This attitude is also one that's stirred some controversy in New York's protective pizza parthenon: If a pizza isn't covered in mozzarella, is it even really a pizza?In addition to Screamer's, in the past year alone, Double Zero, a plant-based sit-down restaurant from vegan celebrity chef Matthew Kenney, opened in the East Village; Sizzle Pie, a heavy metal-themed Portland chain that offers a vast selection of vegan slices and a homemade vegan ranch dipping sauce, opened two locations in Brooklyn; and Paulie Gee's, the popular Greenpoint pizza shop with perhaps the most creative vegan side menu in town, started plans to open a slice joint with vegan options, too.
RECIPE: Vegan Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Screamer's opened in June with the ambitious goal of making the platonic ideal of pizza—the classic New York slice—without any animal products. It's a collaboration between Champs, the all-vegan diner in East Williamsburg, and Blackbird, a Philadelphia spot offering vegan pizza, cheesesteaks, and wings.
"It is a quintessential part of the New York slice experience, the greasiness."
Where does pizza philosophically begin and end? Is a white pie still pizza, since it has no red sauce? Is a ricotta-topped pizza an oxymoron, since it doesn't have mozzarella? Why can Chicago call deep-dish "pizza" such a thing, when it's (in my opinion) basically a tomato sauce-filled dumpster?
"I don't eat vegan, I eat normal," he said. "I don't make it, the store don't make it."Mebus, Kenney and others predict that plant-based cheese will continue to improve, and that vegan options will only spread from here, which means they're on track to be considered more "normal." But there has definitely never been a better time in New York City to grab a slice of which no animals were harmed in the making."I've had many customers say, 'This place allowed me to be vegan,'" Mebus said. "It's really the best thing people can say to me. Pizza is, like, the best thing in the world."