… And We’re Bringing You the Whole Pie!
A few days ago we brought you a news brief about Mark’s Pizzeria announcing their offering of gluten free pizza. Well, that post was just a slice of pizza. Now we’re ready to serve you the whole pie … as pizza is referred to by New Yorkers. (Momentary personal sidebar here: When I first moved to NY in 1994, having been a California girl all my life, I couldn’t wait to try my first authentic NY-style pizza. I went into a pizzeria, walked up to the counter, and said, “One cheese pizza please.” The reply was, “Would you like the whole pie, or just a slice?” I then politely said, “I don’t need any pie tonight, but thanks for asking.” To which there was a snicker from behind the counter and a rebuttal of, “Do you want the whole pizza “pie”, or just a slice?” With an embarrassed newcomer look on my face and a slightly higher pitch to my voice, I replied, “Yes, I’ll take the whole pie please.” My first real encounter in the Big Apple!)
I had an opportunity to interview Mark Crane, Owner of Mark’s Pizzeria. He is energetic and enthusiastic about his new menu item, and proudly shared with me that he is the first in the industry to bring gluten-free pizza to the “carry-out” pizza chain market. And he is doing it at all 43 locations. With a track record in the pizza business for 30 years, he understands what it takes to make his clientele not just customers, but pizza lovers who come back time and again.
I have to admit, with gluten and wheat being key to a typical pizza dough, my radar was on and ready for red-alert to cross-contamination of a gluten-free dough being served up. But Mark’s detailed explanation of how the entire process occurs, returned my radar to standby mode.
“Each gluten-free crust, pre-formed on its own baking platform, arrives at Mark’s locations frozen and individually sealed. When we receive them, we place them (still sealed) in a dedicated gluten-free plastic tub so all the staff know these pizza crusts need special handling. This tub is then placed into the freezer. When we receive an order for a gluten-free pizza, the first thing the employee does is wash his hands. Then he puts on new gloves. The crust is removed from the freezer, and the wrapping is removed. The employee does not set down the pizza crust. Holding the crust (still on its own baking platform), a specially marked ladle is used to apply the sauce to the crust. All of the gluten-free ingredients, including the sauce and the toppings (all which are gluten-free except the meatballs and sausage) are kept on a separate shelf so there is no cross-contamination with other pizzas being made or ingredients being used. Then the toppings are added. Once the pizza is assembled, the pizza (still on its own baking platform so it doesn’t come into contact with previously baked gluten-containing pizzas) is put into the oven to bake. When the pizza is done, it comes out of the oven and the pizza is slipped directly into the delivery box. At no time does the pizza ever touch the assembly line counter, for preparing or for cutting.
We know we cannot tell our customers that we are 100% gluten-free, but no restaurant or facility can make that claim unless they are a dedicated gluten-free facility and do nothing else. Mark’s is a pizza place, and with that there will be ingredients in the kitchen that have flour in them. But we do everything we can to make sure that the products never come in contact with unsafe items … from start to finish! We’ve spent the past two years figuring out how to make and deliver safe gluten-free pizza for our customers. Our mission statement is Quality and Service. We wouldn’t be sticking to that if we didn’t keep the safety standards up for our gluten-free customers.
Since we’ve started offering this new crust on September 3rd, there have been overwhelming positive responses. “People just keep saying, ‘Thank You So Much!’”
To ensure that all of the staff are properly trained in these safety measures, Mark’s did a corporate training meeting, with all of the employees, explaining and demonstrating proper handling procedures.
Recognizing the market need for gluten-free carry-out pizza, Mark Crane seems to have done his homework to make his pizzas truly deliver. Of course, each person’s needs are entirely individual, so remember it is still a personal journey to make sure you are getting “safe eats.”
I’d be right there at the doorstep of one of Mark’s Pizzeria locations if I were still in the vicinity. The next time I visit New York, I’ll be sure to stop in for a slice … or maybe the whole pie! If you get to experience some of Mark’s new gluten-free pizza, be sure to let us know your comments.