You might have heard that Rome isn’t the most vegan-friendly city in Europe. It’s right. And it is far from being any close to it. This doesn’t mean you will starve when visiting or living here. For our luck, the Italian cuisine has a lot of natural plant-based options and pizza and pasta are always good options. But if we talk about vegan restaurants or specific vegan foods the scenario isn’t that great. But even if Rome is many steps behind in the global growing interest in the vegan diet and lifestyle things are getting better. Last week we’ve heard that its first vegan fast food was open: Universo Vegano.
Universo Vegano is the first Italian vegan fast food chain, “which uses only natural foods, most of them “zero km” and no animal derivatives. With the knowledge that every food choice has a crucial impact on the planet, we have created a place where vegans and vegetarians can find a wide range of natural and ‘sustainable’ products without losing sight of the taste and correct nutritional values”. Their first store was open in Gallarate in March of 2012, followed by other two locations in Milano, in the beginning of 2013. After that the cities of Fiera, Varese, Savona, Verona and Torino got their fast food place too. And last weekend it was our time, in Rome.
We decided to go in a Sunday evening. As most of the places to eat in the city, they are open for lunch and dinner – and closed in the middle of the day. We’ve seen photos of the opening and place was really crowed and we could see that there were no places to sit and eat, so it sounded like a take away place. Me and my husband love fast food, I admit that. We usually don’t have dinner, but sandwiches or pizza or any other snack, but at home we don’t go that much “junkie” with the food, also because there aren’t many burgers and sausages options to buy here too. Back to Universo Vegano, we’ve seen pictures of their burgers and sandwiches and everything looked really good. We went with mini-vegan and a couple of friends. It was around 7pm and place was empty – yes, I was pleased with that. The shop is the core of Trastevere, a very touristic area, full of restaurants. And, yes, it is really tiny and with no place to eat, and no tables outside too (it seems that it’s hard to get the license and it costs a lot too, but I really hope they try to get it in the future!).
We talked to the owner, a very friendly Italian man who came to Rome to open Universo Vegano. I oredered one “Vegan Cotoletta” (tofu schnitzel with vegetable cheese, vegetable mayonnaise and marinated zucchini). My husband ordered one “Vegan Burger” (vegetable burger, vegetable cheese, vegetable mayonnaise, tomato, salad and ketchup) and one “Veghina Marina” (flatbread with olive oil, vegan tuna, olives, vegetable cheese, salad and tomato). Our girl friend ordered one “Vegan Wurstel” (hot dog) and our friend had one “Vegan Tono” (vegan tuna, vegetable cheese, vegetable amyonnaise, salad and tomato) and one “Vegan Bio” (rye bread, lentil burger, yogurt sauce, vegetable cheese, salad and sprout). Yes, that’s how guys and girls eat! It was great that we all had different orders so we could sample more food!
I could write a detailed review of each of the sandwiches above but they all have basically the same characteristics in my point of view: on the positive side they are huge and cheap (when compared to Rome prices); the ones with vegan tuna are also delicious because they use the product from Vantastic Foods, and so the hot dog; on a negative the negative side, most of their burgers and sauces are a little tasteless, except for the classic burger. The owner told us they don’t use salt or tend to use as less as possible and I totally get it. But there are so many spices and herbs and garlic and onions… It could be a way more taste going on in those sandwiches! I don’t know if all shops use the same recipes or if each one prepares their food in their own way, but in the case of Universo Vegano in Rome I’d suggest them to work on their burgers and sauce recipes.
Will I go back there? Yes. I will support them as much as I can and I will talk to them to see if they can offer more tasty options. Of course my opinion isn’t everyone’s opinion and I’m sure some people will like their products just the way they are now. But it would be nice to have at least some “spiced” or more flavored options. Anyway, they are the first and only fast food option in the city and they deserve to grow as a successful business.
Universo Vegano is located at: Piazza di Santa Rufina, 6 Tel. +39 329 0606803 – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org