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.