Sometimes…it’s hard to be on a gluten-free diet when you see everyone else around you diving into the pizza, pasta, bread. Sooner or later, it’s all you want. Unfortunately, where I live, gluten-free pizza is not something readily available. Sure, I can duck out to the grocery store and pick up a frozen Amy’s pizza with the gluten-free crust…but, let’s face it…nothing beats a fresh pizza. Frozen is good in a pinch, but fresh ingredients, fired in an oven, crust cooked to perfection…yeah…I’d been craving since I had to go gluten-free.
While planning a trip out of town to East Lansing, Michigan to see U2 in concert, I was busying myself with finding places to eat. After all, I love my food. And almost immediately, I discovered Guido’s Pizza.
I had been craving pizza. Absolutely craving it. So after I found the Website for Guido’s Gluten-Free Pizza, I knew this had to be where I ate before leaving the area. And my roommate agreed…so we made our plans. On our way out of town the day following the concert, we’d drop by for some gluten-free pizza and (yes!) gluten-free bread sticks to fortify ourselves for the long car trip back to Southern Indiana.
Holding true to our promise, as we left the hotel to head home, we detoured to Okemos, Michigan to indulge in some pizza. Guido’s Pizza was kind of hidden away, but it’s one of those gems worth searching for. As we entered the restaurant, I already felt the rush of excitement. Finally…pizza!
We glanced over the menu and discussed the pizza we would like to try and how exactly to get it made. Finally, we had our order prepared. One order of Gluten-Free Garlic Bread Sticks, and upon the recommendation of our cashier, we paired that with the garlic cheese dip. As for our pizza…we were on the fence over two of them, since I’m a vegetarian, but we finally decided to give the Gluten-Free Veggie Pizza a try. The toppings on this one included mushrooms, onions, green peppers, tomato slices…and should have had black olives on it, but neither my friend nor I liked those, so we had them leave it off. To top it off, we went with a non-dairy Daiya cheese. Before I even had my credit card out to pay for the order, the owner and head chef, Steve, ducked out of the kitchen to clarify…no dairy cheese on the pizza…but the garlic cheese dip was dairy. I explained that while I was lactose intolerant, I could take a lactase supplement. He felt comfortable with that and I told him I appreciated his concern and thanked him for checking.
With our meal now paid for, we went to take a seat at one of the tables in the dining room. It was just moments later that Steve emerged again from the kitchen. He asked if we were from the area. When we said we were visiting from out of town, he looked a bit disappointed, but there was this spark of excitement still. It was then that he asked us to follow him over to the next room because he wanted to show us something. We happily obliged.
As we stepped inside, I could see there was the beginning of something special going on. And after he flipped on the lights and had us step beyond the counter and into the kitchen, I understood his excitement. He was a week away from opening WOW (With Out Wheat), the nation’s first completely gluten-free deli. And he was giving us the grand tour! I was SO thrilled by this. He explained what kind of sandwiches would be offered, all made with local products (meats included), on homemade gluten-free breads. Steve showed me the grill these sandwiches would be made on, the frier that fries would be made in, the soup station, because soups can be tricky for people with a gluten-intolerance, but all of his would be safe. He showed us the freezer, asking if we both had a gluten intolerance. I said it was just me and he plucked out a chocolate cookie…made fresh by him…completely gluten-free. I took a bite…and it melted. IT MELTED!! Moist, rich, delicious…words that normally don’t accompany the words “gluten-free” by any means. But this was all of those things!
He pulled out a loaf of the bread that he was baking up for the deli and let me hold it. It wasn’t dense. It was light. And it felt like bread. It smelled like bread. And it was the ACTUAL size of bread! I love Udi’s bread as much as the next gluten-intolerant person, but it doesn’t make a very big sandwich! This would be actual sandwich size! I think I was beaming from ear-to-ear with all this information. As we stepped away from the kitchen and back around the counter, he explained there would be a coffee bar set up, pointing to a counter, as well as breakfast items, like gluten-free pancakes, gluten-free bagels, gluten-free cinnamon rolls…and I said I was sad that I didn’t live in the area, because I would be in every day.
