Amici Miei (Versoix, Switzerland)

Outside of Amici Miei
Daily menu outside

Amici Miei, “my friends” is a cute Italian restaurant in Versoix. The restaurant is large, and the style is quite casual with typical bistro-like chequered table cloths and photos of Italian film scenes on the walls. It is very family-style and inviting.

Interior at Amicie Miei

There is a small terrace outside as well. However, since it was pouring rain the evening we visited Amici Miei for dinner, we opted to sit inside. It is very busy, and while I initially assumed it would be more of a place for locals, I think I overheard some tourists as well. Amici Miei also do take-out, at least for the pizza’s.

Table at Amici Miei
Ready for some pasta!

 

From the online menu I had already spotted some potentially vegan dishes (always research before!) Our waiter was also really helpful and accommodating. For example, there are several salads for starters for which they could prepare a vegan dressing instead of the creamy dressing.

We chose an antipasti plate for two, bread and a plate of grilled vegetables: aubergine, tomato, artichokes, mushroom and bell peppers. It was tasty, but a bit too oily for my taste.

Antipasti at Amici Miei
Antipasti of grilled veggies with bread

There are several vegan mains available, such as Penne al Arrabbiata and pizzas which could be made vegan. We had the Spaghetti Napolitaine, spaghetti with a tomato sauce, (which would normally come with Parmesan to the side) and a Pizza San Nicoa, a pizza with grilled eggplant and artichokes without mozzarella. The spaghetti was very nice, but also very hot and the portion was enormous!

Spaghetti Napolitaine at Amici Miei
Enormous bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce !

The pizza has a nice thin crust, and was quite tasty. It was also heart-shaped which was a bit unnecessary in my opinion. The pizza was not as gargantuan as the spaghetti (fortunately).

Pizza at Amici Miei
Still not sure what to think of a heart-shaped pizza…taste was good though

Now to the surprising part. There are vegan desserts! Sorbet ice, in big scoops and a special dessert:  ‘carpaccio ‘ of caramelised pineapple with basil and passion fruit ice. It comes with a small waffle, which is probably vegan but I am not sure.

Vegan dessert at Amici Miei
Pine apple carpaccio with basil-passion fruit sorbet

The staff is very nice, knowledgeable and willing to adapt dishes to make them vegan. The atmosphere is nice and casual. Conclusion: I would love to go again to try some of the other pizzas and the other vegan dishes! I might ask for a normal-shaped pizza though 🙂

 

Type of place: Italian Restaurant, Bistro
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (French): https://www.amicimiei-versoix.ch/

Veganism in: Italian cuisine

In several of my posts I already talk a bit more about specific cuisines, for example in my post on Kutchi (Afghan cuisine).  I thought it would be useful to have some in-depth articles about vegan dishes from different countries/regions, either if you are planning to eat at a restaurant serving a specific cuisine, or if you are actually planning to visit that country! Of course every restaurant is different, but with an idea of what dishes could be (made) vegan, going out vegan might be less daunting !

Let’s start with an easy one. Italian food? Easy?? With its use of (Parmesan) cheese, fish and meat ? I hear you think. But yes! In my experience with Italian restaurants ( check my previous posts e.g.  Hotel Malibran in Venice) I have found that at real Italian places there is always delicious food to eat.

Focaccias in a display at Farini
Vegan & non-vegan focaccias at Farini (Italy)

In general the Mediterranean cuisines are supposed to be pretty healthy. Important components are olive oil, vegetables, legumes and nuts, fresh fruits  and grains, and a limitation of meat and dairy products. What sets apart the Italian way of food preparation is simplicity. Dishes usually have few ingredients, letting the quality of the ingredients shine.

Italian cuisine is itself quite diverse, with polenta and risotto from the North, pizza from the Naples region, meaty pasta sauces in Central Italy, more fish-based dishes, tomato sauces and capers from the Southern regions. The tomatoes themselves were actually introduced quite late, as they come from South America. Olives and artichokes, however, where already used in the ancient Roman Empire.

