Restaurant Review: ZPIZZA – Gluten-free, vegan options

zpizzaBanner

I have not had a ‘real’ pizza in so long. It has been SO long that when I took a bit out of this pizza, I actually had tears in my eyes. Serving in US, Vietnam, South Korea and UAE, this pizza joint has stolen my heart (and my stomach). Thin gluten-free crust that tastes delicious, fresh tomato sauce, topped with delicious zucchini and olives – ah, pizza pizza pizza! Guys, you have definitely got to give this gluten-free pizza a try! The crust was so delicious. I wouldn’t even mind eating it plain! It was that good! They even give you the option of having vegan cheese, which I have yet to try. They were out of it the last two times I visited. Here are the pizzas I tried:

  • California Veggie Pizza: My favourite out of the three. Topped with zucchini, tomatoes, and olives.
  • Tuscan Mushroom Pizza: Had it without mushrooms since I’m not so fond of them. The caramelized onions and garlic sauce was fantastic! Tasted so good! A little too garlic-y and onion-y for me but still pretty damn good.
  • Napoli Pizza: I’m guessing it would’ve tasted much much better with the cheese but since they were out of vegan cheese, it was basically garlic sauce, and tomatoes so I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

Located in Dubai Marina. Gluten-free crusts available in Regular size only. Ingredients and prices listed on the website here.

Review: Gluten free, vegetarian pasta at Carluccio’s, MCC

I ate a meal outside today after what seems like years! Going gluten free meant no eating out at all! But today was a pleasant little treat. For a birthday dinner, my friends decided to go to Carluccio’s at Mirdiff City Center. I had never bothered suggesting Carluccio’s before despite knowing about their gluten free menu because I read on their website that the gluten free pasta was made of rice and corn. I’m sensitive to corn as well. Darn it – one good gluten free restaurant in Dubai and I STILL can’t eat there, I thought.

As the waiter was handing out menus, I asked for the gluten free menu which was promptly whipped up. I was quite tempted with a couple dishes I thought would be safe for me. Mashed potatoes, but without dairy, was one option. A bowl of olives was another. Before you say that that’s weird, let me just tell you that in my defense, I love olives. I was thinking that if they couldn’t provide a pasta that was safe for me to eat, I’d just eat dairy free mashed potatoes with olives! Sounds yummy to me!

Waiting for the pasta of my gluten free dreams

Waiting for the pasta of my gluten free dreams

Everyone at my table ordered their food and I waited because I had a hundred questions to ask the waitress, Jen. Jen confirmed with the chef and assured me that they could use a gluten free pasta made of just rice. NO WAY! I was doing all I could to contain my excitement. I asked her about the tomato and basil sauce. I think I asked her about 15 times whether the dish would be prepared with any butter or cheese or dairy. She patiently answered my questions. I asked her about the oil. She said they would use olive oil. I told her I was sensitive to gluten, corn and dairy, and that I am also a vegetarian. By the way, I absolutely hate going to restaurants because I have to list all the 253462781 things I’m sensitive to. I usually have a small card-sized printout with me that lists all the food items that I cannot have but at the restaurant, I realized I didn’t have a card on me. Anyway, she assured me that the meal would be safe for me: no corn, no gluten and no dairy. I even apologized to Jen because I was repeatedly asking her the same questions again and again! But she was very helpful and very patient.

IT'S HERE!

IT’S HERE!

Jen kindly informed me that my meal would take a few more minutes since it takes longer to prepare. It came a LOT sooner than I expected! Oh mon dieu, it looked delicious! It had been SO long since I ate pasta with real pasta sauce, since I last ate in a restaurant, since I last ate with my friends! My friends were thrilled that I was finally eating a meal with them! They would often feel bad every time we went out for dinner because I wouldn’t get to eat anything. Usually, I just sit with an empty plate in front of me while everyone else eats. Then I go home and cry.

My beautiful tomato and basil pasta

My beautiful tomato and basil pasta

I took a bite. Was there some kind of mistake? For a good 5 minutes, I kept thinking what if they mixed up my order and gave me wheat pasta instead. I couldn’t tell the difference! It tasted so much like normal pasta! My friend even tried some and said it tasted better than the meal he had ordered! I had to call Jen back because I saw tiny black flakes on my pasta and I wondered if it was black pepper. (I’m sensitive to black pepper.) Jen assured me that there was no black pepper – she is the one who garnishes pasta with black pepper and/or parmesan and she had skipped my dish for that. Relief! I dug in. I dug myself into a pasta-filled abyss.

