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(THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED)
If you ask around, it seems like allergy-friendly pizzerias in Toronto are a dime a dozen. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a fast-food chain, a family-owned restaurant, or a gourmet spot, they all seem to have a few biggies in common.
- They’re peanut free.
- And sesame free.
- Not to mention the vast majority of them don’t use sunflower oil—the bane of our allergy existence—in anything. (Olive oil for the win!)
And these days, you’ll find more and more with accommodating options, like gluten-free crust or dairy-free “cheese.”
Still, a lot of these places do use tree nuts in their salads and desserts, while others use a glaze (made of egg!!) on their pizza dough. And unfortunately, many cannot (or will not) give any assurances when it comes to cross contamination risks.
You know what I’m talking about. The typical (infuriating) response that goes something like this: Our establishment doesn’t have 4 out of 5 of your allergens onsite, and we will do everything to ensure the 5th allergen doesn’t touch your child’s meal, but that said, we can’t make any guarantees. Sorry, not sorry.
No guarantee when it comes to my child’s life? As an allergy mom, that doesn’t sit with me very well. Luckily, Vesuvio Pizzeria & Spaghetti House isn’t typical.
Unlike some of the other “allergy-friendly” pizzerias I’ve contacted, they made me feel at ease right away. I was more than pleasantly surprised when the person I spoke with proved to be both knowledgeable about the restaurant’s allergy protocols and understanding of food allergies in general. My questions were answered with confidence and kindness. That’s right, I wasn’t made to feel like an inconvenience, a bother or a liability!
And while they are not 100% allergen-free, I was assured by the gentleman on the phone that they had been accommodating patrons with food allergies—without incident—for the entire 14 years that he had worked there.
During our call, I learned that their kitchen is definitely free of peanuts, sesame and sunflower (3 of our 5 allergens). And I was informed that we should avoid ordering the following:
- pasta (because the fresh stuff is made in house with egg, and the bought stuff has a may contain egg warning… but FYI, their pesto is nut-free!)
- dessert (some contain tree nuts, but note that they are pre-packaged by an offsite bakery and are plated in a separate kitchen)
- dinner rolls (because they are brought in from an outside bakery, there is the possibility of cross contamination)
But the selection of mouthwatering pizzas on their menu are a safe option for our allergies (peanuts, some tree nuts, egg, sesame, sunflower). Score!
Of course, we were advised to inform our server of our allergies each time we order so as to avoid cross contamination with any other allergens onsite, and to be sure nothing in the menu had changed since a previous visit.
For those with allergies that we aren’t dealing with, I learned the following…
- Dairy: While they don’t carry vegan cheese in-house, they are more than willing to make a vegan pizza if patrons with dairy allergies bring in their own cheese-free “cheese.” Now that’s service!
- Fish or shellfish: They are able to accommodate these allergies – just reach out in beforehand and they will let you know which menu options are safe.
- Gluten or wheat: They offer a gluten-free crust, which they will cook on a pan covered in parchment paper to avoid CC. They can also make a gluten-free version of their risotto too. But it’s important to understand that they are working out of a gluten-filled kitchen, so you may want to triple check that their methods are within your comfort level before ordering.
- Soy: As those with soy allergies know, this one’s tricky. Vesuvio’s does use a vegetable oil that contains soy in both their pizza and pasta dishes, but if you let them know of your allergy beforehand, they can accommodate with a protein option or one of their risotto options. (Not too bad, eh?)
Since that first call, we’ve gotten take-out a few times, and have eaten at the restaurant twice. Other than one bad egg*, I continue to be impressed by the people on the phone and their waitstaff. They are patient, knowledgeable, and friendly. They’re also really amazing with my toy-lugging toddler… which gets them total bonus points!
And if you’re looking for a safe option when a hosting a group, look no further! We had a pizza party for Father’s Day and, surprise, surprise, we ordered from Vesuvio’s. The great thing about ordering in is that you don’t have to worry about possible allergens lurking nearby (as you might in a restaurant). So we got to enjoy a delicious (albeit casual) Father’s Day meal at home, worry-free!
We had a full house and soon-to-be full tummies: 3 dads. 3 moms. 2 kiddos with food allergies. 4 pizzas. And a combined 12 toppings—ALL of them safe for my little guy. I’m pleased to report that our guests were seriously ooh-ing and aah-ing over the pizza. Check out the ‘after shot’ below!
The dads might have been the ones opening presents on this particular night, but as an allergy mom, having a safe & delicious go-to like Vesuvio’s felt like a true gift.
*The Bad Egg: Members of the AllergyBites Community may recall a recent post where I explain that I’ll be taking a break from writing allergy-friendly restaurant reviews for a while. Well—you guessed it—the restaurant that left me feeling so disheartened was… Vesuvio’s! The good news is that I have since spoken with the manager (who exemplified the term “allergy-friendly” during our call). He kindly went over every single one of my concerns and questions, reiterating which of our allergens are not onsite, what menu items are safe (and unsafe) for my son, the type of protocols they have in place to avoid cross contact, and more. Not only that, but he was sincere in his apologies and has made it very clear that they go out of their way to make their establishment a safe and welcoming place for the food allergy community. I am pleased to say that Vesuvio’s is back on my list of safe spots.
Visiting Vesuvio’s? I highly recommend that you call and speak with Dining Room Manager Shane Lemieux to discuss food safety and your allergens before you go.
This post was written by AllergyBites founder, Kathleen O’Hagan. Kathleen is a writer, a foodie, and the mom of a toddler with multiple food allergies. She loves seeking out accommodating eating spots and sharing them with the food allergy community. Want to help make a difference? Contact Kathleen about volunteering for a food allergy fundraiser she is organizing.
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