The Wandering Pie
Various locations – see social media for schedule
Wherever you go, there’s bound to be pizza. From New York’s floppy thin crust to Italy’s simple margherita, from South Korea’s bulgogi to the seriously contentious for some reason Hawaiian style, pizza is a blank canvas upon which a culture paints with its own unique variation of ingredients.
If you’re ever traveling around Ventura County in search of a slice, you’d be well served if you can find The Wandering Pie. The pizza pop-up, like the roaming monk from the TV series Kung Fu, finds itself at breweries, events and sometimes vegan hang outs, never settling in one spot.
I found The Wandering Pie at Ventura Coast Brewing Company on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, where proprietor Jamie Jamshidi had set up shop, serving a special menu by request of a local group of vegans. The Wandering Pie is not a vegan pizzeria, but can (and will) serve vegan pies when asked, and seem to take pleasure in doing so.
On the menu were seven vegan pizzas ranging in variety from the aptly named “Fifth Street Sausage,” which utilized the vegan Field Roast brand of sausages and Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella, tomato sauce and arugula to the BBQ Jack with jackfruit marinated in sweet barbeque sauce, red onion, cilantro and more Miyako’s mozzarella.
Given my propensity for eating more than my stomach can handle, I chose the BBQ Jack ($16), The Vanna ($16) and, seduced by the name, the one known as Benny the Jet ($15).
The Vanna is appropriately named due to there being an abundance of white ingredients: Tofutti ricotta cheese, Miyoko’s mozzarella and fresh garlic with a touch of rosemary, black pepper and olive oil. Benny the Jet was practically the same, save for swapping rosemary with oregano.
The chef went to work. Jamshidi and Chef Alex McCourt flung dough with expertise, shaping the stretchy balls into circles and topping them with various items. Then the pizzas are scooped up with a pizza peel and gently placed into a mobile ceramic and mortar pizza oven fired by oak and olive wood.
While that’s happening, I grabbed a pint from Ventura Coast and waited patiently. Set up across from The Wandering Pie on that day as the Santa Barbara-based vegan Mexican joint, Rascals SB, serving “al pastor” nachos (the al pastor made of textured vegetable protein) and gringas, which aren’t quesadillas but you could be fooled into thinking they were. I shared the nachos with the table and came away with a new found appreciation for “TVP” – the stuff really can taste like anything with enough work, even al pastor.
The pizzas arrived shortly thereafter. Like Vanna White herself, the pizzas were gorgeous, a spread of melted cheese, glistening toppings and baked goodness. My first slice was the Vanna, of course. I noticed that the crust was firm but springy; the bottom had a light ring of char. It was airy and proved wonderfully chewy. After my many failed attempts of making pizza dough at home, I glowed in appreciation of the wonderfully flavorful crust. The toppings almost played second fiddle to the crust, which goes without saying I am a big fan of.
Benny the Jet wasn’t too dissimilar from Vanna, but the oregano gave it a decent savory balance, working in tandem with the Miyoko’s mozzarella which is a little tart and a little salty.
The star of the show was the BBQ Jack, at least at our table. The marinated bits of the enormous jackfruit, cut down to bite-sized pieces and baked in the ceramic oven took on a crispy edge, sweet and tangy, pairing as well as any backdoor barbeque main course would with red onions and cilantro. The bright red barbecue sauce itself held a nice peppery quality to it that brought together everything it touched into one happy family. And of course, there’s the crust – the delicious vessel itself working wonders as the foundation.
I savored the pizza from The Wandering Pie. This, after all, would be my last food review for the VCReporter – I’m off to another land, where I’m unsure pizza will be as good. Over cocktails at VenTiki, I spoke with Jamie regarding what got him in to pizza making and learned that the man acquires parts for super colliders as his day job. Ventura County, have you ever had anything made by anyone associated with a device that can create black holes?
The county is well-served by The Wandering Pie, and so are its neighbors, as the mobile crew makes stops in Santa Barbara as well, and soon, Los Angeles. You can find the regular menu at most pop-ups, where meat reigns supreme, but there’s always at least one vegan item on the menu.
As far as I’m concerned, wander all you like, but The Wandering Pie is where to hang your hat for a great slice.