Okay, so yesterday I was going to post my review of Boston’s Gourmet Pizza and their new gluten free menu. After a couple of months of “research” and bragging to all my GF friends about how great Boston’s GF pizza is, I was finally ready to make my post. As I was making some last minute tweaks, my dad called me up and asked me to go to lunch…at Boston’s! I held off on posting my review until I got back because I couldn’t get my mind off that yummy pizza!
I will say this: the gluten free pizza and appetizers that I have tried over the past couple of months have been great. The service has also been wonderful and the attention to detail and the apparent knowledge of the gluten free diet and celiac disease have been impressive.
The first time my husband went in to Boston’s to order some pizza to go, he asked to speak with a manager. I had prompted him to do so, so he could ask my questions: how is gluten free food prepared in the kitchen, are separate utensils used, how do you prevent cross-contamination from the kitchen staff, etc.
I loved the manager’s response, “We treat it like a death allergy.”
This made me feel quite confident to move forward. When Mike arrived home with the pizza’s, I was beside myself with excitement. The pizza did not disappoint, it was fantastic! We ordered a Classic Pepperoni pizza and a Sicilian, which has spicy italian sausage, smoked ham, sliced pepperoni, red onions, green peppers (which I omitted), fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The GF pizzas come in one size, small, and have an additional fee; but it is enough to feed 2 people…well, unless you are like my husband’s best friend Todd and can put a large down all on your own, then you might want a couple.
The next week, we took the boys to Boston’s for a dine-in experience. This is when I found out that the gluten free menu offered not only GF pizza, but appetizers and entrees as well. I shrieked! It had not been since we went to Picazzo’s (in Flagstaff) a couple of years ago that I saw so many GF menu items to choose from!
For appetizers, we ordered the Chips and Queso with ground beef and the Mediterranean Fondue, which is made with spinach, Fontina, creamy Alfredo sauce, red onions, red pepper flakes, white wine and capers, baked and served with pizza crust “bread.”
The queso was really good but the Mediterranean Fondue was sinfully delicious.
We split an Italian Chopped Salad that consisted of fresh mixed greens, smoked ham, diced pepperoni, smoked bacon, red onions, black olives, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, celery, Fontina and Mozzarella tossed in Balsamic Vinaigrette (also served with pizza crust bread).
The salad, while good, was not our favorite. I don’t think the Balsamic dressing went well with it, I think something more “Italian-y” would have been a better fit for my palette. The salad was HUGE, a meal on it’s own. Luke loved the pizza crust bread that came with the fondue and salad. We had to fight him for it!
Then topped all of that off with an Ultimate Pepperoni (with diced and sliced pepperoni), a Mama Meata (with a Bolognese sauce, smoked ham, sliced pepperoni, ground beef, spicy Italian sausage, Mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses) and a Four Cheese pizza (with Feta, Mozzarella, Fontina and Parmesan cheeses).
Once again, the pizza was really good. Sam is normally a typical pepperoni kid, but when we got home with our 2 bags of left overs, he sampled my Four Cheese pizza, which had Feta on it…and he polished off those leftovers in no time. He went in weighing 37 lbs. and a week later was up to 45 lbs. I don’t know if it was all the pizza he ate or if removing his tonsils did something freaky to his appetite!
Due to the nature of our blogging “business” (as Sam likes to call it) and since he is my number one “employee” taste tester/critic, Sam felt we would not be doing all the other GF families any good if we did not keep “researching” Boston’s GF menu items before we made our post. I agreed. So we got takeout about 5 more times. Each time we went, it seemed to get better. They even started carrying Redbridge Beer! WOO HOO! I can go to a real sports bar and watch a Buckeye football game!
The staff has always been courteous and cautious with our food and inquisitive of our diet. Once, one of the servers asked me about the GF diet. I proceeded to tell her about the different reasons people are choosing to be on the diet, but stressed that there is a percentage of the population that has celiac disease and/or dermatitis herpetiformis. Since I had arrived right when the restaurant opened and they were not busy yet, I seized the moment to tell her about what CD was (an autoimmune disease and not a food allergy, although a lot of people, myself included; sometimes say allergy to simplify the explanation and to stress the severity of the issue). She genuinely hadn’t known and said she just thought the GF diet was the “new and improved low-carb diet.”
