Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist and last updated May 3, 2018. Inactive links were removed on November 28, 2021. The restaurant is no longer in business.
I don’t review many non-vegetarian restaurants on this site. I do make an exception whenever I can’t find any veggie restaurants during my travels, like in Fažana, Croatia, or on the Spanish island of Menorca. But as a general rule, I try to promote vegan and vegetarian businesses on this website.
However, I got curious when I heard that Jamie Oliver was opening one of his “Jamie’s Italian” restaurants in Vienna. He’s a likeable guy, and I frequently watch reruns of his cooking shows on the telly, even though he rarely prepares vegan dishes; but I like his no-nonsense approach to cooking, I support his fight against childhood obesity, and his efforts to cut down on food waste. I also love Italian food, so I was all set to go and check out his new restaurant.
Then I read the menu (posted on the restaurant’s website, accessed on May 2, 2018) and changed my mind. For vegans, there’s simply no reason to eat there. There are a few “Quick Nibble” items on the menu, which appear to be vegan – like giant green olives -, but not much else.
There isn’t a single vegan “Antipasti” dish, the restaurant’s “Seasonal Vegetables” – offered as one of their “Famous Planks” – is served with two kinds of cheeses. I also couldn’t identify a single vegan pasta dish. Most fresh pasta is made with eggs, but even a pasta dish which looks like it might be prepared with dried durum wheat (no-egg) pasta, like the “Penne Arrabbiata” dish, is served with breadcrumbs, which always raises flags for vegans. Breadcrumbs might or might not be vegan, it’s hard to tell without talking to the chef. The restaurant has a pizza menu, but again, there are no vegan choices. The “Secondi Menu” is all about meat and fish, a single vegetarian item – the “Super Green Veggie Burger” – comes with cottage cheese and is served on a brioche bun. (Brioche dough is usually made with eggs). Then there are the salads, all four options contain cheese in addition to other non-vegan ingredients (yoghurt dressing, honey, salmon). On the dessert menu, you’ll find “Sorbet”, but this raises flags for vegans as well, as sorbets might not just contain water, fruit and sugar but also thickening agents, which are often not of vegan origin.
The restaurant does offer to accommodate customers with special dietary needs. “We are happy to help with any dietary requirements and will find a solution in our restaurants for most requests. Please feel free to call us before your visit to discuss or speak to your server when you arrive.” Pardon me, but that’s just not good enough. Call ahead? Find a solution for my request? As a vegan customer, I don’t want to call ahead or ask the restaurant’s staff, if they can prepare a dish for me without cheese, yoghurt, eggs, meat or fish. If there are no vegan dishes on a restaurant’s menu, I don’t want to eat there. If a restaurateur can’t be bothered to put even a few vegan dishes on the menu, I am spending my money elsewhere.
When I think about the menu at “Jamie’s Italian Vienna Downtown,” I can’t help but think that the concept for this restaurant is oh-so-20th century. Jamie Oliver and his mentor and business partner Gennaro Contaldo both learned their craft in the 20th century, at a time when no-one had ever heard of climate change. But in the 21st century, when it is well known that greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are a huge contributor to climate change, everyone needs to adapt and change their habits and behaviour. This includes restaurants, which need to serve smaller portions of meat and fish, use fewer eggs and less cheese and yoghurt, and serve more vegan dishes. I do wonder whether all these famous TV chefs, who learned their craft in the 20th century when most meals focused on meat and fish, even know how to prepare dishes without animal products.
Again, I do like Jamie Oliver, and I hope that he will eventually make changes to the restaurant’s menu. To quote once again from the restaurant’s website: “Jamie and our team are constantly working on developing the menu and concept with creativity, simplicity and quality at the heart of everything we do – and of course, the desire to give all our customers an experience that reflects our love and passion for the Italian way of life.” The Italian way of life is simple, and there are many Italian vegan recipes to choose from. Let’s hope that Jamie Oliver will update his restaurants’ menus to reflect the problems and challenges of the 21st century.