My curiosity about 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria was piqued when I read in the September Edition of Eat Magazine (page 27) that the owner’s son was a celiac. Executive Chef and Owner, Adrian Ortiz-Mena was quoted as saying,
- “I think the most innovative thing we have done is bringing really good gluten-free pizza to our customers. My son was diagnosed celiac when he was 5 years old … and he loved pizza. It broke my heart thinking that he could no longer have pizza, so I developed a gluten-free pizza dough just for him. It was a real challenge, a labour of love.”
The Celiac Scene needed to learn more!
I popped into this warm and inviting restaurant on a cold and rainy September night, hoping for the opportunity to speak to a chef or server about their gluten-free options.
I was pleasantly surprised when Adrian himself bounded from the back of the restaurant only too eager to share his son’s health journey and how he had worked at home to create a gluten-free crust that met his discerning chef standards. Using one of the best all-purpose gluten-free flour mixes on the market and few extra-special ingredients, he was able to create a crust that pleased his son – and one that Adrian believed would please his customers.
As our community well knows, it takes more that a crust to create a gluten-free pizza. Adrian set about to contact the manufacturers of every ingredient used in his entire operation to ensure that the components used in all of his pizzas were celiac-safe. Apart from the wheat flour used for his regular crusts and the garlic bread, every ingredient that 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria in house is gluten-free.
What about the process?
Adrian brimmed with enthusiasm as he explained that gluten-free pizzas are entirely prepared in a dedicated gluten-free area, in a room away from the regular production area. Sauces and toppings are stored in dedicated containers and applied with dedicated utensils that are never used to dress regular pizzas.
When a gluten-free order is processed, the chef washes his hands – up to his elbows – before starting work on an the order. When complete, the pizza is placed on a dedicated gluten-free pizza peel (handle) and transported to the 900˚ pizza oven where it is cooked to perfection.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
At 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria, pizzas are cooked directly on the hearth of their single pizza oven, where other gluten pizzas have also been cooked. The concern on my face prompted Adrian to escort me directly to the oven itself where he proceeded to sweep to the side the burnt, charcoal dust of the pizza crusts that had been cooked.
While Adrian whole heartedly agreed with me that deep frying food at a standard 325-375˚F does not destroy gluten, he maintains that incinerating to 900˚residual gluten crumbs and flour from previously cooked pizzas and then sweeping them aside, most assuredly does.
That said, 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria is pleased to cook gluten-free pizzas on sanitized pizza pans for any gluten-free diner’s peace of mind. As a wood-fired pizza purist however, Adrian cautions that cooking pizza on a pan may generate different results.
900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria is most assuredly a pizza lover’s pizzeria. Gluten pizza dough is thrown into the air with gusto, wheat flour coats the kitchen floor like dance dust and a fine coat of flour is evident on surfaces throughout the main preparation area.
That said after two years’ serving gluten-free pizza, Adrian shared that there have been no reports from gluten-free diners that they have experienced gluten contamination.
As Adrian is quoted as saying in the EAT Magazine article, “I don’t think we really did anything new – we just did it better!”
I would have to agree: for celiac diners who are comfortable with these practices or those who avoid gluten as a lifestyle choice, 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria sets the gluten-free bar as high as I have seen it on Vancouver Island.
900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria stages occasional pasta specials and always offer the option of Italy’s Schar Gluten-Free Pasta to gluten-free diners!
900˚ Wood Fired Pizza is pleased to serve 100% gluten-free Forager Beer, made in Whistler from sorghum and rice.
- 900 Degrees Wood-Fired Pizza 101B 2401 Millstream Avenue, Victoria (250) 590-4493
- Menu • Facebook • Instagram
- Contact Executive Chef & Owner Adrian Ortiz-Mena
- Hours: Monday – Thursday: 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Closed Sunday & Statutory Holidays
- Family-friendly • Accessible
Would you like to join Victoria’s Gluten-Free Foodies as we ‘Dare to Dine’ at 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria on October 28th at 5pm, click here for details.
“Where to Eat in Canada” adds @900.degrees to it’s list of worthy restaurants, calling their pizza “as close to perfection as it’s possible to get,” and one of only a handful of restaurants here in Victoria named “Good Buys”. Check out the full review on page 306 of the 2017-18 guide published by Oberon Press. Pick up your copy today!