If I had to name the one thing from Italy I don’t miss at all, that would be Neapolitan pizza. I can hear you all GASP in disbelief from the screen. No, I haven’t lost my mind. No, I wasn’t kidnapped and brainwashed by aliens overnight. I don’t miss Neapolitan pizza because Italians are entrepreneurial animals and they have brought it right at my door step. In the past 5 years great pizzerie have opened in the Tri-State area and we can finally enjoy pizza that is comparable (and often even better) than in Naples. When the world of Neapolitan pizza arrived to the States I’d had to deal with the dietary requirements of many Americans too. After all pizza is the most democratic food (if a pizza snob like me says so you can believe it), so why deprive Americans with food allergies of their pizza experience? And so, many chefs and pizzaioli started developing whole wheat dough (for those who want to eat more fiber along with the pizza) and even gluten free dough for their patrons. While eating whole wheat may be a personal choice, for those who have a gluten intollerance/allergy eating gluten free is a necessity. Not many people know that one the first countries to discover the effects of gluten on some people’s digestive system was in fact Italy. In the past 15 years the country that created pasta and pizza had to adapt to those who couldn’t enjoy it anymore.
Back to Neapolitan Pizza in NY: a few weeks ago, I was invited to the Pizza Summit and Caputo Pizza Cup in NY. One of the panelists at the conference was a very good friend of mine and one of the most talented pizzaiolo on both sides of the Atlantic, Roberto Caporuscio. He was showcasing his new gluten free pizza served at Keste’ and Don Antonio. Gluten free pizza was on the menu for years but he has recently developed a new dough that stays true to the texture of regular pizza and is closer in flavor. Roberto also sat down with us for a brief interview on his new and improved gluten free pizza.
L25: Roberto, thank you for taking the time to chat with us about Gluten Free Pizza and what’s next for your restaurants. When you talk to people who live a gluten free life there is a stigma attached to pizza. Yet, Gluten Free Pizza at Don Antonio and Keste‘ is nothing new because it’s become famous mostly by word of mouth. Is the demand increasing?
RC: Absolutely, the demand for gluten free pizza is increasing every day. Currently, 30 pizze each day are prepared with the gluten free dough and the special procedure.
L25: Your gluten free pizza starts with the flour. What type of gluten free flour do you use and how did it take you to test the recipe?
RC: We use Caputo flour. It’s a flour that comes directly from Naples and we use their regular and whole wheat flour along with the gluten free. Testing the recipe was a long process and we try to improve it every day.
L25: Gluten free products are not all about flour, though. It’s also about avoiding cross contamination. What is the preparation and cooking process at Don Antonio and Keste’?
RC: The process for regular pizza and gluten free pizza is completely separated at our restaurants. That is because we want to avoid utensils and tools used for regular dough to get in contact with gluten free dough. From the early stages of the dough preparation to the final product we use dedicated utensils and tools and we even have separate work stations and oven for gluten free pizza.
L25: One of your most famous (and my favorite) pizza is Montanara Starita a fried pizza topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella and finished in the oven. It must be tough for a gluten free patron to see people eating a Montanara Starita and not be able to order it…
RC: Quite the opposite, actually! Six months ago we started serving all our options, including fried pizza as gluten free. The customer doesn’t have any limitation, they can order Montanara Starita and even Angioletti [deep fried strips of dough] in their gluten free version. Once again the process is completely separated from that of regular dough so we use a dedicated deep frier.
L25: Let’s talk about the training of your pizzaioli [the pizza making cooks]. What pasta their first learn to roll out and shape?
RC: We teach them how to make the dough from scratch with the same recipes that are used for the pizza we serve in the restaurants. the gluten free dough is a bit more difficult to roll out so the pizzaioli in training start from that.
L25: Finally we would like to know what’s next for your menu, any sneak peak you want to give our readers?
RC: Sure! There will be several new pizza combinations, one with different kinds of meat, a new bresaola pizza and a new truffle pizza. But to learn more you’ll have to come and taste them for yourself.
L25: I would love to be the taste tester! Where to I sign up for that? Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.
If you want to try Roberto’s Gluten Free pizza, go to his two restaurants Don Antonio and Keste’.
PS: a HUGE thanks to Giuseppe Vago for the pictures!