Escopazzo's Expanded Vegan Menu Coming This Month

It might seem like some kind of miracle that an Italian restaurant is offering vegan fare. is a miracle that any fine dining restaurant would want to do vegan cuisine.

Nevertheless, it's true, South Beach's Escopazzo has a section on its menu entirely dedicated to raw, vegan specialties. Executive Chef Giancarla Bodoni has been putting her creative energy into catering to people with special dietary needs, i.e. vegetarianism, veganism, raw diets and gluten intolerance, over the last five years. So it should come as no suprise that Miami's fore-mother of the local-sustainable-eco revolution would do the same with veggie-centric fare. PS. she's been nearly 100% organic and green for nearly a decade.

Bodoni features items like vegetable lasagnette with pinenut ricotta and pesto ($14), "fettucine alfredo" ($13) and vegan caprese with cashew cheese, tomato tartare and basil ($11) as part of her raw selection. She is set to expand her raw offerings come mid-November.

In a town where physical fitness and fake boobs go hand in, um, hand,, it is surprising that more people don't tend towards a leaner, animal-free diet. What faster way to drop a couple sizes?

The first, most obvious cause is that Miami is a cosmopolitan of Latin and Caribbean cultures. Most people are raised eating well-done meat and soft cooked starches such as potatoes, plantains, beans and rice, so introducing raw starches and a meat-free diet is both a cultural and psychological challenge.

Secondly, vegan and raw cuisine is expensive. Ideally the ingredients used should be organic, which means a bigger price tag.

Lastly, raw cooking is extremely time consuming (read labor cost). Methods such as sprouting, dehydrating, blending and juicing are employed in order manipulate textures and keep cooking temperatures under 118 degrees. This often takes longer than conventional techniques; so quick-cooking techniques like searing, sauteing and frying need not apply. Additionally, the results are hyper-perishable. According to Bodoni, "Vegetables possess a docile quality, so they need to be manipulated in order to coax their natural flavors, but shouldn't be overtaken by too many of them."

Bodoni is committed to flexing her raw muscles. As with her decision to go green several years ago, the impetus is a desire to be conscious of the food we ingest and the manner in which we live. In her mind, making these decisions is a lifestyle, not the result of a marketing ploy.

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Aniece Meinhold