Friday, October 22, 2010

Gluten-free pizza in Boston area

I was in the Boston area last week and as always when I travel, I look for gluten-free pizza. The Chowhound board suggested a number of places. I ended up going to Nebo and Zing Pizza.

The two are similar in that they both offer creative pizza combinations and gluten-free pies. Beyond this, there are few other similarities. Nebo is fine dining. Zing's is a neighborhood pizza joint. IMHO, both have a place in the world.

Nebo is a "white tablecloth" restaurant in the North End, within a short walk of Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market. The had an entire GF menu and were attentive to dietary restrictions. They had a small, but quality wine list. They had a bar and maybe 30 tables. It was hard to tell, because we were seated at the front. My companions and I had a variety of pizzas. (They were probably persuaded by me repeatedly talking about pizza on the way over.) I had the "venenzia," which had chopped clams, bacon, corn, parsley, garlic, evoo, mozzarella. (Evoo, by the way, is first-press extra virgin olive oil.) Since I can't have dairy, I asked them to leave off the cheese. It cost $17 + $4 for the GF crust. It was a personal size pizza (about 8" diameter, I think), thin crust style.

Without the cheese, my pizza was pretty dry. I pilfered some tomato sauce from a friend who was having the cioppino and that improved things significantly. The combination of toppings was tasty, but without cheese to hold them on, they kept falling off. Another companion found her (gluten-full) crust to be dry as well. One person couldn't finish her pizza, because it was too sweet. She had the one with parma ham and figs. She felt that the flavors needed to be better balanced. Finally, we had some trouble flagging down the wait staff. But when they did show up, they were very nice.

Zing Pizza in Porter Square is more of a take out restaurant with a few tables and counter seating for eat-in customers. (If you need a restroom, you have to go across the street to another plaza.) They are a block away from the Porter Square metro stop and easy to find. I had the "Dracula's Dilemma," which had garlic, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, and cilantro. They only sell gluten-free by the pie in one size. I asked them to hold the cheese and was told that this pizza wouldn't taste good without cheese because it only had a garlic sauce. The man behind the counter who did everything recommended a "Blue October" or to add tomato sauce. I opted for the latter. I got this large pizza in their signature oblong shape and it cost $17.50 + $3 for the GF crust. They make the GF pizza in the back on a different counter than their regular pizza.

I had to wait 30 minutes, but I brought reading material. There were lots of people coming to pick up their pizzas in that time, many of them GF. It was definitely worth the wait. The crust was moist and tasty, and the flavors were great. This was among the best GF pizza that I have had anywhere. I gorged myself on four slices and brought the remaining four back to my hotel room for breakfast the next day.

The man behind the counter frequently asked if everything was OK. He made a point of telling me that they were trying to source some vegan cheese and that Wednesday nights were GF slice nights.

Zing by far and away was the better experience. For a high end restaurant, I would have expected someone at Nebo to say that maybe the "venezia" might not be good without cheese, as they did at Zing. Also, I got twice as much pizza for about the same price at Zing. Also, there was no mandatory gratuity for a group of 6 or more and they didn't sell us bottles of still water as a default.

If Nebo were the only GF pizza in town, I would go again. The place is nice enough that I could work with them to get things right. It's also a nice place to go "out" with friends, who are not gluten sensitive.

But given a choice of Zing or Nebo, I would take the red line up to Porter Square. If you are in downtown Boston, I suggest that you check their web site for the latest choices and place an order over the phone. Then, take the red line into Cambridge and the pie will be ready when you get there.

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