I have feared this may happen. I had been pondering this for quite sometime as the gluten free diet has been gaining in popularity. While I am THRILLED with all my new-found GF options, I have had a growing concern that as more groups of people get on the GF bandwagon, that food service staff would not take it seriously.
For example: I think back to when I was a teenager working in food service and occasionally if a customer asked for decaf coffee in the evening, and we did not have a fresh pot…I would just pour regular coffee, assuming they would never actually know. This would be devastating for a celiac if a server did something like that (but with gluten). The wait staff at restaurants that offer GF menus must be taught to take ALL gluten free orders VERY SERIOUSLY and why.
Servers also need to know what their particular restaurant’s GF menu items LOOK LIKE. So if an order comes up that should be GF and it is not (like what happened to me yesterday), the server will recognize the error and correct it BEFORE taking it to the table for someone with celiac disease to consume, like I did.
That being said, I do take responsibility for the fact that I let my guard down after so many positive experiences at Boston’s. The first thing that I did wrong was not ask to speak with a manager before I placed my order, which would put the responsibility on their shoulder to notify the kitchen staff etc.
The second thing that I did wrong, was when the Mediterranean Fondue arrived with bread that looked different than what I had had in the past (although, if I had been a first time customer, I could not have known this). I should have questioned the server before I put it in my mouth. That was just plain stupid on my part. I took for granted every previous experience I had at Boston’s and assumed that I needn’t worry, I actually thought it was just a new pizza crust recipe.
It wasn’t until after my second bite that I just could not reconcile that what I was eating could possibly be gluten free. My dad called the server over and when I asked him if the bread was GF, he said yes, that he had put it in the computer to be GF. Trying to maintain my composure I joked, “if this is GF then Boston’s had better get a patent, because this is IDENTICAL in taste and texture to the real thing.” I then asked the server to please go question the kitchen staff, to make sure before I ate anymore. When the server came back, my worst nightmare had been realized. I was just “glutened.”
He apologized but that was all. I could tell he had no knowledge of celiac disease. The server did not offer to get the manager, I had to ask for the manager to come to our table.
I am wondering what happened to the “We treat it like a death allergy” statement…
When she arrived, she was very nice and apologetic then offered to take care of our bill. While I certainly appreciated that, what I really wanted was her assurance that this would be addressed to the General Manager, the Kitchen Staff and the Wait Staff so hopefully this won’t happen to someone else. She promised me that she would.
The majority celiacs understand that if we choose to eat out then we assume the risk for gluten exposure. BUT, when a restaurant offers a “Gluten Free Menu,” they put out the presumption that the staff has been educated and are aware of how to reduce the risk of gluten exposure or at the very least, the staff has been told what celiac disease is.
There needs to be on-going daily reminders at each pre-shift meeting for the staff, especially with the high turnover rate of restaurant positions. Getting “glutened” is not as “simple” as causing one to suffer from insomnia due to a decaf switcheroo with regular joe. This could have devastating and long-term side effects to someone who has celiac disease.
I have been knocking at hell’s door for the past 24 hours as I feel the gluten wrecking havoc on my system and praying to God that the DH rash doesn’t come back, (DH educational moment: An outbreak of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) would require a lengthy prescription for Dapsone, a nasty drug that requires you to get frequent blood tests while on it to check the health of your liver).
But even when the side effects disappear in a few days (that is IF I am lucky enough that the rash doesn’t rear it’s ugly head at me)…it can take months for the intestinal damage to heal.
What is so sad for me about this experience is that Boston’s Gourmet Pizza has excellent gluten free food. One major accident, (and I do believe it was an accident) and I will always think very hard before going back again, if I do. If my server had just known the difference between what the GF bread looked like and the gluten containing bread, he could have caught it before it ever reached my table, and hence altering my once completely raving review to what it is now.
All in all, I think if you are gluten free and have a Boston’s Gourmet Pizza near you, then you should definitely try it, all restaurants are different, even within the same chain. Just be proactive and learn from my mistakes. Ask for a manager BEFORE you order so you will hopefully not have to ask for the manager AFTER you get accidentally “glutened.”
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