The popularity of adding a gluten-free pizza to the menu may have you elated or shaking in your boots.  Many restaurants are adding gluten free pizza to their repertoire  of fancy pizzas, but how are they treating them and is there cross contamination and do they take that seriously?  Here are a few questions to ask (probably during a slow time) to find out if that gluten-free pizza is really safe.

5. Which toppings are gluten free?

If they have a gluten free menu, then likely they are listed for you on there.  But if they don’t you’re going to have to ask.  And they should know the answer.  When I interviewed Laura Hansen at Pizza Luce last spring, she said her kitchen managers have to review all of their order guides and ALL ingredients. At the time Hansen said, “This is very tedious for the Kitchen Manager, however it is valuable knowledge (they go through all their ingredients and look for hidden sources of gluten)”.  Plus there are additional hours of training staff and kitchen prep. “…it’s not quick and we take it very seriously” Hansen said.

Clean Cutting Utensils in the Kitchen

Clean Cutting Utensils in the Pizza Luce Kitchen

4. Do you use clean cutters and cutting board?

The answers should be yes!  If the restaurant is doing a gluten-free pizza, they should have a dedicated area with separate utensils.

3. How do I know the pizza you’re giving me is indeed gluten free?

Donatelli’s in White Bear Lake, Minnesota uses a separate kind of dish or tray for their gluten-free items so everyone knows which plate is gluten-free. We checked into their restaurant last spring.

2. Does the staff seem educated?

If they don’t know what you’re talking about, either leave or talk to the manager.  Sometimes a gluten-free item is added and the wait staff knows nothing about it.  Which doesn’t sound like a great way of doing things.  But it can happen!  Knowledgeable staff is a great way to promote for restaurants to promote their gluten-free pizza or menu.

1. Are they using the same sauce (and spoon or ladle) on the gluten-free pizza and the others too?

This could be cross contamination at the very beginning.  They go to the trouble of buying gluten free crusts, but then mess it up with sauce and ladle that have been cross contaminated by spreading it onto other gluteny crusts.  This is a restaurant that doesn’t understand gluten-free.  Yes there’s one out there right now.

The Tavern Grill in Blaine, Minnesota.  I talked with them recently and they said they use the same sauce and ladle on the gluten-free and gluteny pizza crusts. They said they can do it with clean sauce and utensils but you need to ask for it. I explained to them that what they’re doing by promoting gluten-free pizza and then not ensuring it is as gluten free as possible, is not right.  I said “Anyone who is coming in here to get a gluten-free pizza is not going to know to ask for fresh sauce!”  (Okay there might be some people, but that’s not the point). They did tell me they use a separate cutter, use fresh gloves on the toppings and a separate area  to bake it in the oven.  But alas, no separate sauce.  The person I talked to said they would take my recommendations under consideration.  I hope they change for the better!!!!!

So I just recommend to tread cautiously when getting a gluten-free pizza — not all of them are as gluten-free as the others. If you have additional tips, feel free to add them in the comments below!

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9 Responses to “The Top 5 Questions to Ask When Ordering Gluten Free Pizza”

  1. Amy – Excellent post! We were in Gainesville, FL in November and I popped into a pasta place to ask if they had gluten-free pasta. I was already walking by and expected to be told they did not have it. However, I was delighted when the counter person said “yes, we do”. My excitement was quickly deflated when I asked which sauces were gluten-free. Not only did the girl not know the answer – neither did the manager on duty or the regional manager he called to ask. Any place that serves gluten-free pasta, but doesn’t know if any of their sauces are gluten-free is certainly guilty of jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon without having a clue what that actually means.

    Same goes for pizza places that don’t know what besides their gluten-free crust is safe. I had a manager call me to tell me all about their gluten-free pizza last year. When I started asking questions the woman could not answer, she finally said “well, there could only be gluten in the crust, right?”. It’s ridiculous, to say the least.

  2. Thank you Tiffany for your comment. I agree with you 100%. Your pasta conversation and my pizza one…sound oh so familiar!
    Keep up the good work!

  3. We loved Donatelli’s the other night. Just LOVED to see my daughter smile while she ate. The wait staff did know a lot, special plates. When the mints came she didn’t eat them as she didn’t know if they were GF. I stopped the waiter on the way to the bathroom and he knew that they were NOT GF. bummer she couldn’t have them but I felt good that he knew that. It is a long drive there for us, but oh so worth the drive.

  4. There’s a local chain in the Baltimore MD area, Season’s Pizza, that we noticed had GF pizza on the menu for some of their locations. My father stopped by and asked about it, as a precursor to my family stopping by for a visit, and was told that the GF dough was rolled out on the same surface as the regular dough and the the cheese was shredded in the same equipment that handles the dough. So all I could do at that point was leave some feedback on their website discussing the issue.

    So far, my wife has not had issues with the GF pizza at Uno Chicago Grill, but I don’t think we asked in depth questions about each component.

  5. This is a terrific post! I shared it with all my gf facebook friends. My heart just sinks when you ask a question about a foods gluten-free status, and all you get is a blank look. You know you’re doomed! And that you should just walk away!

  6. Thank you Tina. I am glad you liked the post.
    Nancy its great when you can find a place that gets it!
    Rob– this was the exact point of my post– not all gluten-free pizza is equally safe. It’s crazy but true.
    Probably because there are no standards out there– that’s my guess anyway.

  7. Great list of questions! I had been thinking about this and shaking in my boots at the many thoughts of it. Thanks!

  8. I had a similar experience in a place that advertised GF pizza in Oceanside, NY. They had no information and the man behind the counter was very happy to listen to me and washed the cutter, ladle etc. He told me it came on its own metal tray so that was not a problem and had no idea about cross contamination.

    Shouldn’t the GF companies sending out this pizza include directions and/or handling information?

    People do not realize how sick you can get from cross contamination. It has happened to me and I am debilitated for a few hours – projectile vomiting, etc. It is very scary for me.

  9. There is a chain called BJs Brewery that serves GF pizza. They bake it top shelf (so there is no contamination coming down onto it from other pizzas) and the top shelf is reserved for GF. The kitchen’s utensils are clean and so far (in 3 different restaurants) the waiters are up to par with the needs of the GF consumer. The pizza has a good flavor and they have a list of the GF toppings so you’re sure to get only what you should eat.

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