The chefs at Carluccio's, Mirdiff City Center

The chefs at Carluccio’s, Mirdiff City Center

The portion was very generous! I was so full! After the meal, I thought I’d meet the chef and thank him. Our server, Raju, took me to the kitchen counter where he introduced me to Chef Joel (2nd from the left). I told him the meal was great! I told him that I had finally eaten out after ages, and that I avoid most restaurants because they mix other ingredients that I’m sensitive to and the ingredients aren’t disclosed. Joel seemed pleased to hear that I had had a wonderful experience.

Before leaving, I thanked our server Raju, and hostess Jen. I told Jen she had been extremely helpful. It was great, really. I wanted to ask whether the pasta contained anything other than rice (if at all), and whether the chef was also handling other wheat items and if was there a separate cooking station for gluten free meals in order to avoid cross contamination, but I felt like I had asked them enough questions for the day! Perhaps next time!

And now, the part that you’ve all been waiting for: Did I have any reactions?

As of right now, about 3 hours after the meal, I am feeling fine. In fact, I’m feeling really good because I just drank some 7up, something I have been avoiding for months. I was feeling slightly bloated after the meal, but that’s probably due to the FODMAP content of the tomato sauce. No fault of the dish or the restaurant – simply the way my body handles fructose. Although however, it was such a mild symptom. I barely even feel any discomfort. I’m going to lay low on FODMAP foods for a couple days. My symptoms usually become highly apparent the following day, so the next 24 hours will answer whether I have any further reactions to the food. I doubt it, but I’ll keep you posted anyway!

UPDATE: 24 hours have passed. I am still alive. My stomach was slightly bloated and a little uncomfortable today after dinner. It has also been making odd noises, like those that a machine that needs to be greased makes. That might be due to the fact that there was about 7+ hours in between my meals. I was starving and that’s what might have led to the discomfort. Other than that, I feel perfectly fine. I was half afraid I’d  wake up feeling anxious and with brain fog. But I woke up thinking clearly and felt good all day. No back aches, no bloat, no brain fog, no stomach cramps. Carluccio’s, I approve!

All in all, I highly recommend Carluccio’s. The staff is friendly and receptive, and the ambiance is great. It kind of feels like you’re dining al fresco, because it’s so spacious and relaxed in there! I usually hate crowded, cramped places but I felt very comfortable here. The food is excellent too. My friends loved their meals. The only complaint I heard from my friends about their meals was about the steak which was a bit too hard; and that one of the pasta dishes turned out to be very spicy. Even so, majority of the dishes turned out great and this was actually the first time my friends were somewhat dissatisfied with meals from Carluccio’s. They’ve been to the restaurant several times and have loved the food. The restaurant even has some items customers can purchase, like their pastas and sauces. It’s all stacked up on shelves on the walls. Nifty! Visit the restaurant and try it out if you like. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be going there again to indulge in gluten free delights!

To summarize:

THE GOOD

  • Quick service
  • Staff was friendly and helpful
  • Staff had good knowledge about gluten intolerance and food sensitives
  • Good ambiance
  • Good food
  • GLUTEN FREE FOOD!

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • 2 out of around 7 or 8 meals were dissatisfactory (the steak was too hard and one pasta dish was too spicy)
  • They should advertise their gluten free menu more. I remember a couple months ago, when I had heard in passing that they had gluten free food. I didn’t want to go in to ask so I just looked at their menu from outside. I didn’t see any sign of gluten free foods so I never bothered stepping in. The only reason I knew they had a GF menu was by googling GF restaurants in Dubai.

WILL I BE GOING THERE AGAIN? 

  • Yes!

Here We Go!

I have finally decided to set up a gluten free health, beauty and living blog. I’m certainly no expert on health or beauty (or even living, for that matter) but I am on a winding road trying to figure out what works best for me. I have been on a gluten free, dairy free vegetarian diet for a long, long time now. This means cooking, eating out, skincare products, nail polish and make-up are ALL accompanied by a warning sign. Did I mention how the lack of gluten free, allergy friendly products in Dubai makes this so much more difficult?

Yes, I’m struggling. I really really am.