I touched upon the general structure of Italian meals in a previous post (La Tecia Vegana ), so I won’t get too much into that here.

Likely vegan dishes

All right, so now you are in a nice Italian restaurant, whether in Italy or not, and you study the menu. What do you actually choose? It depends of course on where you are, and many Italian restaurants will have nicely labelled vegan options. If not, it also depends a bit how comfortable you feel asking for a breakdown of a dish. Here is what I usually go for.

Bruschetta with olive oil and cherry tomatoes at Bar da Gino (Italy)
Bruschetta with olive oil and cherry tomatoes at Bar da Gino (Italy)

Starters:

Olives: of course

Focaccia – these breads are likely vegan and tend to be made of the same dough as pizza (so: water, oil, salt, flour and yeast)

Bruschetta – grilled bread topped with olive oil, garlic and/or tomatoes

Mains:

Steer away from the obvious meat and fish plates and get right into carb-y goodness:

Pasta with tomato sauce at Hotel Malibran
Pasta with tomato sauce at Hotel Malibran (Italy)

Pasta – spaghetti and penne is almost always vegan whereas tagliatelle is mostly made with egg. Stuffed pastas (such as ravioli and tortellini), risotto (often made with butter) and lasagna are very unlikely to be vegan.  Also stay clear of pesto dishes (usually has cheese) and white sauces. Your best bet are the most simple red sauces.

Examples:

spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, oil and pepper flakes) is literally just that

spaghetti alla marinara (spaghetti with tomato sauce)

penne all’arrabbiata (penne with spicy tomato sauce)

Pizza – most pizza dough is vegan. Try to find a pizza marinara, which is just pizza with tomato sauce. I also see often pizza with grilled veggies, that is a good option too. In case they do have mozzarella, it is easy to ask if they can be left out since most pizza is made to order anyway.

Pizza marinara at Luigia
Pizza marinara with capers at Luigia (Switzerland)

Many Italian restaurants will have some vegetable side dishes, such as grilled aubergines or other vegetables, artichokes, or panzanella salad (bread salad, occasionally vegan).

 

Desserts: Unfortunately, this is the area with the least amount of choices for vegans. Most sorbet ice cream is vegan, however, make sure to confirm this. The alternative: end your meal with a nice espresso. Very Italian!

Soy cappuccino at Bar da Gino.
Or a soy cappuccino if available and you are a terrible heathen in the eyes of Italians 😉 (Italy)
Sources:
& my own experience eating a lot of Italian food both in Italy and outside of it 🙂

Zio (Geneva, Switzerland)

Zio is a lunch-dinner-bakery-take-way-etc in several locations in Geneva. I was specifically interested in one Zio after I spotted a sign saying that there was a vegan ‘plat du jour’ (e.g. daily menu) available for lunch! Unfortunately at that time I wasn’t aware there were, like, 10 Zio in Geneva, so it took a while to find the right one again! All Zio establishments are slightly different, some are more like bakeries and others more like cafés. While I am sure some of the other Zio also have vegan options, but I really want to try this specific one. This specific Zio (Vieille-Ville location) is only open for lunch during the week by the way.

Zio interior
Inside Zio

Long story short, I went to Zio for lunch to test their vegan ‘plat du jour’ !  Zio Vieille-Ville serves fresh juices, drinks and coffee. All food is pre-made and packaged. You pick from a display, where the vegan and vegetarian options are clearly labelled. If you eat the food in the restaurant itself it is reheated (if applicable) and served.

 

zio_drinks
Fresh juices

The place itself is a bit minimalist, with lounge music and a chill atmosphere. I do have to say the actual vegan ‘plat du jour’ was a bit disappointing that day. It was a lasagne with spinach and aubergine.  The lasagne was served with a few slices of bread. Sounds good right? Well actually it didn’t have lasagne leaves, I think the idea was that the aubergine took the place of the pastas. But why? Lasagne leaves are usually vegan. So it was more of a warm salad. Additionally, while tasty, the dish was salty. Really salty.

