It's not always decadent dough and melty cheese, greasy pepperoni and rich marinara. Sometimes pizza, like Dellz' Jazzy, looks like a tortilla shell dressed with veggies, mango, fresh sliced avocado, and black beans drizzled with lime. No one knows this better than Smarel Nicole Brown, owner of Dellz on the Macon and daughter of Dellz Uptown owner, Maudell Grayson.
"I've been vegan for 10 years," says Brown. "I know how it feels to eat a heavy meal — my goal is to make people food that won't do that. Food is fuel." While Dellz on the Macon is not an exact replica of the downtown spot — Brown is focusing more on tonics and juices — the restaurant owner and health food devotee still serves that famous Jazzy Pizza, as well as her version of it, the Picky Nikki.
"It's a spin on the Jazzy. People will eat it whether they're vegan or not." The Nikki is decidely lighter than the Jazzy, with cauliflower rice or quinoa instead of brown rice, plus a very light shell. "A lot of people have allergies, some people don't even do vegan cheese," says Brown. She's more than happy to accommodate — and beyond that, wants to educate the customers frequenting the North Charleston spot at 2021 Reynolds Ave.
"People are coming here and they'll say, 'what do you recommend for high blood pressure' or 'I have a problem digesting this kind of food' or 'What can I do to get rid of a cold, a headache,'" says Brown. In addition to bestowing her wisdom about food and what it does for our bodies, Brown also offers a sliding scale, and a chance to pay it forward.
- Ruta Smith
"The pay it forward program, people will come in and buy a few meals and we put them on our top shelf. And it's not always given to people who can't afford it, maybe someone is having a bad day. We tell them [the recipient of the free meal] 'your meal is taken care of, do you want to pay it forward?'"
Brown, even in a short interview, can't help herself from diving into a quick lesson on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. After reading, writing, and feasting on pizza (the non-vegan, double meat kind), we're all ears.
"There are primary and secondary foods," says Brown. "Primary is emotional and physical well being — cooking, finances, work, and when any of that is out of wack, we look at secondary foods, the foods we consume. For instance, when a woman craves something sweet, like chocolate."
Brown says the mistake we make is that we shouldn't be scarfing down that store bought milk chocolate, because although it's the sugar rush we feel and think we crave, it's actually our bodies and hormones wanting magnesium, like the kind we find in raw cacao.
So next time you crave a deep dish pie with all the toppings, pause. "I want to educate the community about a plant-based lifestyle," says Brown. "Not to be vegan, but to know you can get control of your health, that life will go on if you don't eat meat and dairy. I want to feed people what I feel comfortable feeding my three year old son, what I feel comfortable feeding the oldest and youngest person in my family."
Vegan and healthy doesn't mean boring and paltry — I mean, have you tried the Jazzy or the Picky Nikki? Flavor explosion. Pizza comes in all shapes and sizes, and Brown and the whole Dellz family prove that sometimes you can devour an entire pie and not feel bad about it. Sometimes, it'll even make you feel downright jazzy.