Bay Area Dining: Tony and Alba’s Gluten-free Pizza in San Jose

January 31st, 2011 yum Posted in Bay Area, California, Gluten Free Dining, Gluten Free On the Road, Pizza 6 Comments »

Tony and Alba’s
3137 Stevens Creek Blvd.
(Stevens Creek & Winchester)
Phone: 408-246-4605
Hours of Operation:
Sunday- Thursday 11am to 9pm
Friday and Saturday: 11am to 10pm

It never would have occurred to me to check out Tony and Alba’s for Gluten-free Pizza if it hadn’t been for the recommendation of a pizza-enthusiast friend of mine who wrote a lovely post on her favorite pizza joints in the Bay area. It is a great article, and you should check it out. This afternoon as the DH and Baby Yum and I were on our way to Santana Row, we passed Tony and Alba’s in a strip mall on our left. I had never given it a second thought before, but thanks to my friend, I knew they had a gluten-free pizza available. So, after we browsed the mall and let Baby Yum run wild in the children’s play area, we went out for pizza together. Yay!

They use the French Meadow gluten-free pizza which comes in its own baking tin. Don’t freak out when you walk in the door and the gluten-free pizza isn’t listed on their menu. I have to admit, I like it when a company offering gluten-free food plasters notices all over the restaurant. However, when you say gluten-free pizza to the staff, they are completely aware of what you are talking about and it is printed in nice, clear letters on your receipt. And, when they bring you your pizza, the waiters announce “Here is your gluten-free pizza.” These things make me feel better. I get a little twitchy in a pizza joint, and I was reassured by their gestures. I didn’t order the pizza any special way and it was nice and crispy, so perhaps they’ve made it standard to pre-bake the pizza a little before adding toppings.

What did we order? Well, we started with a MARGHERITA, and were glad that we did. The nice, thin crust had a lovely amount of tomato sauce (or very well baked tomatoes?) and cheese, and then was sprinkled with julienned basil. Now, it isn’t quite like how I do a margherita, which is without tomato sauce, whole slice tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and tons of basil, but isn’t the reason you go out to have things a little differently than you would make them at home?

An unexpected bonus was that Baby Yum was delighted by the thin crust and ate almost a whole piece single-handedly, with a little help from her mama. Prior to this, she’s always been a little unsure about layers of flavor on her food. I think getting her used to quesadillas and the recent ravioli fest have gone a long way to warming her up to pizza. Whatever, the reason, she liked it!

After we all devoured our margherita pizza, we decided to order a vegetarian. The vegetarian has Mushroom, Zucchini, Tomato, Black Olive, Artichoke, Garlic, Bells, and Onion. All the toppings seem to be put on raw, and there are a lot of them. There is especially a lot of garlic. I won’t be having trouble keeping vampires at bay after a slice of that pizza, that is for sure! I am fairly picky about my pizza toppings and like a lesser volume. I also like to grill veggies before putting them on pizzas, so I was a little overwhelmed. The DH also grumbled about the veggies he didn’t like (zucchini etc) and Baby Yum wouldn’t eat it, but I think her petite toddler tummy was full. Next time I’d design my own pizza with fewer toppings, and/or try the Bianca (No Sauce, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Provolone, Feta, Sun-dried Tomato, and without the usual garlic). I hear that it is possible to order gluten-free pasta and polenta at Tony and Alba’s too, so that might be fun another time.

I think meat lovers and fans of cozy, family-style restaurants will be very happy with the gluten-free pizza and other offerings at Tony and Alba’s. There are many options for vegetarians, but their house special is very non-veg, and gets rave reviews. The price is also fantastic, with a typical pizza costing around $12 for a medium-size pizza. For our family of two and a nibble-prone toddler, one pizza would be a light meal, and more than (two) is a nice meal with maybe some leftover slices to take home. If you’ve been missing feeling “normal”- this place is for you. We were surrounded by families and pizza fans at this cozy neighborhood pizza joint, with a television playing lightly in the background as we watched the rain outside. It felt pretty good. The owners seem really sensitive to gluten-free issues. They began preparing gluten-free pizza because a very good family friend’s daughter had Celiac and the owner’s wife wanted her to be able to come to their restaurant. Also, their daughter was dating a guy with a wheat allergy. When they researched it, they saw the need for a down-home family style option for gluten-free folks, and so a menu was born! Both the gluten-free pizza and pasta is made in a dedicated area, with a separate cutter and pan, spoons, etc.), and the pasta is made in a dedicated gluten-free pasta. They purposefully bought rotelli-spiral gluten-free pasta so it would never get confused for the gluten pasta. Gluten-free polenta and beer are also available. To my knowledge, they don’t have a dairy-free or soy-free cheese, so if you have sensitivities you might call ahead and see about the pizza crust ingredients as well as topping options.

