Gluten Free and Going Out for Pizza

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A restaurant may have gluten-free crust, but that doesn’t mean it has gluten-free pizza. As always when eating out with celiac disease I check into the potential cross-contamination issues before I order.

Many places offer gluten-free pizza but assemble it in the same spot as the regular pizza. There is a high risk of cross-contamination from the cooks having their hands in flour and touching all the toppings. Gloves can’t help here if the ingredients are already contaminated. Not to mention the flour floating around in the air and settling into the containers of toppings if the cooks are hand-tossing the crust.

If the pizzas are baked in the same oven, I want to know if any precautions are taken to keep the gluten-free crust from sitting directly where the regular pizza does. Finally, I check to see if they have separate blades for cutting the pizza when it comes out of the oven.

Ideally, a restaurant assembles the pizzas in two different locations, using separate ingredients, then keeps them separate during the baking process. In my experience, very few places do this.

One restaurant I trust is Mountain Mike’s on Clairemont Drive in San Diego. The first time I went there I happened to meet Sam, the owner. He started offering gluten-free pizza because his daughter has celiac disease. He was headed over to her school because it was pizza day and wanted her to have a gluten-free pizza to eat with the other kids.

The staff is well trained and happy to answer any questions pertaining to food handling. They take pride in the fact that they know what they’re doing to keep the customers safe and the many options they have for the celiac diner, including a variety of gluten-free beers and hard cider.

Their gluten-free pizza is made in a separate station in the back with all separate ingredients. Although they use the same oven to bake the pizzas, the gluten-free ones go through on a pan lined with double-thick parchment paper. Once finished, they are sliced with a different blade.

They use corn or another wheat-free version of flour up front in the preparation of the regular pizza so there is less risk of cross-contamination from particles floating through the air then settling onto the prep tables.

Mountain Mike’s pizza isn’t just safely gluten free, it’s good. The gluten-free crust comes in only one size—10 inches. It is made off site from a mix of rice, tapioca and potato flours. It’s thin and crisp with a touch of sweetness.

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The tomato sauce is delicious with a hint of oregano. The veggies have a slight char but still have some crunch to them.

The true test of good pizza is how it fares cold, and I love this right out of the refrigerator.

Mountain Mike’s is a chain. Although many of the locations offer gluten-free crust, I have no idea if they take the care that Sam does to prevent cross-contamination.

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