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La Mesa Pizzaworks wins with phony pepperoni

The vegetarian shop stands up to pizza's harshest critics: middle schoolers

The "I Can't Believe It's Not Pepperoni" pizza at La Mesa Pizzaworks.
The "I Can't Believe It's Not Pepperoni" pizza at La Mesa Pizzaworks.
Video:

FEAST!: La Mesa Pizzaworks wins with phony pepperoni


"Why is our pepperoni so bright red?" asks one of the boys, eyeing his pizza.


"What kind did you get?" asks the other, eyeing ours.


Place

La Mesa Pizzaworks

7406 University Avenue, La Mesa


Ours is a spicy Hawaiian, topped by pineapple and serrano peppers. There would typically be ham (or Canadian Bacon), but not in this case, because La Mesa Pizzaworks is a vegetarian pizzeria. You may order whole pies, pizza by the slice, calzones, salads, even a couple of vegetable soups, but no meat.


My wife and I have chosen to take our meatless meal a step further, adding $8 to the $26 price for the 18-inch pizza to use non-dairy cheese alternative. We haven't found a lot of reliable nondairy pizza options locally, and want to give this new one a shot. Whether our pizza can be considered vegan hinges upon whether you think the dash of honey in the crust qualifies.

The "Hot Helix Hawaiian" pizza: Serrano peppers and pineapple, with the dairy-free cheese option.


We like our pizza well enough, but it would never fly with the kids, who demand genuine mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on their pies. "Our pizza has real cheese, right?" asks the elder brother, now eyeing me suspiciously. This wouldn't be the first time I've tried to sneak something plant-based onto his plate.


"One hundred percent," I vowed, "You can tell by the way the melted mozzarella stretches when you pull out your slice."


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Of course, I've ignored that question about the pepperoni, which looks a little different—a little redder—because it is a plant-based alternative. Pizzaworks calls this pie the, "I can't believe it's not pepperoni" ($26), so I want to see if it's good enough to fool these two regular pepperoni pizza consumers.


Only after they've each devoured a couple slices do I tell them the truth. They truly can't believe it's not pepperoni.


"This is vegan?" asks the stunned 6th grader. "My whole life is a lie!" declares the older brother.


They cry again when I dig in to eat a couple of their precious "I Can't Believe It's Not Pepperoni" slices. Thanks to all the spice in actual pepperoni, this smoky facsimile gets the flavor right, the chewy texture close enough to pass as America's favorite pizza topping.


The self-proclaimed "New best pizza shop in La Mesa."


La Mesa Pizzaworks has boldly pronounced itself, "The new best pizza shop in La Mesa." The kosher counter shop fits into a University Avenue shopping strip in the city's southwestern corner, where it offers a menu of dine in or take out specialty pizzas (though you can pay to add toppings to a $24 cheese pie). They offer 10-inch gluten free versions too ($14-25), but I couldn't do that to my hapless Middle School test subjects. We'll enjoy the honey raised dough of the regular house crust, well-baked in a New York style.


I can't remember the last time I walked into a place that was specifically vegetarian rather than entirely plant based, but for a pizza shop it totally makes sense, especially as some of its home-made sauces and toppings feature goat or aged cheeses.


A slice of "Mushroom Medley" pizza, with a wine, butter, garlic, and shallot sauce.


I can recommend the mushroom medley, a mix of mushrooms and cheeses over buttery garlic-shallot sauce. But when I go back to sample $5 slices, they're out of the ratatouille (with roasted zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplants), and it turns out the roasted poblano "burrito pizza" can only be ordered as a $35 whole pie (or $19 calzone), because the black bean-sauced hybrid includes sides of sour cream and fresh-made guacamole. As a burrito-fanatic I'm intrigued, but it's just more economical to trick the kids into a meat-free pepperoni.

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The "I Can't Believe It's Not Pepperoni" pizza at La Mesa Pizzaworks.
The "I Can't Believe It's Not Pepperoni" pizza at La Mesa Pizzaworks.
Video:

FEAST!: La Mesa Pizzaworks wins with phony pepperoni


"Why is our pepperoni so bright red?" asks one of the boys, eyeing his pizza.


"What kind did you get?" asks the other, eyeing ours.


Place

La Mesa Pizzaworks

7406 University Avenue, La Mesa


Ours is a spicy Hawaiian, topped by pineapple and serrano peppers. There would typically be ham (or Canadian Bacon), but not in this case, because La Mesa Pizzaworks is a vegetarian pizzeria. You may order whole pies, pizza by the slice, calzones, salads, even a couple of vegetable soups, but no meat.


My wife and I have chosen to take our meatless meal a step further, adding $8 to the $26 price for the 18-inch pizza to use non-dairy cheese alternative. We haven't found a lot of reliable nondairy pizza options locally, and want to give this new one a shot. Whether our pizza can be considered vegan hinges upon whether you think the dash of honey in the crust qualifies.

The "Hot Helix Hawaiian" pizza: Serrano peppers and pineapple, with the dairy-free cheese option.


We like our pizza well enough, but it would never fly with the kids, who demand genuine mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on their pies. "Our pizza has real cheese, right?" asks the elder brother, now eyeing me suspiciously. This wouldn't be the first time I've tried to sneak something plant-based onto his plate.


"One hundred percent," I vowed, "You can tell by the way the melted mozzarella stretches when you pull out your slice."


Sponsored
Sponsored

Of course, I've ignored that question about the pepperoni, which looks a little different—a little redder—because it is a plant-based alternative. Pizzaworks calls this pie the, "I can't believe it's not pepperoni" ($26), so I want to see if it's good enough to fool these two regular pepperoni pizza consumers.


Only after they've each devoured a couple slices do I tell them the truth. They truly can't believe it's not pepperoni.


"This is vegan?" asks the stunned 6th grader. "My whole life is a lie!" declares the older brother.


They cry again when I dig in to eat a couple of their precious "I Can't Believe It's Not Pepperoni" slices. Thanks to all the spice in actual pepperoni, this smoky facsimile gets the flavor right, the chewy texture close enough to pass as America's favorite pizza topping.


The self-proclaimed "New best pizza shop in La Mesa."


La Mesa Pizzaworks has boldly pronounced itself, "The new best pizza shop in La Mesa." The kosher counter shop fits into a University Avenue shopping strip in the city's southwestern corner, where it offers a menu of dine in or take out specialty pizzas (though you can pay to add toppings to a $24 cheese pie). They offer 10-inch gluten free versions too ($14-25), but I couldn't do that to my hapless Middle School test subjects. We'll enjoy the honey raised dough of the regular house crust, well-baked in a New York style.


I can't remember the last time I walked into a place that was specifically vegetarian rather than entirely plant based, but for a pizza shop it totally makes sense, especially as some of its home-made sauces and toppings feature goat or aged cheeses.


A slice of "Mushroom Medley" pizza, with a wine, butter, garlic, and shallot sauce.


I can recommend the mushroom medley, a mix of mushrooms and cheeses over buttery garlic-shallot sauce. But when I go back to sample $5 slices, they're out of the ratatouille (with roasted zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplants), and it turns out the roasted poblano "burrito pizza" can only be ordered as a $35 whole pie (or $19 calzone), because the black bean-sauced hybrid includes sides of sour cream and fresh-made guacamole. As a burrito-fanatic I'm intrigued, but it's just more economical to trick the kids into a meat-free pepperoni.

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