GF Friendly Restaurants

An Offer I CAN Refuse

14 Comments 05 December 2010

An Offer I CAN Refuse

I was thrilled when I heard that a local restaurant called Mafiaoza’s Pizzeria now offers a gluten-free pizza crust option.  Mafiaoza’s is a great little restaurant that we frequented before learning of my gluten intolerance.  I loved their mob motif.  With pizzas called “Brother Fredo”, “The Fed”, and “Brass Knuckles” combined with the dim lighting, you’re sure to feel like you’re in a scene from The Godfather.

Since I’ve learned of my gluten intolerance, I’ve only been to Mafiaoza’s for social reasons, mostly under duress, because all they could offer me was a dry salad.  Imagine eating iceburg lettuce while smelling gourmet pizza, bruschette, scampi cakes, and pastas.  That’s just pure mafia torture.

Since learning about Mafiaoza’s gluten-free pizza crust, I’ve been there twice.  Gluten-free pizza is “an offer I can’t refuse”.

But I don’t think I’ll be back again.

The fact that being gluten-free has become a fad has made dining out both easier and more dangerous at the same time.  It’s easier because there are more options for those who are truly gluten-intolerant or have Celiac disease.  But it’s more dangerous because some restaurants don’t understand the severity of the disease or that providing a gluten-free option doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe for them to offer one.

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Providing a gluten-free crust is not the same as offering a “low fat” or “low carb” option.  We are not trying to lose weight or jump on the latest celebrity diet.  We are trying to stay well.  This is a health and safety issue for us.  And I don’t think everyone understand that.

On our first visit, the Husband and I ordered two different gluten-free pizzas.

“The Greek” with plum tomatoes, red onion, black olives, green peppers, feta cheese, and a creamy Greek vinaigrette.

And “The Irate Italian” with garlic, pecorino romano cheese, mozzarella, and black olives.

I’m not quite sure what was going on in the kitchen that night, but look at the distribution of the toppings.  Someone was definitely in a hurry.

But “we don’t discuss business at the table”.

Regardless of the lack of symmetry, the pizza tasted delicious.  This was my first experience with French Meadow pizza dough, and it was delicious.

What was not excusable was the dangerous manner in which the pizzas were served.

“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

We were out to dinner with a family member who is not gluten intolerant.  She ordered a pizza on regular wheat dough.  When the three pizzas arrived, the server brought them out on a tray.  And to my horror, the crust of my gluten-free pizza was resting on the crust of the gluten-filled wheat pizza!

I didn’t make a scene.  The Husband, who is not gluten-intolerant, ate the contaminated part of the pizza.  And I ate the pieces farthest from that side.  I did not get sick from gluten that night, but it sure did make me wonder.  If that kind of carelessness occurred while serving, what was going on in the kitchen?  I did have a chance to talk to the manager, thanked her for offering gluten-free pizza, and suggested that she inform her servers about the dangers of  cross-contamination.

Last night, we tried Mafiaoza’s again with a non-gf couple.  When I ordered my gluten-free pizza, I asked the waitress what they did in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination.  She answered my question with a question that was very telling of the current climate.  (“…it insults my intelligence and it makes me very angry.)

Waitress:  “So, are you really allergic?”

Heather:  “Yes!”

Waitress:  “Then they’ll change their gloves and use a different cutting board and utensils.”

Would they have used those precautions if I hadn’t asked?

We ordered “The Irate Italian” again.  This time the toppings were slightly more evenly distributed, but what a dumping of black olives!

And we also ordered “The Last Request” with black olives, pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, portobello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, garlic, green peppers, red onions, and jalepenos.  The name truly fits the pizza.  If I had one last request before the mob did me in, this pizza would be my choice.

The pizzas were all served separately, so there was no cross-contamination between the kitchen and our table.  This pizza was divine.  I love hot and spicy food, and this flavorful pizza did not disappoint.

“Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as gift…”

But do you have any idea how much this 10-inch pizza cost?  They charged us the same price as their 12-inch pizza, which is already a ridiculous $19.00, plus $3.00 extra for the gluten-free crust.  A $22.00 10-inch gluten-free pizza in Nashville?  If we were in New York City, I might understand, but that’s a bit extreme.

“Sorry Johnny…but it’s only business.”

So, we won’t be back to Mafiaoza’s.  The risks in safety and the economics of it all are just not worth it to me.  There are plenty of other restaurants that have earned my trust with their commitment to serving those who are truly gluten intolerant.

