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Gluten Free On the Go: Pizza Places (Domino's, Godfather's, Uno, Chuck E Cheese, Zpizza)
Five GF Pizza Options Are We
Please note: This article was written a few years ago, and since then there have been more attempts by major pizza chains to include gluten free crusts. This is not an exhaustive list, but reflects what was available at the time.
We have a Pizza Hut on campus, and it is absolute torture watching my classmates chow down on personal pan pizzas and breadsticks while I pull out the lunch I brought from home. It smells so good and I can still remember what it tastes like, even if the last time I had Pizza Hut was about four years ago. All I want is a bite, but I have to settle for a good, long sniff unless I want to be sick for a few weeks. I tell myself that if the world were ending tomorrow or if I were on death row for some reason (probably a wrongful conviction, but I digress) that a pan pizza would be my last meal. Say what you will about Pizza Hut, but that thick, chewy, greasy crust was always one of my guilty pleasures, and I miss it so, so much.
In some countries outside the US, the mainstream pizza chains actually offer a gluten free crust. Of course, pizza restaurants are a horrible place when it comes to cross contamination, so caution must be exercised when choosing a restaurant to enjoy your pizza regardless of which country you're in. And perhaps that's why American restaurants are slower to catch on. You don't want to get sued, after all, and it's far cheaper to just not offer a gluten free crust than to offer one and wind up making someone sick, or to try to rearrange the whole kitchen to accommodate the whole gluten thing.
A lot of pizza restaurants are sit-down places, but there are also the sorts of restaurants that cater to a more delivery/take-out customer base. Whether you're driving around looking for lunch or stuck at a hotel somewhere, there might be options for gluten free pizza eatin' in your area. And there may even be ones that are reasonably safe.
In recent months Domino's released a gluten free crust, making it the first main-main-stream chain in the US to do so. It's only available in a small size and it costs a little more than the regular pizzas, but you can use a variety of toppings and still have something that's relatively gluten free delivered to your door.
Notice I said "relatively."
While Domino's can't guarantee against cross contamination and does not recommend their pizza for those with Celiac, some independent tests show low or undetectable levels of gluten in the pizza. "Low" is still not "no" and "undetectable" just means they couldn't find it. So while many have enjoyed this pizza with no ill effects, it might be something to skip if you're not sure you want to deal with the consequences of an accidental glutening.
Still, it's an option, and perhaps a convenient one if you're at the point where you barely remember what proper pizza tastes like.
Over 10,000 stores in all fifty states.
Chuck E Cheese
If you have kids (or just like creepy animal characters and ball pits) then Chuck E Cheese is another option for eating. Unlike Domino's, they are doing things the right way, more or less. You can get an individual cheese pizza and chocolate cupcake, and both are kept sealed until they reach your table. The pizza even includes its own cutter, so you don't have to worry about contamination.
And both products are known quantities, which is either a good thing or a bad thing. The cupcake is by Fabe's and the pizza crust is by Conte's. If you've had either brand before, you can probably guess then whether you'll enjoy Mr. Cheese's meager offerings or not.
The ball pit is probably still gluten free, unless you count CC by so many pizza-stained fingers.
Over 500 locations in the US, Canada, and US territories (except Wyoming??)
Uno Chicago Grill
You might not be as familiar with this chain as the last two, so just in case you aren't: Uno is a restaurant that specializes in Chicago style pizza.
Can you get a gluten free Chicago deep dish pizza there? No. But they do have a gluten free menu that includes pizza (and burgers on a GF roll, which is pretty cool of them). You can have plain cheese, veggie or pepperoni.
As for CC, always make your needs known to the server when ordering so they can make sure they don't drop a bag of flour on your food and then just try to wipe it off. I looked around to see what steps Uno takes to avoid contamination, and it seems that they're pretty good. Chefs are educated on how to keep CC down and they use separate utensils and pans during preparation, even going so far as to prepare the pizzas in a separate area of the kitchen.
150 restaurants in 24 states.
Everyone's favorite mafia-themed pizza restaurant wants to make you feel like part of the family (yes, I went there) by offering a variety of gluten free pizzas on their menu. You can choose from cheese, pepperoni, sausage, beef, Meat Combo (beef, pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon bits) and Classic Combo (pepperoni, sausage, beef, onions, black olives, mushrooms). Apparently vegetarians are pretty much out of luck.
To ensure against cross contamination, the pizzas are actually made in an outside facility that tests to less than 5ppm and shipped to the stores. So you don't even have to worry so much until the pizza is unwrapped and put in the oven. You can even opt to take the prepared pizza home and bake it yourself in some cases, which eliminates pretty much all CC concern.
The only catch is that SOME restaurants carry the GF pizzas while others don't. Use their restaurant locator to figure out if one near you carries the GF menu.
Over 600 locations in 39 states.
This pizza place is a bit different from all the rest mentioned here. Zpizza is an organic pizza restaurant dedicated to providing unique pizzas that cater to a variety of tastes and food issues. They don't just offer a gluten free crust. They also offer a vegan cheese option you can check their menu to see what toppings meet your needs. So if you're GF, GFCF, lactose intolerant, or just plain ol' vegan, you're covered.
The gluten free pizza does have some restrictions, as it is only available in small and large and will usually cost more than the regular pizza (GF crust is $3, making a 1 topping large pizza at my local store about $25; when I tried a store in TX, it was $19, so prices do vary). The online ordering system is actually very helpful and will let you know which toppings are GF by highlighting them in green so you don't accidentally pick the wrong one.
Alas, you should probably ring the store first and ask about the restaurant's cross contamination practices, as some locations reportedly confess to sharing utensils between the gluten and gluten free pizzas. I had once heard that they used rice flour in the kitchen to avoid CC, but the disclaimer on their site advises that Zpizza is "not a gluten free environment." Check ahead of time to be safe rather than sorry.
Around 100 locations in 16 states.
And then ...
You might be wondering where the rest of the list is. There are certainly more pizza restaurants across the US that are offering gluten free pizza, after all. I chose these five because they have a pretty good presence in the US (meaning, I've actually heard of them or eaten there in the past), and when I looked up other places they were restaurants I'd never heard of or that only had locations in a few states.
Sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon can be helpful if you're looking for gluten free foods, although it should be noted that they are sometimes wrong or include places where the restaurant goer asked a lot of questions and got a GF meal, but emailing or calling the restaurant will get you a "no we don't have anything GF" type response.
If you're hoping that your favorite pizza chain will provide gluten free crusts, send them feedback and let them know! A lot of places don't bother because they figure it won't be profitable, and then they half-ass it by not ensuring that the pizza is safe for celiacs. Some just view the GF thing as a fad diet with no real consequences when it comes to cross contamination.
Food for Thought: Somewhere around 1% (if not more) of the population wishes they could still eat pizza without getting sick. That's a lot of people.
Some restaurants may have international locations. You should not assume that these will have the same menu or CC practices as those in the US. Ask ahead of time, if you can, whether they offer the same menu.