GLUTEN-FREE gluten-free pizza prism
one are the days when restaurants merely gave gluten-free designation to menu
items that didn’t contain the elastic substance to begin with. Also gone are the days
when celiac disease was the main reason to add gluten-free items to the menu.
Pizza is one of the biggest categories to watch, considering the strides made to bring viable
options to the table. It’s been an uphill climb for operators, given gluten-free pizza’s short history
on U.S. menus, the ingredient-replacement learning curve and cross-contamination concerns.
Italy had its gluten-free pizza renaissance about 10 years ahead of the U.S., says San Francisco-
based Tony Gemignani, author, and owner of 12 restaurants and the International School of Pizza.
He also is an 11-time World Pizza Champion. He attends the World Pizza Championship in Italy
each year and notes that Italy first had a gluten-free pizza competition in about 2000. There was
not a gluten-free category in U.S. pizza competitions until about 2010.
He sees great hope for the U.S. market with regards to gluten-free, which has catapulted in the
past two years, thanks, in part, to the great flour blends available from Italy, he says, adding, “In
the U.S., when we get into a renaissance, we really get into it and make it commercial.” Much of
the activity starts at the competition level among independent operators, then, chains get on board.
As an early adopter, fast-casual Pizza Fusion, Boca Raton, Florida, opened the first of 20 units with
gluten-free options in 2006. The category fit with the chain’s business model and its mission statement
to uphold the integrity of its food and care for the health of its customers and the environment.
“We found a growing customer segment with celiac disease, and we saw it as an opportunity,”
says Vaughan Dugan, CEO/co-founder. However, interest in gluten-free options has morphed
from avoiding gluten allergic reactions to a diet trend of simply trying to limit gluten intake. In
Many considerations go into
the success of the niche pie. By Jody shee
OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP:
1) gluten-free margherita pizza from
sPiN! Neapolitan Pizza.
2) The gluten-free pizzas available from Pieology
Pizzeria have a slightly sweeter flavor
profile than pizzas with a traditional
crust, yet are still crispy and have
slightly less chew.
3) since Pieology
Pizzeria opened in 2011, its gluten-free
crusts have gone through several refining
4) gluten-free veggie pizza with
sliced tomatoes, artichokes and arugula
5) gluten-free meat-lovers
pizza with peppers from PieQ.