PIZZA AND PASTA
Gluten-free pizza is available at Pizzeria Piccola, a Bartolotta
restaurant in Milwaukee, where chef Juan Urbieta developed a
seven-grain pizza crust after much research and trial and error.
The grains, which he says balance each other out, are buckwheat,
sorghum, potato starch, tapioca starch, teff, cornmeal and rice flour.
“The main challenges are texture and flavor. A lot of those
grains have strong flavors,” Urbieta says. “I finally came up with
one we were happy with.”
Pizzas are baked in the wood-burning oven. Some crusts are
frozen for customers who like to take them home and put on their
The original Pizzeria Piccola is next door to the group’s
flagship Ristorante Bartolotta in the Milwaukee suburb of
Wauwatosa, where pasta is integral. Urbieta’s gluten-free fresh
pasta contains rice flour, cornstarch, eggs, olive oil, sea salt and
parsley. “We puree a bit of parsley and mix it into the dough to
turn it a beautiful green color, like spinach, which helps everyone
know which is which,” he explains.
Roughly 5% of customers order gluten-free pasta, which often
is tagliatelle. If customers want a gluten-free pizza, staff can make
it next door and bring it over.
Gluten-free pizzas also are possible to make on a larger scale,
such as by the 16-unit Texas-based Pie Five Pizza Co. All crusts
are made in each unit from a flour mixture purchased from an
outside supplier, chosen after corporate chef Andy Wittman and
staff sampled “hundreds” of products, he says. The one they use is
made from ancient grains, such as amaranth, teff and sorghum.
Although only bet ween 5% and 10% of customers order gluten-free pizzas, Wittman says that number makes it worthwhile to go
through the extra effort. Each unit takes the necessary precautions
to prevent cross-contamination, including immediately packaging
the gluten-free pizzas in single-use boxes instead of placing them
on trays when they finish baking.
Preventing cross-contamination is absolutely essential for
restaurant owners who aspire to earn gluten-free certification
from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. At the
Berghoff Cafe in Chicago, for instance, when alerted that a diner
is gluten-intolerant, the kitchen staff prepares everything for that
order using separate cutting boards, knives, pans, plates, etc. Each
dish is brought out separately instead of on trays with other orders,
says spokesperson Ashley Malmquist.
The Berghoff began offering gluten-free options a few
years ago, when one of owner Carlyn Berghoff’s daughters was
diagnosed with celiac disease. In addition to the expected dishes,
the restaurant’s chefs are developing a gluten-free spaetzle, the
Old World European-style miniature dumplings that have been a
signature of the restaurant since the Berghoff family opened it in
the early 1900s.
BREADINGS AND SWEETS
Gluten-free breadings for fish and other foods also are
being developed in restaurant kitchens around the country.
Mehtaphor in New York uses chickpea flour to bread fried
squid, and sister restaurant Graffiti uses it to bread skate wing.
Crushed blue corn tortilla chips are the primary breading
ingredient for salmon at Melvin’s Juice Box at Dream Downtown
hotel in New York. Executive chef Michael Armstrong uses
only corn tortillas rather than flour ones at his new Bodega
Negra in the hotel.
Desserts made with flour are no longer banned in the gluten-free diet. Pastry chef Christina Lee at Recette in New York
substitutes rice and nut flours for wheat flour in desserts such
as chocolate molasses gateaux with candied walnuts, vanilla/
anise ice cream and prune coulis.
Even wedding cakes can be gluten-free and maintain good
flavor and texture. Chris Siversen, chef/owner of Maritime Parc
in Jersey City, N.J., who lost 70 pounds and feels much better
since going gluten-free himself, offers wedding cakes made
from rice flour through his catering division.
In spite of the growth of gluten-free alternatives being
served in restaurants, challenges remain, especially in baking
applications, says Robert Jorin, team leader of the baking
and pastry program at The Culinary Institute of America at
Greystone, St. Helena, Calif.
“There is still a lot to be done,” Jorin points out. “We
chefs just have to experiment and play with it and figure it out
CHICAGO-BASED WrITEr CArOLyN WALkUP SPECIALIzES IN FOOD, BEvErAGE AND
rES TAUrAN T SUBJECTS OF NATIONAL IN TErES T FOr TrADE AND CONSUMEr MEDIA.