“Mr. Corleone never asks a second favor once he’s refused the first, understood?”

How do you feel about the abundance of gluten-free offerings?  How has it affected you?

Your Comments

14 Comments so far

  1. Johnna says:

    One pizzeria here in KC charges $4 more for a gluten-free crust, yet the crust they use is about 33% smaller than their gluten crust. So I am getting less pizza AND paying more for it?

    I wish there was more education directed at restaurant staff about the difference between eliminating gluten as an option and eliminating it as medical necessity.

    • Heather says:

      Thank for commenting, Johnna. Hopefully we can start by increasing their awareness. But the price is just ridiculous! Two people, two small pizzas, two glasses of wine per person was over $90.00! For that price, I think I’d prefer a steak dinner, thank you!

  2. tanya says:

    We have a fantastic pizza place here with a section of the kitchen that is specifically GF and the price difference is crust is pretty minimal. Each that I have tried have been delicious! http://www.hellpizza.ca/

  3. Betsy says:

    We have had the same issue at a local pizza place. They charge $3 extra for a tiny pizza that is only so-so. We are also dairy intolerant so our options are a little more limited. We could see in their kitchen and it made me a little more wary. I don’t think they were giving our pizza any different care than the others.

    It ended up costing us $50 for three tiny pizzas that did not even begin to fill my husband and two young children. For that money I can go to a really amazing local restaurant that totally ‘gets’ gluten-free.

    • Heather says:

      Exactly! Worth trying once. (Or twice for those of us who are slow learners! Ha!)

      Have you tried Goat Cheese Mozzarella? My husband stays away from dairy, but he does fine with goat cheese.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • goat cheese mozzarella sounds awesome! Where do you get it? I’ve been using Daiya from Whole Foods and it’s a great alternative but a goat cheese option sounds awesome!

        • Heather says:

          I’ve never actually purchased goat cheese mozzarella. I’ve only ordered it out at restaurants. It was incredible on pizza in NYC, and we just recently found it at a little gf bakery in Chicago. I’m keeping my eyes open though!

          • Betsy says:

            I will have to look for goat cheese mozzarella. Like April, we use lots of Daiya and love it. We are going to NYC in a few months and would love any suggestions you have for pizza there.

  4. Heather says:

    Betsy, you HAVE to visit Pala when you’re in NYC. I wrote a post about our experience there:
    http://www.glutenfreecat.com/?p=484

    It’s my favorite gluten-free pizza anywhere! They have a dedicated gf oven, and they make you feel so comfortable that they’re taking care of you so you can relax and enjoy.

  5. Scot says:

    There is a pizza place at the shops in the Delta Room at Gaylord Opry Hotel. I think it is called Presario’s. They sell Gluten-free pizza slice for $4.75 (same as other slices) but they give you the French Meadow 8 inch pizza crust as the the slice, which is a good deal. The chefs were trained in gluten free preparation, and the French meadow crust avoids cross contamination since it bakes in it’s own aluminum pan.

    • Heather says:

      That’s great news! I will definitely check it out next time I’m at the Opryland Hotel. I’ve always heard that as a whole Opry treats their gluten-free customers very well. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Prefer Not To Share says:

    Wow! I feel for you. I was just recently diagnosed with celiac disease after a LIFETIME (26 years) of being misdiagnosed with other conditions (hypothyroid disease, malnutrition, kidney stones… etc)… So I am still in the doing-my-homework stage.

    The holidays were the worst. My parents are in disbelief. In their eyes: How can I ‘suddenly’ be allergic to something I have been consuming all my life? … Well, how could they not see it after how sick I have been all my life? I was my ‘healthiest’ when I was anorexic.

    Sorry if this seems over dramatic, but after having my mom sneak in wheat flour where she can… I no longer trust her – OR ANYONE – with my food but myself. Eating out? No. Accepting a meal from loved ones or the significant other? Even a restaraunt that claims the pizza is gluten free? No and HECK NO. I just refuse to do it.

    How do you guys deal with family and friends not only trying to offer food but becoming angry that you refuse to eat what they made?


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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, fitness fanatic, gluten-free foodie, high-raw vegan, and Mama Cat living in NYC. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. While I'm not 100% vegan, it's my favorite way to eat, and making and sharing raw foods makes me giddy. Living in the City has its joys and challenges, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

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