This week, we’re trying the new gluten-free pizza at Ithaca’s Papa John’s. People who avoid gluten may have thought pizza was out of reach, but Papa John’s is one of a few spots in town offering an alternative to traditional crust.
Papa John’s is calling it an “ancient grains” crust, and it’s made with sorghum, rice, quinoa, and amaranth flours instead of wheat. It’s prepared and packaged ready to top and bake, rather than tossed at the store, so there’s less opportunity for contamination with flour.
That cross-contamination is one of the big concerns for those with Celiac Disease, since even a speck of wheat flour can cause severe symptoms and digestive damage. Papa John’s is careful to ask customers who order a gluten-free pizza how sensitive they are — whether they’re avoiding gluten out of preference or medical necessity — and they take appropriate precautions accordingly.
They’ll open up new containers of tomato sauce and mozzarella, and use fresh containers of toppings rather than the bins that have been reached into with flour-covered tongs or gloves. And if you’ve ever worked in a pizza shop, you know the flour’s all over aprons and sleeves. Papa John’s has staff trained to grab a clean apron, the pizza goes through the oven on a special pan, and there’s a purple-handled pizza cutter that never touches wheat waiting for it at the other end.
If you just want to check out the gluten-free pizza, that’s fine — everyone’s allowed to! Make their lives easier and don’t claim a gluten allergy unless you really have one. If you do suffer from Celiac or a severe gluten sensitivity, do let them know, and while there’s always a slight risk in a store that does use lots of wheat, they’ve got the precautions covered.
We already knew we liked the flavorful sauce and the fresh toppings and cheese Papa John’s uses, but this gluten-free crust tastes great, too. The “ancient grains” impart a slight nuttiness, and the crust has a satisfying crispness.
The new gluten-free pizza at Papa John’s is a ten-inch pizza for ten bucks, plus toppings for a dollar each. We should add for those who love that Papa John’s minus the cheese is vegan, a warning: this crust isn’t. It contains egg white and whey.
Of course, there are other gluten-free pizza offerings in the Ithaca area! Agava makes theirs on a corn tortilla instead of their usual flatbread dough. Sal’s and Ciao both offer pre-made gluten-free crusts. Be aware that all of them use the same oven as for wheat pizzas.
Find Papa John’s Pizza in Franklin Plaza at the corner of Route 13 and 3rd Street, follow their Twitter at @ithacapapajohns, or call them at 607-273-7272 and tell them you heard about them here.