A Virtual NYC Gluten-Free Pizza Crawl
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month (and to think I have yet to receive a Hallmark card from any of you!), so I decided to pay homage to the heroes of the hour: the growing number of NYC Italian restaurateurs who have taken it upon themselves to devise exceptional gluten-free pizza for those of us unwilling to suffer a fate of crappy, cardboardy pizza-like foodstuffs while living in the world’s greatest pizza town.
In honor of these pizza heroes, I have devised a virtual Gluten-free pizza crawl for locals and tourists alike, so get out your subway maps, bring a friend, and come see New York through the eyes of a hungry, pizza-loving nutritionist.
Stop #1: Palà Pizza
Our crawl begins downtown on the Lower East Side at Palà, a very celiac-friendly and vegetarian-friendly joint with pizza, pasta and appetizer options (the latter of which are made in a dedicated fryer) for the gluten-free crowd. GF pizzas are baked in a dedicated oven and are made with a soy-free dough. All 14 pizza varieties are available gluten-free (here’s to freedom of choice!), and what amazing variety it is! With cocktails and wine served, dairy-free cheese options and a vegan-friendly menu as well, Pala is a very good choice for groups of fussy people with a host of annoying food allergies, intolerances or pickiness. (In other words, any group of people that includes me.)
Stop #2: L’asso
We continue our crawl further uptown in Nolita, just around the corner from the crowd of tourists lined up outside one of NYC’s most venerable pizza attractions, Lombardi’s (which claims to be the birthplace of NYC pizza). Although Lombardi’s has nothing to offer people like us, L’asso certainly does: a dedicated gluten-free prep station and section of their brick oven used to prepare uber-fresh, gorgeous, crispy-bottomed-but-chewy-crusted gluten free pizza (and a few tempting GF pasta options as well.) On the day I visited, Margherita was the only GF pie option, but a friend who frequents the place reports that sometimes there are other options as well. No matter, though. The single 12″ pie I received (pictured above) was elegant in its simplicity and so flavorful; it allegedly feeds one, but I was stuffed after finishing just half of it…along with a side order of broccoli rabe, of course. The non-GF pizza menu is outrageously tempting, and should help you lure your wheat-eating friends out of the Lombardi’s queue to join you at this decidedly hipper joint. And if that doesn’t work, tell them that L’asso also serves Stumptown coffee (yum) and gelato from my favorite NYC gelato joint, L’arte de Gelato (double yum).
Stop #3: Kesté Pizza & Vino
If it’s a Monday or Tuesday, walk westward and slightly north until you hit the West Village, home to Kesté Pizza & Vino on Bleecker Street. Kesté is renowned for its incredibly authentic Neapolitan-style pizza–arguably among NYC’s best version of this genre, which has inspired an almost cult-like following. On Mondays and Tuesdays only, the wood-burning, bell-shaped brick oven turns out three stunning varieties of gluten-free pizza–2 vegetarian (Margherita and Marinara) and one porcine (Mast’ Nicola, with lardo). Given the Italian owner’s puritanical focus on authenticity, you are most certainly not going to be disappointed. One caveat: the gluten-free pizza dough contains soy flour, so those of you who are allergic or intolerant may want to skip this stop on the crawl.
Stop #4: Mozzarelli’s
Heading north to Madison Square Park is a quick stop on our crawl: a typical NYC pizzeria where you can pop in for a slice to take out or eat quickly at the counter. What’s different about this place, though, is its selection of gluten-free pizzas (typically 3-4 choices), sold by the square slice. There’s always at least one option loaded with veggies, and your slice will be heated on a piece of foil in the pizza oven to prevent cross-contamination with the restaurant’s other non-GF options. The crust is on the thinner side and respectably crispy, and when you sprinkle on the red pepper flakes and garlic powder, it scratches that basic NYC pizza itch you’ve been contending with for all these years. The best part? When you pay for your GF slice at the register, they gift you a little pouch with 2 GF cookies of the Italian-bakery style you remember from childhood. If you like them, a whole wall display is stocked with boxes of them to take home. Of course, if you’re continuing onward with me on this crawl, you’d better not fill up on them…
Stop #5: Nizza
As we make our way into midtown and the theater district, cut west to 9th Avenue for Nizza, a gem of a restaurant among some generally mediocre dining options. The restaurant, whose menu is inspired by the cuisines of the French and Italian rivieras, has a full gluten-free menu in addition to its beautiful regular menu… and even treats its celiac guests to gluten-free breadsticks while they wait. Last time I was there, I was tempted by the many socca options– a chickpea flour-based pizza-esque delicacy that originated in Nice,
France and is cooked in a brick oven. I wound up ordering the Socca & Eggs (with yet another side of broccoli rabe), which was an incredibly indulgent and rich dish… great for brunch, but probably not the best choice for your 5th stop on our pizza crawl. Don’t worry, they have plenty of lighter options, too.
Stop #6: Slice
Can you make room for one more slice? Let’s walk for a bit to the Upper East Side where Slice is serving up allergy-friendly, organic pizza options alongside local, NY State wines to health-conscious locavores like us. Slice’s very appealing marketing angle is that you can build your own slice, build your own pie (in personal or family-style sizes) or choose from one of their set pie options. They’ve got gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and nut-free options, so you can take even your most food allergic nephew here for a true NYC pizza experience. If you don’t feel like schlepping all the way uptown, they’ve just opened up a second location in the West Village, so you can visit that location instead of Kesté if you do the pizza crawl on a Wednesday through Sunday.
New places are opening right and left, and this virtual tour of NYC’s gluten-free pizzerias is only a small slice (ha!) of the multitude of pizza options we have available across the city. But the next time you pass by a pizza joint, catch of whiff of that baking pizza dough and garlic, and start to feel sorry for yourself, get thee to the nearest spot on this virtual crawl and remind yourself how lucky you are to be intestinally-challenged in the greatest, gluten-free-friendliest, pizza city in the world!Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.