[Photographs: David Kover]

The menu at Café Gratitude, a California vegan restaurant chain, reads as a giant list of self-affirmations. You can order an I Am Extraordinary and wash it down with an I Am Effervescent. It takes a little more reading to figure out what you'd actually get if you ordered one of these things, and so it might catch you by surprise that they've tried their hand at pizza—in the raw food section of the menu.

Order the I Am Hearty and Café Gratitude promises to deliver a "deep-dish" pizza made of ingredients that have never come in contact with heat higher than 105 degrees. It's a food engineering challenge that proves a little bit beyond them and may explain why the the dish pictured above—sun-dried tomato marinara, pesto, olive tapenade, Brazil nut Parmesan and ricotta cheese, on an onion-sunflower crust—looks, well, nothing like a pizza.

To be clear, I did not dislike the food they served me at Café Gratitude. The I Am Hearty did contain some pleasing, hearty flavors. But even where I could imagine the pesto and tomato chunks inside of a deep dish pie, there wasn't a whole lot of pizza-ness there. The Brazil nut ricotta had some creaminess to it, but none of the body of actual ricotta, and reminded me instead of a very mild tahini. The "Parmesan", also made from Brazil nuts, may have been meant to evoke the "nutty" quality of cheese, but instead just kinda tasted like nuts.

As for the crust, if Clif Bar chose to develop an onion flavor, this is how I imagine it would taste. The ground up sunflower seeds and onions offer nothing in the way of hole structure, and instead are just a chewy disc of semi-savory cookie. It's hard to think of this as bread.

To their credit, I left Café Gratitude feeling a good deal lighter in my mid-section than when I typically gorge myself on pizza. It's just that, when I walked out the door, I found myself staring across the street at Flour + Water where you can get, you know, actual pizza!

Café Gratitude

2400 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (map); Multiple locations in California
415-695-1989; cafegratitude.com

About the author: David Kover is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and food enthusiast. He occasionally gets his tweet on at @pizzakover.


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