With the number of people adopting a diet free of wheat and gluten, be it due to Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity or personal choice, restaurants have been forced to adapt to the changing client needs. While it’s becoming easier to find options at chain restaurants, the locally owned and operated businesses in the Mid-Ohio Valley are also doing an incredible job of keeping up with the ever-evolving tastes of the patrons they serve.
One of the most common and easily swapped out foods is pizza, and there is no shortage of delicious gluten-free pizza options to choose from. Both Wally’s Pizza and Subs and The Marietta Brewing Company offer gluten-free pizza crusts, as does Smitty’s Pizza and The Original Pizza Place, Marietta location. In fact, if a slice of New York-style pizza is just not the same without an ice-cold brew, The Original Pizza Place has that covered, too. They carry a bottled, gluten-free beer to enjoy with their pizza. Along with those same cravings, DaVinci’s Restaurant offers a gluten-free pasta substitute for many of their traditional dinner dishes. CJ’s Italian Kitchen in Vienna also serves a wide variety of gluten-free pizza, salad, and pasta.
If breakfast is more your jam, both sides of the river have that covered. Take a trip to Unity Café in Parkersburg for some delicious gluten-free crepes, or head to downtown Marietta for a classic bagel, a warm cinnamon roll or a breakfast sandwich full of local, gluten-free goodness from Jeremiah’s Coffee House. One of the most difficult foods to replicate without gluten is bread, making it nearly impossible to find a great sandwich. Fortunately, there are at least two places locally to get a sandwich so tasty, it is hard to believe the bread is gluten-free. Both Jeremiah’s and Belair Bistro in Belpre carry sandwich options to satisfy even the hungriest lunch crowd!
No food recommendation would be complete without a brief guide to the sweet stuff. Like bread, desserts are notorious for being nearly impossible to recreate without the gluten to bind it. Nearly, but not quite out of reach. Both the crepes from Unity Café, as well as a varied selection of cookies, scones and even cheesecake from Jeremiah’s Coffee House fit this bill. Jeremy Barth, Manager for the coffee house shared that they have recently hired a pastry chef with experience in gluten-free baking and an appreciation for the importance of keeping ingredients separated.
The most difficult challenge, though, even more than taste or texture, is preventing cross-contamination with flours and crumbs that contain gluten. In the most sensitive cases, even the smallest crumb can trigger a reaction in someone who follows a gluten-free diet. While everyone who offers gluten-sensitive foods tries to make sure no cross-contamination occurs, both The Original Pizza Place and Jeremiah’s discuss the steps they take to make sure the foods they offer are as safe as possible.
The Original Pizza Place uses a dedicated prep area and dedicated oven for their gluten-free pizzas and Jeremiah’s uses what owners Liz Johnson and Karen Henthorn refer to as “The Red Zone.” Karen explains that “in the gluten-free area of the kitchen, everything is color-coded. The toaster is red, the cutting board is red and anyone working with the food has specific black gloves they have to wear.” Jeremy also specified that the food and desserts made with regular flour are kept sealed and packed away from the loose ingredients used to make the gluten-free items.
The Original Pizza Place location in Marietta also goes above and beyond to make sure that the utmost care is taken in preparing their gluten-free pizzas for the public. Specific employees are designated for preparing those crusts and seeing them through the cooking process, employees who do not handle any of the other dough or flour used to make the regular pies. They are also required to “suit up” as customer relations manager, Kasandra puts it, which includes aprons and utensils kept in a separate place in the kitchen. The crusts, as well as the toppings for the gluten-free pizzas, are also kept in a separate preparation area of the kitchen so as not to cross-contact with the non-gluten-free ingredients used upfront.
In an additional step of safety, once prepared the pizza is placed on a designated stone, and carried to a specific section of the oven, under a cover to reduce the chances of coming in contact with the flours upfront. When asked about the motivation to go above and beyond, Kasandra said it simply: “We want people to be able to go out and enjoy time with their friends or family and be able to eat and be safe. If you aren’t going to do it right, then do not do it at all. That goes for our taste, our service and our dedication to preparing safe foods for our customers.”
The Mid-Ohio Valley has no lack of gluten-free offerings to choose from. Whether it is brunch, pizza or a sweet treat calling, there are plenty of local businesses on both sides of the river doing what they can to provide options for gluten-free customers!