#BecauseGluten: Ozona Pizza, I'm in love

This Palm Harbor joint's garlic knots and pies taste like... real bread. And garlic butter. And cheese.

click to enlarge Look. At. This. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Look. At. This.

Just writing about this pie makes me want to go get some. It's add-90-minutes-to-my-ride-home-to-stop-by-Ozona-Pizza worthy.

As a rule, gluten-free pizza simply isn't that good. Oh, sure, I've had some intimate moments with Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pizza Crust (which may be the best gluten-free item they sell), and Craft Kafé does a tasty piece of GF pizza. But sometimes I want to sit in a pizzeria with paper napkins and dip some garlic knots in marinara, admiring family photos and kitsch on the walls until my waitress brings out a metal pan with cheese oozing off the crust. 

When you have celiac, true pizza parlors — not this noveaux-artisanal-pizza-by-the-foot-what-is-the-provenance-of-your-arugula bullshit — are no less than Dante's third circle of hell. That's why when CL photog Jen Ring suggested we meet in Palm Harbor for pizza, I had, to say the least, my doubts. She knew of two places in the area, she wrote in a text, that offered GF pies. 

click to enlarge Put Palm Harbor's Ozona Pizza on your restaurant bucket list. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
Put Palm Harbor's Ozona Pizza on your restaurant bucket list.

We met at Ozona Pizza, and I cautiously, which is an understatement, ordered GF garlic knots, then helped myself to a Red Bridge out of the cooler. Red Bridge, for those of you with more intestinal integrity than I who can drink "real" beer, is the Keystone Light of GF brews. But, hey, beer and pizza is like Tom and Jerry, or hot dogs and root beer, or Russia and President Trump: They go together.

As I sit down, I realize the woman taking our order is the owner. What the hell, I wonder, am I going to say to her if I hate the food? She's super friendly and proud of her place and incredibly invested in people liking her food. This could be awkward.

click to enlarge The garlic knots taste like... real bread - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
The garlic knots taste like... real bread

I bite into a garlic knot, and — oh, holy sweet baby Jesus. I'm in love. They taste like... real bread. And garlic butter. And cheese. As I reach for my third knot, while still chewing the second, I realize Jen and I intended to share these. I push the basket toward her and mumble over bits of doughy goodness that she should have one. Then I order another basket, plus two GF pizzas — one for here and one for home.

I'll say this about the pizza: I intended to have one slice with Jen and split the second pizza with my fiancé later that night at home. That... devolved... quickly. I ate half the pizza in front of us and decided I didn't need to eat later. 

People, I can't explain to you how good this pie tasted. Even if you don't like GF pizza (and by and large I don't blame you), it's damn tasty. I started browsing the menu and realized how easy it'd be for our office to eat here (we're everything from full-on carnivores to paleo vegans), as there are even vegan, dairy-free pizzas available.

Apparently, Ozona Pizza also makes regular pizza, which is its mainstay.

click to enlarge The crust may not look exactly like Cappy's, but it tastes — I feel guilty saying this — better. - Jennifer Ring
Jennifer Ring
The crust may not look exactly like Cappy's, but it tastes — I feel guilty saying this — better.

I'm too full to try anything else, but I vow to return and perhaps be somewhat less of a glutton.

Later that night, though, my fiancé opens the pizza box and the smell of a real pizza parlor smacks me in the face. 

The pizza is gone by midnight.

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
Scroll to read more Food News articles

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.