When locals think about the southwestern Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, the words "crunchy granola" often come to mind. That's not too far off, but might I suggest the more apropos "spicy eggless mayonnaise" instead? Fiore's Bakery, built into the bottom floor of a triple-decker on South Street, boasts a number of vegan sandwiches and desserts, which is par for the course in this funky neighborhood where Earth-minded folks, bike-riding parents, and health-focused hipsters coalesce. And while I'm no vegan, this ain't no tasteless rabbit food, either. In fact, as far as this meat eater is concerned, the animal-free menu options are the bakery's biggest draw.
Many of Fiore's sandwiches are named after local attractions such as the Harvard University-owned Arnold Arboretum and community theater group the Footlight Club. As such, the moniker "Italian Maki" ($8.45) is a tad puzzling, since there's seemingly nothing Jamaica Plain-specific, overtly Japanese, or particularly Italian about this sandwich. Etymological quibbles aside, it's one of the neighborhood's best.
Start by choosing your bread; owner Charlie Fiore recommends the springy, house-made grilled focaccia. Inside, slices of crinkle-cut eggplant, lightly breaded and fried, are layered with bright basil pesto, sweet caramelized onions, buttery avocado slivers, and a cascade of alfalfa sprouts. The aforementioned bright orange mayo, flecked with red pepper, falls far short of volcanic, but if you're squeamish about spice, Charlie assures you it can come on the side. The sandwich has a lot of textural contrast, from the cushiony bread straight through to the creamy avocado and the crunch of the fried eggplant.
If you eat in-house, you'll also get a mesclun mix, dressed lightly in balsamic, and farfalle salad bathed in chili oil (if you want the sides to go, be sure to request them). And don't stop at the sandwich: Order a cup of coffee or a freshly blended fruit smoothie, grab a nearby seat and ogle that pastry display—those beautiful vegan cupcakes aren't going to eat themselves.