A Tazza Kitchen pie with grass-fed, organic mozzarella (Photo by Jay Paul)
When it comes to pizza cheese, mozzarella is the gold standard: Neapolitan pies make use of the fresh stuff, and low-moisture mozz stars on most other styles. That’s because its unique combination of moisture, fat and elasticity lends itself to the perfect amount of browning, blistering and bubbling when heated. Other cheeses make great additions, of course — ricotta, parmesan and provolone all come to mind — but mozzarella is the classic.
- STUZZI makes the mozzarella for its Neapolitan-style pizzas in-house. Go for the margherita with its fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, an institution for a reason.
- TAZZA KITCHEN sources cheese from Charlottesville-based BUF, which makes grass-fed, organic mozzarella in Colombia from the milk of free-range water buffalo.
- NOTA BENE’s three-cheese pie is a stellar example of a pizza senza mozzarella: a layer of provolone, ricotta and grana padano gets nice and crispy where it all meets the crust.
Bellytimber Tavern offers several vegetarian and vegan brick-oven pizzas. (Photo by Jay Paul)
Mimicking the qualities of cheese with a dairy-free substance is tricky, but it’s possible to get reasonably close. Daiya, which is tapioca-based and soy-free, shows up on menus most often. Jenna Sneed, chef and owner of Fresca on Addison, offers pizzas with both Daiya and a vegan mozzarella called Follow Your Heart, which “melts really realistically,” she says. “We actually have people double-check with us that it’s really vegan.”
- At FRESCA ON ADDISON, try those vegan cheese options on pizzas with toppings such as vegan chorizo and garlic, or kale and roasted red peppers.
- Sub Daiya for regular cheese on any of BELLYTIMBER’s vegetarian brick-oven pizzas; the result won’t fool any non-vegans, but is acceptably cheese-like.
- Richmond favorite BOTTOMS UP offers Daiya as an option, too; try it on the Maggie Malay, heaped with tomato slices, fresh spinach and artichoke hearts.
P.S.: If you’re not attached to the idea of replicating cheese, 8 1/2’s white bean and broccoletti pie is a vegan favorite.