New York City’s love affair with pizza is well-documented. Right now, New Yorkers especially are obsessed with Roman style pizza (the chewier, more glutinous version). To counter balance this super-gluten pizza craze, some of the city’s best pizzerias are now offering gluten-free crusts that are a surprisingly tasty (and healthy) alternative to the traditional pie.
While you might think “gluten-free” and “pizza” should not be in the same sentence, recent research has shown that limiting (and in some cases eliminating) gluten can be beneficial to your health. Even if you don’t have Celiac’s disease (the clinical gluten sensitivity syndrome), it can’t hurt to forgo gluten the next time you’re out indulging in New Yorker’s favorite junk food.
Luckily, the following restaurants are way ahead of the curve on this health trend: Kesté, the famed West Village pizzeria, offers three of its delicious pizzas with the option of a gluten-free crust; Risotteria, the long time gluten-free diet establishment, offers way more than pizza; Pala, a downtown gluten-free staple, has the most options (including vegan), and also makes many gluten-free pastas; and pizza-by-the-slice joint Mozzarelli’s is known for pleasing the palates of gluten-free eaters on the go.
Vibe: Authentic New York does Italian pizzeria vibe. Given that celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Donatelli Arpaia have sung its praises, be prepared to wait for a table.
The dish: I had to fight my boyfriend from stealing slices of my gluten-free Margherita. The crust was surprisingly chewy and just as good, though different, than their regular crust pie. The secret to owner Rosario Procino’s crust? “Caputo gluten-free flour from Italy, which consists of rice starch, cornstarch, potato starch, soy flour, and sugar,” he says. My only complaint: With just three options (two being the vegan-friendly Marinara and the lardo-topped Mast’Nicola), Kesté may not offer enough variety for the gluten-sensitive (sorry folks—no additions, no substitutions).
Price: $15–$18 (12-14 inch pie)
Bottom line: A- Gets a thumbs-up from foodies and from gluten-free fanatics.
Kesté, 271 Bleecker St.; gluten-free Mondays and Tuesdays; www.kestépizzeria.com
Vibe: Across the street from Kesté, this well known gluten-free restaurant has a similar West Village bistro feel. While they serve gluten-free pizza, their pastas and risottos are far superior to their pies.
The dish: The gluten-free bread sticks that come before your meal are worth a visit alone. But the flavor of Risotteria’s pizza crust is distinctively un-Italian. Come here for the other gluten-free fare like lemon pine nut risotto or linguine with spicy marina.
Price: $14-18 (14 inch pie)
Bottom Line: B- This restaurant has lots of yummy gluten-free options beyond pizza, which is just as well, since their pies are a bit lackluster. (Especially when you can get a great Margherita across the street.)
Risotteria, 270 Bleecker St., www.risotteria.com
Vibe: Pizza by candlelight, plus outdoor seating. In addition to ambiance, Pala is known for serving tasty pizza and pasta dishes that cater to the culinary curious but dietary challenged.
The dish: The crust is a bit lackluster, bland, and doughy. But the quality of the toppings somewhat compensates for this taste transgression. Best of the bunch: The featured pies like the Etna with eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta, and basil, which have excellent topping combinations. This place also makes some solid vegan pies.
Price: $14–$21 (14 inch pie)
Bottom line: B While the crust is not as good as Kesté’s, the overall pie is solid and the amount of options is appealing. If you’re usually wary of indulging in bread and cheese, healthier options here might inspire you to eat pizza a little more often.
Pala, 198 Allen St., www.palapizza.com
Vibe: The Madison Square Park spot is more of a take-out place (no table service) known for its surprisingly delicious gluten-free fare on the go.
The dish: The thin, gluten-free crust is remarkably similar to the restaurant’s white flour crust. Since you can customize a slice to your liking, you can load up on veggies to make it even healthier.
Price: It’s the only restaurant of the four that sells gluten-free pizza by the slice: $3.95 (a $1 extra gets you up to three toppings); $24 for a whole pie (18 inches).
Bottom line: B+ The most authentically New York-style pizza, Mozzarelli’s is a must if you regularly eat gluten-free. The super-casual atmosphere is not conducive to an evening out. Mozzarelli’s, 38 East 23rd Street; or uptown at Naussbaum & Wu, 2897 Broadway; www.mozzarellis.com