Ask people where to find wheat-free food and you often get a perplexed look in return. Why, they wonder, would you want to avoid pasta, bread, cookies, crackers, and most things delicious?
Having recently experimented with a wheat-free diet, I now understand the quest of those looking for alternatives to pervasive wheat. Most of us consume a lot of gluten, a protein found in many grains including wheat. In spite of our proclivity (some might argue because of it) more and more of us are developing sensitivities, allergies, and celiac disease (a condition that requires a 100-percent gluten-free diet).
We here at Down East have been seeing more and more Maine products geared toward these restricted diets. In the April issue we featured the gluten-free Gramma Mills Seafood Fritter Batter. In January, we profiled Beth George at the Spelt bakery in Yarmouth. (Although spelt is not suitable for those with celiac disease, many people who have wheat sensitivities can eat spelt products.)
The phrase gluten-free has been buzzing around the Maine food scene, and yet it hasn’t quite penetrated the mainstream. Until now.
Pat’s Pizza, the iconic Maine institution, now offers gluten-free pizza.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve done in a long time,” says the Pat's Pizza Yarmouth branch co-owner Chris Kyle. Kyle owns it with his father John, who has been there for more than thirty years. “All the faces we see getting these pizzas are all new faces. I feel good about it, about helping people out, offering them a better choice. And it helps me because it is all new customers.”
These gluten-free pizzas only come in the 9” size and go for $7.75 for a cheese (a regular plain pie goes for $5.55). Kyle says they have only been offering the specialty pies for about three weeks. Last weekend they ran out of dough, which they get from De Iorio’s in New York. Kyle estimates they already sell upwards of twenty gluten-free pizzas a day.
“It’s legitimately good,” insists Kyle. “We’ve opened up doors to people who couldn’t enjoy pizza before.”