Stella Barra Pizzeria

Ever since I was diagnosed with Celiac, I’ve been on the hunt for the best gluten free pizza out there. I began my search in Detroit, home of some of the biggest pizza companies in the nation, and am now in search of the perfect GF pizza pie in the windy city.

Before I officially kicked off my carb-filled journey into pizza-food-baby-happiness (or sadness in some cases?!), I decided that I should jot down some notes and share my findings with the interwebs. For the sake of consistency, I chose to rate each pizza (1-10, 10 being the best) on several attributes to help me determine Chicago’s best gluten free pizza:

  • Visual appearance
    • Is it burnt?
    • Does it look store bought/mass produced?
  • Texture
    • Is it too dry?
    • Does it fall apart? Conversely, can it stay together when you fold it?
    • Does it hold up well with the sauce and toppings?
  • Flavor (I can still vaguely remember what a true gluten-filled pizza dough tastes like, so I try to compare to that.)
    • Are there any off flavors?
    • If it’s made with alternative ingredients (like cauliflower, quinoa, or zucchini), are they too pronounced? Do the flavors blend well with the sauces and flavors of the toppings?
  • Re-heatability (I don’t do cold pizza)
    • How well does it hold up on day 2 once it’s put in the oven or toaster oven?

My quest began at Lincoln Park’s very own Stella Barra Pizzeria, where they’re known for their artisanal handcrafted pies. After many minutes of intense deliberation, I decided to order the “Quattro Formaggi” with proscuitto on their potato and rice flour dough. The “Quattro Formaggi” is topped with parmesan cream, mozzarella, gruyere, and taleggio cheeses. For those wondering, yes, I popped a Lactaid prior to eating. I also took a Glutenease because I knew there’d be some potential for cross-contamination.

GF 2

“So how did it go?!” you’re probably asking. Here’s how they performed:

  • Visual appearance: 7
    • Lost points due to some burning along the edges
    • Gained points because it’s clearly hand tossed with irregularities in shape
  • Texture: 10
    • Crispy, but also let me fold it without that typical gluten-free break, which is the worst – right, GF friends?!
  • Flavor: 9
    • I couldn’t even tell I wasn’t eating gluten-filled dough. In my opinion, potato and rice flours tend to yield better results than other gluten alternative products.
    • I know it was most likely due to all of the cheeses, but I felt like the crust portion tasted just like a Chez-It, so I was into that.
  • Re-heatability: 8
    • Does any pizza hold up as well the next day?? Brownie points for getting crispy again in the toaster oven, but just wasn’t the same as day-of.
  • TOTAL SCORE: 34/40, 85%, B
    • Honestly, I think we started off on a pretty high note. I’m super interested to see how the others compete with this one.

 

For a better understanding of what Stella Barra’s GF pizza looks like compared to a non-GF ‘za, here’s mine next to Steph’s (hers has an egg and is on the left):

 

 

Have you had some GREAT gluten free pizza lately? Let’s hear about it! Comment below with your favorite GF pizza and if you found it in Chicago, I’ll check it out.

February 2018: Kristie

When I started my blog, I wanted to make a point to include other voices besides my own. I’m not the only one out there who is struggling with a love/hate relationship with food. I think it’s important to not only share MY story with you guys, but also let others use this outlet to express their learnings. What surprised me most in this process is how many of my friends are working through similar dietary restrictions as mine. The Guest Contributor Series in Against The Grain will include these friends (and possibly some of you!) sharing their journey and some recommendations for you all! 

I’m so happy to share one of my closest friend’s story with you today – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Here’s Kristie: 

 

To Cheese, or Not to Cheese, That is the Question

Kristie here. First time guest blogger, and so incredibly honored to type here. Much like Amanda I live a life with a diet that requires restriction. Unfortunately, my frenemy is cheese. This begs the question, who doesn’t love cheese? There are so many kinds that pair great with crackers, wine and conversation; however, cheese does not love me.

I discovered my affliction for cheese later in life, after my college graduation. I guess I always felt discomfort from the golden dairy goodness but it took my desire to begin a healthy post college lifestyle to discover a true sensitivity. I cut cheese from my diet temporarily, among many other things, like gluten, in order to get in shape. Once I began incorporating the omitted food back into my diet, I began to get sick. It took nearly 1 year to realize my illness stemmed from cheese.

Now, 6 years later, I am cheese free, but not completely dairy free. This may sound confusing but I somehow managed to develop this sensitivity through my restrictive diet to only cheese. It certainly perplexes any server who discovers my cheese, but not necessarily dairy free, ordering habits; however, I have learned to live with it. So today my contribution to Against the Grain will be my go to favorite dishes from various local restaurants. As a disclaimer, I don’t dash for cheese substitutes when I dine (I think this is mainly because I remember what the real thing tastes like). Instead, I go for dishes that come without cheese or are easy to order without it. As a result, a majority of the dishes I recommend are not completely dairy free. So order wisely if you are dairy free!

1. This first one is a recommendation I should have made to everyone about 1 month ago. The mushroom vegetarian dish from Craftwork Restaurant in West Village Detroit.  Unfortunately this dish is no longer on the menu; however, it is my absolute favorite. It is filled with mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes and covered in a creamy, hearty, red sauce that tasted like it had mozzarella cheese in it. Seriously I had to ask my server like 10 times if she was sure there wasn’t cheese in it! It even comes with a grilled slice of baguette bread for dipping into the savory, pretending to be cheesy, sauce. Craftwork constantly changes their menu, including their vegetarian entrée, and it never seems to disappoint. This place is vegan and GF friendly.

2. The Caesar Salad from GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale. It includes almond parmesan “cheese” on top and it is a vegan and completely dairy free dish! GreenSpace is the only spot that truly understands how to re-create the cheese taste. Really anything from this place is amazing for those who are vegan, gluten free, nut free, and even soy free.

3. The Marinara Pizza from Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina in Royal Oak. I just call this place Biga. It is cheese free with Oregano and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I like to add chili flakes for an extra kick. You can even get GF crust. They also have other locations in Ann Arbor, Southfield, and a traveling food truck.

4. The grits with a fried egg, chives and omit the cheese from Public House in Ferndale. The grits are creamy and delicious without the cheese and they add sriracha sauce for a kick. This place is great for brunch, dinner, cocktails and beer.

5. The wok fired brussel sprouts and seaweed salad from Peterboro in Detroit. The brussel sprouts are filled with garlic and some spicy heat, while the seaweed salad has crispy quinoa, chilies and pickled mushrooms. This is a Chinese spot, which means there’s basically zero cheese in their dishes. Hooray!

I could go on for days with all of my cheese free recommendations, but hopefully this is a good start to provide your taste buds with as much happiness as mine!