I Miss Cheap Pizza
Pizza is one of my favorite things in the universe. I grew up on it. I had pizza parties throughout middle school and high school. I’d order it from the local mom-and-pop shops and from national chains like Little Caesars. I used to horde Papa John’s garlic dipping sauce and marinate bites of pizza in it before I stuffed them in my mouth. I loved cheese-stuffed crust. I loved pepperoni rounds shining with grease. I loved pizza nights at home and pizza with friends at the local joint after sporting events. Pizza was my BFF (best food friend).
After my celiac diagnosis, I discovered that gluten-free pizza was unlike most pizza I used to enjoy. The texture was different—and it wasn’t cheap.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that gluten-free pizza was different, since that’s how most things are when you take the gluten out of them. Even when I roll out my own dough, I never achieve the pizza I remember. The kind I could fold into a pizza burrito. The kind where the slices would bend and not crumble. I had to break up with that kind of pizza.
Granted, some conventional restaurants attempt to make gluten-free pizzas – but many aren’t careful enough about cross contamination. I wrote about this when Domino’s launched their “gluten free” pizza. When people with celiac disease want to eat pizza, we’re often left to our own devices.
Most of the pizza I eat these days comes frozen. We have pizza at least once a week and I don’t have the time or patience to make homemade. Right now, my freezer is full of Daiya frozen pizzas (I’m dairy-free, too) and frozen crusts from Udi’s and Rudi’s. I feel lucky because various brands of gluten-free pizza are available at multiple grocery stores within a few miles of my house. Pizzas like Oh Yes, Udi’s, Smart Flour, Amy’s Kitchen, Glutino, Bold Organics and Against the Grain are available in the freezer section at my Whole Foods. I’m now used to their texture, my new normal.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: A pizza stone or a perforated pizza sheet helps achieve a crispy crust and a better texture.
CONFESSION: When I walk by a pizza shop and see “normal” people eating their tasty (and pliable) dough, I find myself staring into the window and sighing.
The Price We Pay
And then there’s the cost differential. Let’s compare a gluten-free and gluten-full pizza from the same brand at the same grocery store: Freshetta’s gluten-free pepperoni pizza is $.62/oz. Freshetta’s regular pepperoni pizza is $.18/oz. If we look at Udi’s gluten-free pepperoni pizza, the cost jumps to $.77/oz.
I understand that gluten-free food is more expensive because of several factors – ingredients, safety, cost of manufacturing, etc. Restaurants often charge more for gluten-free, too. At True Foods Kitchen, I get charged an extra $2 for gluten-free pizza. I don’t blame them (in fact, I’m thankful when restaurants provide gluten-free items) but it doesn’t make the surcharge easier to swallow.
I have a dream where gluten-free pizza is cheap, pliable and tasty, where gluten-free-only pizza shops offer fresh pizzas in every town and we can all walk to get a safe pie. Until then, I’m glad the grocery stores in my town are stocking the frozen varieties.