Restaurant: Blaze Pizza, Louisville, Kentucky
What’s the deal with restaurants and that tasteless, pre-made, pre-packaged gluten-free pizza crust? It’s so rare to actually receive a freshly made pizza crust…unless you happen to have a specialty bakery in your area…like I do. But, not everyone is that lucky, and those who aren’t are usually left to those cracker crust gluten-free pizza shells that it seems every place serving a gluten-free pizza uses.
That was what I was prepared for when my roommate and I decided to try out the newest (small) franchised chain and place to offer a gluten-free pizza option in Louisville.
I had heard things about Blaze Pizza. Good things. My good friend, Harry, raved about the place, telling me all about how it’s like a Subway or Qdoba for pizza. And that they offered a gluten-free crust. I had heard that they offered a gluten-free option and had definite interest in checking it out. Instead of my normal Saturday breakfast, my roomie and I skipped the gluten-free bakery and made plans to meet Harry for lunch at Blaze Pizza.
Unfortunately, Harry’s appointment he had prior to the lunch meeting was running over and he had to cancel. So, it was just Cathy and I on Saturday. And our first experience with Blaze Pizza.
Blaze Pizza prides itself on exceptional quality pizzas that are fast-fired (3 minutes!) and cooked to perfection. It starts with made-from-scratch dough and then topped with either some of their classic toppings…or you can build your own. Whatever you like from there healthful, artisinal ingredients. It’s up to you. And then, they are placed in a hot oven…3 minutes later, you receive your pizza, crust thin and perfectly crisped…and you’re ready to dig in. That’s Blaze Pizza.
So, when Cathy and I stepped inside, I was expecting the usual song and dance. Order a gluten-free pizza and watch that pre-made crust get unwrapped and settled onto a tray to help keep cross-contamination to a minimum. But…that’s not what happened. We ordered the gluten-free pizza (extra $2.00 for gluten-free crust) and immediately the cashier asked if it was a preference or an allergy. I told them it was an allergy, that I was a Celiac, and even though I was about to ask for a glove change, he instantly said, “Would you like us to do a glove change?” I blinked. I might have stared surprised for a long second. “Um…yes, please. I was just about to ask!”
So, as he called back to the girl for the gluten-free crust he said…”GLOVE CHANGE!” The person who was working these amazing pizza crust presses (I so want one…it takes a heap of dough and presses it into a perfect 11 inch thin crust) changed her gloves and reached for the gluten-free dough. YES…DOUGH! It went onto a special tray and then into the other (and I’m assuming dedicated) pizza press. In a quick second, fresh pizza crust was settled onto a wooden plank in a special tray and set for saucing. The cashier reminded the people on the line (who were busy with a large party ahead of us) that they needed a glove change. But, instead, to make sure it happened, the girl running the pizza press, who had just changed her gloves, went ahead and asked me what sauce I wanted.
Here was where I thought I was going to have a problem. I was watching as the saucing station would ladle one of their six sauce options onto the dough and then use the ladle to move the sauce around the dough. As a Celiac, I was beyond curious as to how this was going to work and was going to ask the sauce people as my tray moved. But instead, my pizza went to the end of the line with a separate sauce station. I wanted the red sauce. So, the untouched sauce went onto my gluten-free crust. I was asked what cheese, and I ordered the vegan cheese (extra $1.00 charge) and the pizza press girl with the clean gloves loaded up the pizza with the vegan cheese. Then I added the toppings i wanted…which were red onions, roasted red peppers and mushrooms. We got a sprinkle of dried oregano over the top and it was set to go into the oven.
All together, the build-your-own pizza was $7.00 even for unlimited toppings. With the added cost of getting the gluten-free crust and the vegan cheese, the pizza ended up running $10.00. Cathy got a fountain drink and I got a bottle of water and we went to take our seat. Cathy had me save a table while she went to watch the pizza get fired.
The glove change was written on the paper that the pizza dough is placed on. Cathy watched as they paced the pizza into the oven on one side of the oven away from the other pizzas. They were constantly moving the pizzas around, but they kept mine segregated from the rest. As the pizza was about to come out, the oven person noted the glove change on my paper, so before he touched the paper or anything else, he took off his gloves, washed his hands, and put on fresh gloves. Then he moved the pizza off the silicone tray onto the paper and reached over to the far end of his station to grab a fresh set of tools (cutter, tongs) all with bright red handles, which I am assuming was for gluten-free orders because they were on the opposite end of his station. He sliced up the pizza to order, not touching any other order, pizza, or tools until he was done with my order.
I was impressed.
So…now came the moment of truth. How would this pizza (of my own creation) taste? For the record, Cathy and I decided to call our pizza creation the “Comrade Pizza” because (with the exception of the mushrooms) every ingredient was red. HA! Get it?
I wanted to dig right in, so I took a hot slice of pizza, immediately noting the beautiful, crisp, and charred crust. My mouth was watering. And with one bite…I knew…I was now in love. My God…what a difference a crust made from fresh dough makes. This was phenomenal. I loved hearing that crisp crust crunch with each bite, without it tasting manufactured. Those cracker crusts often just taste…bland. This had flavor. This was crusted to perfection. This was…pizza magic. Seriously good pizza. This was also the best I had ever seen the Daiya vegan cheese melt into an ooey-gooey mass of cheese goodness on a pizza. Seriously. It looked like real cheese.
Not only was I impressed with the pizza at Blaze Pizza, I was more than impressed with the care that the employees and the owners put into keeping those who have a gluten allergy as safe as they can. Honestly, I went in there a bit nervous about my meal…but my fears were immediately put to rest. I would, with confidence, return to Blaze Pizza again and enjoy another fantastic pizza. And I intend to do that. Because I still have to get some pizza with my friend Harry.
Maybe this week. I might be craving…already.
Thank you, Blaze Pizza…for the fantastic experience. I swear…I will be back!