes vegetarianism as part of its health program.

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