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.

August 2018: Julia

I met August’s guest contributor, Julia, just about two years ago when she was working as a barretender at my Pure Barre studio. Since then, Julia has come over to work with me at Domino’s and has become one of my best work friends. We bonded over our shared love of both Pure Barre and pizza. Check out Jullia’s story below:

Let me start this whole thing off by saying I love dairy. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I could ever become dairy free, I would have laughed in your face and then went and bought ice cream. All of my favorite foods contained dairy, I was living the life. Until one day I started having severe stomach issues, just no good, so bad, no fun at all stomach issues. After about a year of symptoms (way too long, I know) I finally went to the doctor and had an allergy test done. This is when my life changed forever (cue ominous music) my doctor called and told me I could no longer enjoy the amazingness that is dairy.

Now, I’ll admit it took me a long time to completely come to terms with it all. At first I only cut out very creamy things: Cream Cheese, that liquid nacho cheese stuff, and ice cream (yes I may have teared up remembering how awesome ice cream is as I write this). Once I cut out those there was significant improvement. I also stopped drinking actual milk and switched to lactaid, and I thought all my problems were solved. However, I was still eating hard cheeses, on pizza mostly. Pizza is just the best food ever isn’t it? It has a little something for everybody. I thought all was fine and dandy, until me and my hubby went on our 1 year wedding anniversary trip to Chicago. We were eating all our favorite foods; pizza on pizza, nachos, fried foods, lots of beer and I got extremely ill. We had to end our trip early, and I was shocked my body had reacted the way it had. I mean really, why would my body hate me for giving it all the things it can’t digest?

The Chicago trip was a complete wake up call, and that is when I decided it had to happen. I had to rip the band aid off and say good bye to dairy forever. It was a very sad day, and I will never say I don’t miss dairy because I do, but what I learned is that there are amazing substitutes that are better for you than actual dairy that you can buy at your local Kroger, Meijer, or any grocery store. You don’t even need to live near a Whole Foods or other health food store to find great products that work for you. Once I made this change in my life I really realized how dairy affected my body. I had way more energy, my bloat that I always seemed to be carrying disappeared, and results from my workouts increased. It was almost like my body was happy I stopped making it feel sick.

I did have to do some serious experimenting and trial and error to figure out what products worked for me to substitute for dairy and which ones did not. I have never been a picky eater, but being a huge lover of dairy made it hard to try to find similar products that did not actually have dairy in the ingredients. Basically I had to get the idea out of my head that anything was going to taste exactly like cheese without actually being cheese. Same thing with ice cream. When I did that, everything started making more sense. With cheeses I found that Daiya cheddar cheese will actually melt (hellllo nachos and omelet’s), and for salads or anything where the cheese isn’t melted there’s a vegan cheddar cheese at Meijer (it comes in a green bag and I think Meijer actually makes it) that has the same texture as cheese and tastes good “raw.” Daiya has helped a lot with mac n’ cheese as well, they sell a boxed mac n’ cheese (for those of us Kraft kids) and it is creamy and amazing. I switched to almond milk and because it has more protein it’s even given me more energy throughout the day. Trader Joe’s has the best vegan mozzarella (no seriously, I’m Italian and even got my some of my family to love this cheese.) It is gooey and amazing and melts so perfectly. I’m going to be honest though, I am very very picky about my ice cream, I LOVE ice cream, it has always been my favorite dessert. This one has taken me the longest to figure out. I enjoy coconut milk ice cream because it adds another flavor, but not my favorite. Until, the ice cream and vegan gods shined down on earth, and gave us all Ben & Jerry’s dairy free ice cream pints. I tried one that used almond milk, and I was skeptical, I thought I would be let down. However, it blew me away. It tasted just like what I remember ice cream tasting like. I cried tears of joy that day.

Now in conclusion, there is life after being diagnosed with a food allergy. A very yummy, delicious, fulfilling life. If I can do it anyone can. One last piece of advice for all my dairy free kindred spirits out there: Check yo food labels. Even if you don’t think there is any dairy, sometimes there is. I would rather be pouting in a store because I can’t eat something and I know it. Then to accidentally eat it and be out of commission for at least 24 hours. Be smart friends!

Thanks for sharing your story, Julia! What do you all think? Are you dairy free? What are your tricks to living a dairy-free lifestyle? I’d love to hear your comments below!