They do prepare a lot of gluten-containing foods, and the kitchen is open to the seating area so you might want to eat outside if it is a nice day. Overall, I was pleased with my experience at Tony and Alba’s. I am delighted that there are so many gluten-free pizza options for us in the Bay Area and I can’t wait to try them all!

Coming soon: a very positive review of BJ’s Brewhouse, their gluten-free menu and amazingly crisp pizza.

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Gluten free Restaurants in San Francisco: Pica pica

November 7th, 2010 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free Blogs, Gluten Free Dining, Restaurant Review, Rice Free, San Francisco 5 Comments »

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
401 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415-400-5453
Can’t make it to San Francisco? Try Napa!
Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street, #5 Napa, CA 94559
Phone: 707-251-3757

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen is a delightful find for anyone on a gluten-free diet or who has developed an addiction to corn-based Venezuelan cuisine. I am almost embarrassed that in the over five years that I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I’ve never made it to their San Francisco location. Luckily, my gluten-free friends at BlogHer food were more motivated and planned a lunch there which I was very happy to attend. The entire menu is gluten-free. Those who can’t have corn will be out of luck, as pretty much everything contains corn. However, you can easily eat vegetarian or even vegan, and rice isn’t even on the menu if you are rice intolerant! Soy also can be avoided, although PAN, the base for their arepas, may be manufactured on lines with soy. If you thought you’d never eat a sandwich out again or have this much selection if you did, this place will prove you wrong and make you happy in the process. If you are like me, you’ll be a little overwhelmed by all the options, so let me tell you about the vegetarian dishes I tried. The most obvious vegetarian arepa choice is of course La Vegetariana Arepa with tofu, avocado, plantains, black beans and sauce. The ingredients sound perfect, but somehow it is just a bit bland for my taste, to be honest. I had it twice- once at the Napa location some time back, and both times I wasn’t all that excited. I love tofu, but this is quite a big, fairly plain slab of the stuff.
I didn’t order the Morena, or black bean, Empanada myself, but Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen did and generously shared some with me. Usually empanadas are made out of wheat flour, so it is a rare treat to find some that are made out of corn. These are light, flaky, probably deep fried, and have a delicious bean filling. I would definitely order them next time. Yummy! And I loved the spicy sauce with them. De-lish! The Queso Fresco empanada sounds good, too, but it would be hard to beat the savory bean filling.

Deep fried gluten-free goodies are always tempting, as it can be very hard to find them without cross contamination issues from a shared fryer. Pica Pica has two deep fried sides that are both good, but very different. One is a plantain chip. They are soft and sweet, with a thin, lightly fried exterior. If you are expecting intense crunch, this may not be the dish for you, but I like them because you can eat a bunch and not feel terribly guilty. If you’re in the camp that wants your fried food to taste like true deep fried goodness, then I recommend the Yucca fries. These amazingly crispy fries will satisfy all your Southern dreams and then some. I would want to share them with a friend because they are so rich and decadent. Bet you can’t eat just one!

I also tried their hot chocolate, but I am a picky-picky girl when it comes to my hot chocolate and I like it dark, rich, and thick. I wouldn’t order it again for myself but I bet my DH would enjoy it.

Of course the best thing about eating out is usually the company. I shared my meal with a wonderful group of gluten-free bloggers, most of whom I mentioned in this post about our gluten-free meal together at The Plant. *Link to blogs included for New friends not previously listed*

Shirley of Gluten-free Easily was a charming table companion, and we shared a batch of plantain fries. I just love her.

Counter-clockwise: Tia from Gluten Gluten-free, Alisa of Go Dairy Free, Diane from The Whole Gang, and just the eyes of Wendy of Celiacs in the House

Clockwise: Ellen of I am Gluten Free, GF Veg of Wheatless and Meatless, Kim of Cook it Allergy Free, Tom and Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

And guess what? My friends wrote reviews of Pica Pica, too!
Wendy’s review and Arepas recipe
Diane’s review of Pica Pica and other gluten-free dining in San Francisco
GF Veg’s review of Pica Pica and photo slideshow
Alisa’s Dairy-free Review of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
Know of any other Pica Pica blog reviews? Share in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

Want to make your own version of arepas?
My recipe for green chili cheese arepas
Cheese Arepas and Perico Scramble Recipe

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