 

Lasagne at Zio
“Lasagne”

Overall I was disappointed by the lack of choice and the actual dish. Unfortunately there were also no vegan desserts.  Zio serves something different everyday I suppose, so maybe it was bad luck, but overall it wasn’t great. I think this was partially caused by the fact I was trying to get lunch here for a long time (“they advertise a vegan lunch! I must supported these initiatives!”) and then it kinda fell flat for me.

Type of place: “Cafeteria, restaurant, take-away, catering and bakery”
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (French): https://www.zio-ge.ch/

Luigia (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Luigia can be found in several Swiss cities (and in Dubai). I visited the location in Lausanne twice. This Luigia is located in a former cinema, so the atmosphere is fantastic! The interior reflects the previous purpose of the building, with a large dining room, which has a high ceiling. The main colour is red, and there are light-bulb decorations. In the back there is a pizza oven with a small open kitchen around it. There is an additional kitchen behind, but that one is not visible for the guests. I don’t know if every Luigia has such a beautiful location!

Interior at Luigia
Old projector at Luigia

The menu, which includes typical Italian dishes such as antipasti, pastas, pizzas, and a variety of sea-food and meat plates, also has several vegan options. Unfortunately these are not marked! Drink-wise there is a lot of choice for wine, beer etc.

Focaccia at Luigia
Rosemary focaccia

We started with a rosemary focaccia, which is also made in the pizza oven. It was basically a pizza crust, with rosemary. It was  simple and very tasty. The crust was so delicious, thin and crunchy.

There are several vegan options, including pizzas! Luigia serves a classic pizza marinara; a pizza with tomato sauce, oregano and garlic. There is also a version with capers. Both are great, but I prefer the one with capers. The taste of the capers matches very well with the rest of the pizza, and it makes it a little bit more interesting.

Pizza marinara at Luigia
Pizza marinara with capers

There are vegan desserts available: fruit and sorbet ice. However, it didn’t seem too interesting to me so I didn’t try them. After you have had your dinner, you pay at the entrance, so no waiting around for the bill.

 

Luigia prides itself in being authentically Italian, and I believe that. From the Italian-speaking staff, to the simple and fresh ingredients, Luigia is a piece of Italy in Switzerland.

Type of place: Italian restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (English, German, French. Italian) : https://www.luigia.ch/

Bar da Gino (Venice, Italy)

We first came across Gino when looking for a spot to have a coffee. Standing at the bar, preferably. Blending in with the locals and such. I assumed they wouldn’t have milk alternatives for the coffee, but I was wrong! So I had a delicious soy cappuccino.

We didn’t really look at the menu, but we happened past it a second time and we had a drink just to sit down after a long day of walking. Inconsequential side-story: we sat down at one of the dinner tables but since we only wanted to drink the waiter asked us to move to another table. Then I saw a lady ordering a delicious-looking bruschetta and we had dinner anyway. Sorry waiter..well I’m sure he got over it.

So we asked for the menu and we found actually several vegan options: several bruschetta, a vegan lasagne (!!) and a vegan pasta option.

Bruschetta with olive oil and cherry tomatoes at Bar da Gino
Bruschetta with olive oil and cherry tomatoes

 

For our starters we tried two bruschetta; the ‘toscana’ which is a basic olive oil and garlic one and the ‘umbra’, which also had garlic and olive oil but also cherry tomatoes and oregano. The bruschetta were crunchy and the portions generous.

Bruschetta with olive oil and garlic at Bar da Gino
Bruschetta with olive oil and garlic

Of course I wanted to try the vegan lasagne for my main course. Interestingly enough, I had seen several other places that had a vegan lasagne. I was still a bit cautious (translation errors do happen), so I asked with the waiter to be sure.  He confirmed that it was really vegan. It was very delicious!  We also tried the vegan pasta in red sauce. A classic, and very good as well.

