This summer marks my sixth year of living gluten-free. Over the course of that time, I’ve become much healthier due to my cleaner food choices and my focus on knowing all of the components that are contained within my food. Without boring everyone with the intricacies of my story, all you need to know is that I avoid all wheat, flour, and gluten and focus my diet on inherently healthy ingredients that are in many real foods.
With that being said (and given my Italian heritage), there are certain things I will never give up. And by “certain things,” I namely mean pizza. During my formative years, I waitressed at a pizzeria many a weekend — serving, processing takeout orders, and even bussing tables at Joe and Pat’s pizzeria on Staten Island. For all I know, pizza might even be in my blood, thickened by tomato sauce. What can I say?
My pizza adventure began when I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant in 2009. I searched high and low for options in New York City that would allow me this indulgence and wouldn’t cause me discomfort. Back then, I came across what I now like to think of as the gluten-free pizza staples, places that were in the forefront of catering to the gluten free community. On the Lower East Side there is Pala that has been serving Roman-style gluten-free pizza for what feels like ages. Mozzarelli’s has been a longtime haunt on 23rd Street across from Madison Square Park that produces countless gluten-free pies per day. And once upon a time the West Village’s Keste Pizza and Vino only offered gluten-free pies (senza glutine in Italiano) two nights a week. Now they have a permanent and extensive list.
Then there’s the new kids on the block like Michael White’s pizza place Nicoletta that has an amazing “gluten light” pie with a plethora of toppings to choose from. The Little Beat Table — both the restaurant and take-out outpost in Midtown — offer gluten-free flatbreads that are reminiscent of pizza and are also worthy of a good, solid bite, completely devoid of cross contamination as the entire kitchen is gluten-free.
Other restaurants have been picking up on the growing trend and are adding a gluten-free pizza to their menu. Most notably, I enjoy the gluten-free pizza from Trattoria Il Mulino (get the soppressata pie. Trust me).
I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that the thing to keep in mind is that being gluten-free and where you choose to eat all depends upon your personal sensitivity. If you have Celiac disease, you will go the route of eating at places that takes cross contamination very seriously and who prepare all of their gluten-free dishes in a separate, safe area. For those who are gluten-free due to an intolerance or a lifestyle choice, contamination isn’t as much of an immediate and detrimental health issue. Just know what your pizza provider is providing.
One thing is certain. There is not a gluten free pizza shortage in New York City:
My Budget Pick:
Price: $13 for the Margarita
Fair warning to all gluten-free pizza lovers out there: Nicoletta’s pizzas are known as “low gluten” instead of gluten-free. Given my last conversation I had with the folks there, the owners want to let all of their customers know about potential cross contamination. Fair enough!
As for me, I’m partial to the low gluten Calabrese pizza with thick cut pepperoni, fennel sausage, red onion, promodoro and mozzarella. My runner-up is Prosciutto pie with prosciutto di parma, shaved parmesan ricotta, caramelized onions and agro dolce. The pie is a perfect size for one person and I often find myself struggling to finish that last piece or two. While I do believe in leftovers, I’m usually so enamored with my pizza that we never even get to the doggy-bag point of the meal. I’ve been told that the secret to their delicious crust is just the right amount of honey added to the gluten-free dough.
My Bougie Pick:
Price: $22 for the Classic Rubirosa has been near and dear to my heart since its opening several years ago. AJ Pappalardo — son of Joe Pappalardo, owner of Joe and Pat’s on Staten Island — launched this chic, yet homey Italian comfort food restaurant with the hopes that everyone could enjoy their food. To that end, the restaurant has an entire gluten-free menu with items like rice balls and chicken parmigiana. But if you find me in Rubirosa, I’ll be damned if I’m not eating pizza. My two favorites are Rubirosa’s vodka pie ($24) with fresh mozzarella and vodka sauce and the Sausage & Broccoli rabe ($24) with sweet sausage, broccoli rabe and mozzarella. For the adventurous who miss meatballs on their pizza, try the Rubirosa Supreme topped with tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, meatball, and roasted garlic. The meatballs are free of gluten as well. The pizza is quite large and can easily be shared between two people. I would suggest, however ordering one gluten-free pie and then sampling one of their fresh salads or tasty appetizers like fried calamari dusted in corn flour.