Harley Young speaks with Ellie Kidsley, General Manager of Purezza Manchester, about the importance of being sustainable and inclusive in hospitality
Head to the Northern Quarter via High Street and you’ll stumble upon Purezza, a pizza parlour perched on the corner of one of the city’s trendiest neighbourhoods.
Purezza specialises in stonebaked sourdough, heaped with dietary-requirement and allergen-friendly toppings as well as generous helpings of ooey-gooey, melty mozzarella-style cheese (but without the carbon footprint). Everything at Purezza is made vegan, is sustainably sourced, and has both the consumer and the planet in mind.
You don’t have to be vegan to eat a Purezza, though. In fact, plenty of their customers aren’t but they keep coming back for the welcoming atmosphere, mindful mantra towards the environment, and delicious dough, of course. Who said you had to give up flavour to eat eco-consciously?
I spoke with Ellie Kidsley, General Manager of Purezza Manchester and Head of Brand at all three sites (Manchester, Camden and Brighton) to learn more about the pro-planet pizza parlour that’s taking the Northern Quarter by storm.
If you can make no difference to your bank account, make no difference to your flavour profile and maybe even find a new favourite dish, why wouldn’t you make that choice?
Tell me about the history of Purezza. How did it come to be?
It all started with the cheese. The owners, a couple called Tim and Stefania, wanted to create something amazing. They wanted to make Italian food accessible for everybody basically. Veganism is really important to them. The mozzarella recipe was around eight years in the making, and it's been developing ever since.
To get a vegan mozzarella that melts in a pizza oven that's over 400 degrees celsius in about 90 seconds is insane. It's crazy that they've done it. I think we're on maybe the second or third wave of the mozzarella, but it's beautiful.
So, first came the cheese, then we built the restaurants to showcase what we can do. We started down in Brighton first at a wee little branch - it’s really cute. Our Manchester site is kind of the baby age-wise, but also one of the biggest. Camden is a big, beautiful branch as well.
What would you say sets the Manchester branch apart from the others?
It definitely has its own vibe. I feel like Purezza Manchester has a more casual dining vibe and we suit this area quite well. There’s so many amazing vegan spots around us as well so it feels like we’re in the most perfect little, loving vegan community. We all look after each other.
It’s gorgeous being on this corner of the Northern Quarter, too. And, if I do say so myself, the restaurant is pretty beautiful - as well as being sustainably built. We tried to put all of our core values into the build so have upcycled loads of the seating and used vegan leather and plants to accessorise with. Everything has all been done with sustainability in mind.
Inclusivity and accessibility is a big part of Purezza’s ethos. How does the brand embody that and put those values into action?
I feel like we have a very welcoming and accessible vibe here. We hear that all the time and it’s one of my favourite pieces of feedback from customers - they feel like everyone is welcome.
Not only can we feed anybody - and we really can feed anybody; we cater for any allergies, celiac, nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free etcetera - but kids can eat here for free as well so we’re family and budget friendly. All of our toppings, cheeses, dips, meats, everything is all completely celiac safe - even the mac and cheese we make and the brioche buns on our burgers.
On top of that, it extends to inclusion for every single person regardless of race, gender, sexuality, beliefs and religions, or if someone has accessibility needs. We have everything covered. That was the absolute number one importance for me when I came in and took over. I feel like it's a very Manchester ethos to be welcoming to everybody and make sure everyone feels comfortable, welcomed and happy.
What’s your favourite menu item?
At the moment, my order is the pesto pizza with vegan bacon. The pesto pizza shows off our newest cheese; the Stracciazza. It’s a vegan version of the stracciatella which is like the cheese you get inside of a burrata. It’s on a marinara base, then the pesto and Stracciazza is added to look like the Italian flag.
It is absolutely out of this world.
Do you find that sometimes people prejudge you as a vegan, allergen-free restaurant?
A lot of times, people that perhaps don't have any allergies, just need a bit more convincing. Because once you’ve had that first bite, you realise “Oh, this is super legit.”
They look into the kitchen, see the pizza oven and hear those Italian voices and start to think “Okay, this is not only accessible to everybody, but it's also traditional, delicious and award winning.” The chefs have done amazing - they've won so many awards for our pizzas.
We’re actually on the judging panel of the National Pizza Awards, which is happening soon. Our head chef Filippo is judging that.
Why should everyone, not just vegans, strive to be more environmentally conscious when dining?
There’s a million reasons. But the main reason is for people to be able to live on a planet that they're not looking around, horrified to live on. That you feel like you’ve made a difference and the choices that you've made lead to a sustainable future.
We don't just do vegan food. For example, we get all our wines from a sustainable wine company. They even refill the wine bottles and drop them back off.
But if people can just occasionally make the choice to eat vegan you’d be shocked at the impact it has. The carbon footprint of a bowl of mozzarella is the equivalent of driving 15 km. So, if you could just not do that, imagine the difference it would make.
At Purezza, eating vegan doesn’t make any difference to your bank account either. We’re matching the same prices that everybody else is doing. If you can make no difference to your bank account, make no difference to your flavour profile and maybe even find a new favourite dish, why wouldn’t you make that choice?
We try to not lead with any sort of shame or guilt, we just encourage people to choose us occasionally.
What are you most proud of so far?
It makes me so proud that we're on this massive corner of the Northern Quarter in 2023 and there’s people queuing round the block to come in and eat vegan food. I just don’t think we would have had that 10 years ago.
We’re no longer in the ‘chickpea era’, as I call it. That we’ve come this far is outstanding. I'm so proud that we've created such an accessible and fun hotspot to come to where we're full every Saturday night and all of these people want to eat vegan food. That makes everything that happens completely worthwhile. I’m just really proud of what the team is doing.
What’s happening over the next couple of months at Purezza?
There’s loads of exciting things coming soon that I can’t quite disclose yet. But on 15 December we’re launching something really incredible that everybody should check out.
Until then, we've got loads of fun things happening every Friday night. We have our ‘Plant-Based Fridays’ where we have a DJ spinning tracks up in the tree house. It's such good vibes. They're just bringing the tunes while you eat your pizza.
Our Christmas menu launches on the 13 November too, along with the Christmas calzone that you need to try.
Purezza, 75-77 High St, Manchester M4 1FS
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