Vegan lasagne at Bar da Gino
Vegan lasagne !
Pasta with tomato sauce at Bar da Gino
Classic: pasta with tomato sauce

There were no vegan desserts available, but we could close the meal with a nice coffee, a soy cappuccino in my case.

Overall this place seemed quite busy, it is a bit higher priced. Service started out fast but when we asked for the bill we had to wait a while (might have been due to a shift change). But overall, food was good and it was a nice surprise to have vegan lasagne!

Soy cappuccino at Bar da Gino. I know you are not supposed to drink cappuccino after breakfast ..
Soy cappuccino
Type of place: Italian cafe, bar
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: no

Website : None

Camoma Veggie Take Away & Pizzeria L’Angelo (Venice, Italy)

For a while I doubted if I should make this post since I want to have a positive tone on this blog. But I also want to write about less than ideal experiences. Honesty is important. And sometimes things are just disappointing, and that is okay.

Still I want to leave a positive note in there, so today a double review. Let’s get the bad out of the way before we get to the good.

Boat, channel and houses in Venice
Sunny day in Venice

Like many vegetarians&vegans I use the site Happycow.net to get an idea about the vegan options when visiting a new city/country. I never plan to -only- visit vegan places. But if I visit a new city that I might not visit again soon, and there is a great vegan place, I don’t want to miss out on it!
Also, it is good to have a bit of a feel how “present” veganism in a city. Say there are 2 bistro’s with vegan options, and nothing else. Then I know I might need to prepare a bit harder. In my opinion there are vegan options almost everywhere, but preparation is key to having a good time.

Image of vegan sandwiches and drinks at Camoma Veggie Take Away
Vegan sandwiches and drinks at Camoma Veggie Take Away

Camoma was listed as a vegan place, though the reviews already stated it was in fact not purely vegan. Still, the reports of vegan lasagna and vegan tiramisu made me curious! So I went there and it was just, not good. The person working there directly told us that only the sandwiches were vegan. And they were just very disappointing. It was standard white bread, no crust, with filling. Sure it was ~okay~ but not exciting. There were four variations of this breads and they all tasted kind of similar. At first I thought we were at the wrong place, but no. This was really it.
There was no lasagna, no tiramisu or any other pastry. No coffee. The woman working there seemed upset with us visiting. (We could sit there, by the way, it it is not just a take-out) I hope someone can chime in, maybe they had a bad day and there was no stock? It is just not a place I’d recommend as there are so many more great places. Vegan and non-vegan.

Type of place: Vegetarian take-out
Completely vegan: no
Website (Italian): https://www.facebook.com/camomaveggievenezia/

Image of display with vegan sandwich with "rice cheese" at pizzaria l'Angelo
Vegan sandwich with “rice cheese” at pizzeria l’Angelo

Anyway, let’s turn the bad into a good. When walking around a bit dissatisfied by those sad sandwiches, we bumped into a small take-out place which had a whole row of vegan sandwiches! They were labelled vegan, and they had “fake cheese” and “fake meat’. It was very nice, and quite a surprise! While many vegans are aware of the existence of vegan cheese, I almost never saw it used in products outside of vegan-only places.

Menu board at pizzeria l'Angelo showing several vegan pizzas
Menu with several vegan pizza options!

Choosing was hard, there was actually more available than I initially noticed. Apart from the sandwiches there are also several types of vegan pizza available. And all for a good price!

Vegan and non-vegan sandwiches in the display at pizzeria l'Angelo
Vegan and non-vegan sandwiches on display

Type of place: Pizza & Panini takeout
Completely vegan: no
Website (Italian): https://www.facebook.com/Pizzeria-LAngelo-158009690894595/