While writing this, I'm sitting in a place called V Pizza in Jacksonville Beach, eating a delicious gluten-free margherita pizza and chatting with the owner about why we cannot abide New York (guess where we were both born?).
Too rude, too cold, too busy, too crowded... the list goes on and on.
And yet, New York has one food item we don't: real pizza. Even as I type that, my mouth remembers Sal's Pizza in Mamaroneck, where my mother — who has a pathological aversion to returning to her homeland — insisted I dine when I made a voyage north three years ago. That was, of course, pre-celiac diagnosis. A quick check of the menu confirms what I suspect — Sal's doesn't make a gluten-free pizza crust. Though the restaurant is able to ship a pizza anywhere in America, alas, that does me no good.
In all the ways that having celiac has made me bitter (hey, acceptance doesn't mean not bitter), pizza has, oddly, not been one of them — because pizza hasn't been the big deal I thought it'd be for me. It helps, I think, that, aside from a doomed-from-the-start love affair with Pizza Hut's Priazzo, I was always a thin 'n' crispy gal rather than a pan pizza type. I blame New York, again; with pizza, I'm used to disappointment.
Eating GF pizza, you see, after a lifetime of eating Florida pizza is about the same as eating Florida pizza after a lifetime of eating New York pizza. No, it's not the same, but what the fuck, man? It's pizza, and it's still pretty damn good.
I've been blessed, too, by the GF craze sweeping across the country. I live in a society where you can buy the most ironic ingredient ever — gluten-free flour. Suck on that, Alannis. I can go to Westshore Pizza or Craft Kafé in St. Petersburg. I may hate — and I'm using the word hate here — Trader Joe's for discontinuing the "good" pizza crust (pro tip: cauliflower is not the same), but I can continue to make the drive to Palm Harbor's Ozona Pizza and get a truly fine GF pie.
In Tampa, the options are vast (well, not exactly — calling GF pizza options "vast" is akin to calling your grandma "old" when the earth itself is billions and billions of years older). Gourmet Pizza Company brags about its GF pies in South Tampa (I've yet to try it), and the Channel District location of Precinct Pizza delivers to our offices in Ybor City; when I made Ray and Meaghan taste Precinct's variety at work, they didn't even wince.
So, yes, I can suck it up and piss and moan my way through an Udi's crust if I have to. Luckily, however, I don't.
We have decent gluten-free pizza here.
The key, I suspect, is in the other ingredients. Fuck cauliflower. Seriously, y'all. It's yummy in a salad and OK as a rice substitute, but as a pizza crust it's like watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time on VH1 — ain't nobody gonna be throwing toast at your ass at 1 a.m. Get some buffalo mozzarella, juicy plum tomatoes and the extra-ist of extra virgin olive oils and 12 minutes later you've forgotten that the dough isn't made with wheat.
I guess what I'm saying is: GF pizza isn't the worst thing that can happen to you. Bad gluten-free pizza is.
Thankfully, I've yet to find it in the Bay area.
CL A&E Editor Cathy Salustri is always on the lookout for a great gluten-free experience. Got one in mind? Email her at [email protected].