Going Gluten-Free: 5 wheat-free pizzas to try on Oahu
The field of gluten-free pizza (meaning a crust that’s wheat-free) is quite broad on Oahu. Even in casually assessing the scene, it’s clear that options abound.
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Here’s something happy to report: The field of gluten-free pizza (by this I mean specifically a crust that’s wheat-free, since we can dictate toppings) is quite broad on Oahu. Even in casually assessing the scene, it’s clear that options abound.
Getting started was a no-brainer. I just began with what I knew. California Pizza Kitchen, for instance, has had a gluten-free option for a number of years, and Whole Foods Kahala has for been a go-to for carry-out virtually since it opened. Now, with more demand for gluten- free food, there are brand-new choices: Just a couple months ago, Hawaii’s first Pizza Press opened its doors in Pearl City with a gluten-free crust on the menu.
I selected five places serving gluten-free pizzas — three restaurants and two market delis — and sampled them. In general, I found that most pizzas were personal size, roughly 12 inches in diameter. Just one spot offers a larger 16-inch size, suited to sharing.
I also learned the hot new go-to for gluten- free crust is cauliflower, and I must say it makes for a delicious, sturdy option that stands up well to a pile of toppings. That’s traditionally been a challenge for some crusts without gluten. When done right, a cauliflower crust is nearly identical to a wheat one.
Unfortunately, prices between gluten and nongluten pizzas are almost never identical — with few exceptions, you’ll have to add a few dollars to the cost of a gluten-free pie.
Here’s a peek at five venues and their pizzas:
>> California Pizza Kitchen: For a full restaurant experience and a now-famous out-of-the-box menu that ranges from traditional margherita to Thai chicken, this is the go-to. The restaurant offers a nice cauliflower crust (add $3) for any selection, and folks who must steer clear of any trace of gluten will appreciate the lineup of five certified gluten-free pizzas. Prices range from about $17 to $20. Locations: Pearlridge Center, Town Center of Mililani, Ka Makana Ali‘i in Kapolei, Ala Moana Center, Kahala Mall, Waikiki, Kailua Town Center and near the airport at 300 Rodgers Blvd.
>> Down to Earth: At the vegetarian market’s new locations, Kakaako and Pearlridge, find the best bargain around, a 16-inch pizza that doesn’t cost a penny more for a gluten-free crust. (Other locations sell pizzas only by the slice.) That crust is freshly made and distinct for its doughiness, a great option amid the multitude of thin and crunchy crusts that define most gluten-free pizzas. Fresh toppings abound, but remember, this is a meat-free zone. Down to Earth also offers vegan cheese, a plus for the dairy-challenged. A 10-inch pizza is $11; a 16-inch, $16 to $17. Locations: 2525 S. King St. in Moiliili, 500 Keawe St. in Kakaako, Pearlridge Center, Kapolei Commons and 201 Hamakua Drive in Kailua.
>> Pieology: This is a place of many options, starting with two gluten-free crusts, thin (add $2.50) and cauliflower (add $3). I preferred by far the cauliflower version, flawless in flavor (I enjoyed the ever-so-slight cauliflower taste) and stellar as a foundation for toppings. The thin crust, which I liked just fine, tasted and behaved more like a thin cracker, with dry, crunchy edges and a center that tends to get soggy from the toppings. There’s something for everyone here, with countless sauces, cheeses (including vegan), meats, veggies and even “after bake” sauces for drizzling or dipping. A cauliflower-crusted pizza runs about $14. Locations: 2615 S. King St. in the University area, Aina Haina Shopping Center, Pearlridge Center and 151 Hekili St. in Kailua.
>> Pizza Press: This new addition to Hawaii’s pizza scene is still finding its groove, at least when assessing it from a gluten-free perspective. It took three visits before I could even try the food — the gluten-free crust option on the menu (add $2) hasn’t been consistently available. When ordering, be sure to ask that your pizza stays in the oven until it’s crisp to ensure the thin crust is fully baked and firm enough that you can pick up your slices. Choose from a long list of toppings (add $1 for vegan cheese). My 11-inch pepperoni and vegan cheese pizza was $12. Find Pizza Press at Pearl Highlands Center.
>> Whole Foods Market: Thin, crisp cauliflower crust serves as the bed for the market’s gluten-free pies, made to order at the Kahala and Kailua locations (Kakaako doesn’t offer gluten-free pizza). Three toppings cost $15; buy two pizzas for $26. That’s the same price as the standard pizza, though the gluten-free version ends up pricier because it’s 14 inches versus the standard 18-inch size. Vegan cheese is available. Locations: Kahala Mall and 629 Kailua Road. (The Kakaako store is at 388 Kamakee St.)
“Going Gluten-Free” helps meet the cooking and dining challenges faced by those on wheat-free diets. It runs on the first Wednesday of each month. Send questions to Joleen Oshiro, firstname.lastname@example.org.