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647.428.7432741 Pharmacy Avenue, Toronto, ON

By Jennifer Bain

Food, Thu., April 9, 2015, The Star

How many restaurant kitchens have you been in where the chefs burn frankincense and read from the Bible while extracting milk from coconuts and chopping vegetables?

I’ve been in one — Ital Vital Rastarant.

That’s not a typo for restaurant. This vegan takeout and juice bar is run by two Rastafarian men, Arnold “Makus” Freeman and Michael “Drey” Stephens.

Rasta food is always vegetarian, often vegan. 

Here at Ital Vital on Pharmacy Rd. just south of Eglinton, it embraces vegetables, fresh coconut milk, soy protein meat substitutes, basmati rice and chow mein noodles. Seasoning is simple, usually Bragg liquid soy seasoning (a soy or tamari substitute that’s free of wheat, sugar, salt, alcohol and preservatives), a little sea salt here and some garlic powder, cinnamon or cloves there.

“We don’t believe in killing or hurting things in the world, so that’s why we are vegan,” Freeman explains. “We believe in one love.”

Like Stephens, he’s from Guyana so there’s a West Indian sensibility to the ever-changing menu. The men have been in Canada long enough to even throw veganized shepherd’s pie, lasagna and spaghetti and “meat” balls into the mix.

Meals are takeout and run from $7 to $13.50, depending on how much food you want. You usually get rice and peas, non-GMO barbecue soy and chow mein plus a choice of stews made from things like Caribbean pumpkins, callaloo (a leafy green), chickpeas, okra, zucchini, butter beans and bok choy.

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