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Buon appetito: Italian chef debuts vegan eatery in Park Slope

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Call it verdure Italiano!

An Italian chef opened a vegan and vegetarian eatery in Park Slope that puts a healthy twist on some of her favorite red-sauce staples. The menu items at La Vellutata do not all come straight from Italy, but that doesn’t stop the cook from drawing inspiration from some of her home country’s signature foods, she said.

“People ask, ‘why isn’t it full Italian?’ But in Italy, I don’t only eat pizza and pasta. It’s internatio­nal,” said Elisa Mazzucato, who moved to New York from her native Venice last year to open the casual-takeout restaurant. “And I like Italian food, but I like healthier versions.”

The eatery serves a selection of sweets, creamy soups, fruity salads, and veggie-filled burgers such as the “parmigiana burger,” a take on the classic dish made with a veggie patty topped with eggplant, tomatoes, vegan mayo, and basil.

Other burgers feature tofu, veggie, and curry patties, shiitake bacon instead of meat, and toppings including avocado mash, tomato and coriander, roasted kale and beetroot, basil, and beet ketchup.

Mazzucato said the three soups she offers closely resemble Italian stews that are typically packed with veggies, meats, and spices.

The chili-broccoli soup, which the chef said is the most popular, is made with vegan cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, chili pepper, cashew nuts, and bread crumbs. The Parmentier is a take on the classic potato-and-leek soup, seasoned with saffron and hempseed. And the Norway — served hot and cold — features the flavors of beetroot, onion, star anise, fresh dill, and home-made wasabi sauce.

Mazzucato sources the ingredients from area vendors — a move she made after scaling back her initial desire to have them shipped from her home country.

“When I started, I thought I could get [ingredients] from Italy, but it’s very expensive,” she said. “Now, I only want local.”

La Vellutata officially debuted in November after Mazzucato decided to open it in the family-friendly, gym-filled neighborhood, according to the general manager of the eatery — the name of which means “velvet,” to evoke the inventive and creamy soups that are the cornerstone of its menu.

“She toured all these different places, and found people are health-conscious in this neighborho­od,” said Santhosh Umapathi.

About half of the regulars are vegans, Umpathi said, with the other half being meat-eaters willing to try the veggie-filled foods.

Beyond the chili-broccoli soup, regulars also favor the sweet chocolate burger — made with coconut flower, oat flakes, hazelnut grain, mango sauce, and fresh mint — according to Mazzucato, who said she cooked up the menu items following her years working at restaurants in Italy, including the one her parents operate.

The chef hopes to add more gluten-free options, vegan shakes, and lighter soups by summer, and wants to eventually expand within the city — and beyond.

“She has some big plans,” Umapathi said.

La Vellutata [172 Fifth Ave. between Degraw and Sackett streets in Park Slope, (917) 909-1818, www.lavellutatanyc.com.] Open Mon. – Sat., 10 am–10 pm; Sun., 9 am–3 pm.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:50 pm, July 9, 2018
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