F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen serves authentic Italian food at a fair price with quality ingredients–with ample vegan options that will leave the whole party satisfied. My husband and I attended their Longwood location to speak with pizza-dough-extraordinaire Chef Matt Houck to learn more about their vegan options and why many claim F&D to have Orlando’s best pizza. He let us try five vegan options–four of which are listed on the menu and one ‘secret menu’ item that you won’t want to miss! Join us in The Sanford Vegan’s guide to eating vegan at F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen!
Established in 2015, F&D stands for ‘Food and Drink’. It’s a multi-site, Orlando-based, family-owned business that began with its Lake Mary location of F&D Kitchen and Bar but has since expanded to include multiple locations of F&D Cantina (Lake Mary & Thornton Park) and F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen (Longwood, Winter Park, and– a location closed for refurbishments at the writing of this article–in Orlando proper).
HOW IS WOODFIRED PIZZA DIFFERENT?
I’m willing to wager that some of you reading this article has attempted to craft a pizza at home using a conventional oven. And let’s be real–it’s never as good as what you can usually get at a restaurant. There are none of those bubbly, blackened spots on the crust and you can never get the same level of browning on your cheese–especially if it's vegan.
That’s because the secret to the best pizza is using a woodfired oven. Yes, the wood adds a special depth of flavor to pizza pies, but the real magic is in the heat of the oven. “Our oven is always on–even at night–kept steady around 400 degrees Fahrenheit,” Chef Matt shared. “During the day, some ovens like ours can go into the 900 range.” It’s this high temperature that manages to do the impossible and actually brown vegan-cult-favorite Daiya mozzarella cheese.
Chef Matt let us know that, indisputably, the most popular items at F&D were all pizzas. When he joined the F&D team just over a year ago, one of his first orders of business was to elevate the pizza dough experience at the already popular restaurant. “Dough is incredibly simple,” Chef Matt shared. “It’s flour, water, salt… that’s it. But the timing of each step is everything. We perfected that. That’s why we have the best dough.” Each Wednesday when Chef Matt comes back on shift he makes himself a personal Margherita pizza.
We decided to try two of the other vegan pizza options on the menu: the Mushroom Pizza and the Beyond Rustica Pizza.
The Mushroom Pizza is made with vegan cream, mushroom, pepper flake, spinach, herbs, and Italian seasoning. Maybe it was the handfuls of nutritional spinach or maybe it was the lack of dense tomato sauce, but this wholesome pie was noticeably ‘lighter’ than everything else we tried at F&D. Call it deception–but I felt I could run a half-marathon after eating this. It was my favorite item on the menu.
The Beyond Rustica Pizza could not be more different from the Mushroom pizza. It is made with spice-infused Beyond-plant based sausage, sweet roasted red & yellow peppers, crushed tomato, shaved red onion, and vegan mozzarella. It’s heavy and savory, but brightened up with red and yellow peppers which add even more complex flavor to an already intricate flavor profile. “Everything is about flavor,” Chef Matt had shared with us earlier. This dish illustrates this reoccuring principle.
Insider Secret: Dough can be purchased directly from F&D for $6 per two dough balls. What a steal!
In addition to our two pizzas, we had to try two of their critically acclaimed pasta dishes: the Artichoke Scampi and the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle.
The Artichoke Scampi is F&D’s vegan take on their Shrimp Scampi. It features capellini pasta, sauteed artichoke, vegan chili butter, white wine, plump roasted cherry tomatoes, Calabrian chili & crispy pangrattato bread crumbs. Of F&D’s pasta, this is the lighter of the two. It’s bright yet still savory and incorporates many varying textures from smooth to crunchy. The artichoke stands in well for the traditional seafood that would come with this dish without turning to the processed alternatives that are widespread on the market today. The noodles we got were perfectly cooked and super delicious. I would get this pasta again.
F&D’s other pasta dish, the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle has caused quite the online stir. One reviewer wrote,
“My son who is a vegetarian recommended this dish to me. He never liked mushrooms before eating this dish. The sauce is so flavorful it leaves you guessing where all the flavor came from. We have been back multiple times, and it's the same great taste every time. Come hungry because this dish fills you up!”
Another echoed these thoughts and wrote,
“Incredible fresh noodles, creamy, rich, savory sauce. Deliciously cooked mushrooms with a light amount of herbs. Well balanced entree with just the right amount of savorinesss.”
The Wild Mushroom Pappardelle features Italian Trevi pappardelle, wild mushrooms, spinach, and a vegan porcini cream sauce. The noodles are thick and heavy like I remember spaetzle used to taste like in my pre-vegan days. In flavor profile, this dish mimics the taste of the Mushroom Pizza with a ragout-like gravy in place of plant-based cheese. This is probably the most substantial of all the vegan options on F&D’s menu.
We tried every vegan option on their ‘vegan specialties’ section of the menu except the Margherita Pizza. We did learn of one unlisted vegan option from our waitress: Zucchini Frittes.
Unlike other Zucchini Fries you may have had in the past, F&D’s beer-battered beauties are thick and hearty–more veggie than batter (which is my preference). These are vegan when ordered without the shaved cheese and when you turn down the herbed creme fraiche which usually comes alongside the marinara sauce. They are not overly fried since they still retain a satisfying crunch that tricks your sense into thinking you–just maybe–might be eating something healthy.
These were a surprising find and a huge hit!
HOW VEGAN-FRIENDLY IS F&D WOODFIRED KITCHEN?
F&D Woodfired Kitchen in Longwood is extremely friendly to vegans and vegetarians. Once reviewer online wrote it like this:
“Very plant-based friendly. Have recommended numerous times and am never disappointed. Highly recommend for vegans and meat lovers alike.”
The service is impeccable....the food delicious.....atmosphere unique.....ENJOY as we did!
We couldn’t agree more. We enjoyed eating our vegan items on the patio but have also dined indoors many times in the past. The ambiance is warm and inviting, the staff is always very kind, and we have never had to wait uncomfortably long for our food to arrive to our table. It’s an uncommon experience to have a restaurant that can both appease vegans and non-vegans, but F&D has struck a great balance in creating options for both.
We thank F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen for allowing us to stop by and survey a large variety of their vegan offerings. We also must send a big thanks to Chef Matt for the time he generously shared with us away from the kitchen. When asking him about his philosophy on food, he told us “Consistency. It always has to be right no matter what, first pie last pie, no matter what.” So you can make your dinner plans for F&D with confidence that your experience will be as good as ours was!
Chow down at F&D Woodfired Italian Kitchen in Longwood at 1000 W State Road 434, Longwood, FL 32750, open til 9 (or later) each night. Tell them The Sanford Vegan sent you :)