A completely certified gluten-free kitchen…in the nation’s first completely gluten-free kitchen! He also said, once it opened, all the gluten-free pizza making would move to that side, but until then, he kept all of the items and cookware separate in the current shared kitchen at Guido’s. As we settled back into our seats, he said he’d hurry back and make our garlic bread sticks now.
As we waited, all I could talk about to my roommate was how exciting the deli was…and how I couldn’t wait to taste the food that Steve made for us here. I hoped it was good. I hoped it was beyond anything regular bread sticks and pizza could have offered.
It wasn’t too long before Steve emerged with a platter of our Gluten-Free Garlic Bread Sticks with a side of the garlic cheese dip. He set the plate down and disappeared for a moment with the scooper, only to return with a clean towel from the gluten-free deli, wiping it down very carefully right there so I could see him do it. He explained that he took extra precautions when it came to anyone who ordered gluten-free…and in the three years he’d offered gluten-free items in his restaurant, no one had ever gotten sick from any sort of cross-contamination! That’s a damn good record.
He went to go work on our pizza and my friend and I each dished ourselves up a slice of the bread. She gave me the honor of the first bite, so I took the bread, dipped it carefully into the garlic cheese dip…and for the first time in six months, I tasted real Italian-style bread sticks. I think my eyes rolled back in my head from the initial burst of flavor. These bread sticks had been cooked with Parmesan, romano and extra virgin olive oil. And they had so much flavor. They were crisp and hot and fresh. And the garlic butter…thank God for that cashier because she was right…the stuff should be a sin. It was some of the best topping I ever dipped bread in. And I’ve tried many a sauce and dip over my lifetime. NOTHING compared to this. And my friend agreed. As our pizza was delivered, we saved the extra cheese dip for the crusts, and she announced to Steve that the garlic cheese dip was “stupid good!” He took that as high praise and high-fived her.
The pizza he set down looked beyond fantastic. Once again, he hurried off to retrieve a fresh towel and began to wipe down the plates and the silverware, individually, before he handed them to us. With that, he said he hoped we enjoyed the meal and went to go see to the other orders from other patrons now coming in.
I dished each of us up our first slice of the Gluten-Free Veggie Pizza and took a deep breath. This…needed to be good for me. I’d waited this long to have a slice of pizza…I wanted it to be the epitome of every pizza I had ever tasted. Was it? It’s really hard to compare, but I will say this…Guido’s cooked up one hell of a gluten-free pizza. The crust was amazing. It tasted like pizza crust…it had a crunch like pizza crust. It wasn’t too heavy. And the toppings were fresh and done to perfection. This was also the first time I had Daiya cheese on anything, and while it didn’t look like much on the pizza itself…it was amazing. Tasted just like melted cheese on a pizza should taste…without actually being cheese! Should gluten-free pizza ever make its way into restaurants around here, the bar has been set pretty high as to what it needs to equal. Steve cooked up one hell of a delicious pizza. Bursting with flavor, every bite was an experience. And yes…the extra crusts were dipped into that garlic cheese dip. None of the pizza nor the bread sticks nor the dip went to waste. We stuffed ourselves silly…but it was the happiest I had been in a restaurant in a long time.
As we departed, I once again thanked Steve for everything…and now am searching for a reason to return to East Lansing so I can go back and check out the new deli. In fact, Guido’s Pizza has been renamed. The entire restaurant is called WOW (With Out Wheat), and I hope this is a concept that catches on throughout the nation. What Steve is doing for the gluten-free community is groundbreaking. I feel honored to not only have eaten his pizza, but to have gone behind the scenes of his visionary deli. If I lived up that way, I would totally work there!
I felt completely safe dining there and didn’t even worry about cross-contamination. Steve put any concerns to rest by wiping off plates and utensils in front of me, and explaining why he did that. I would recommend his restaurant to anyone. He has non-gluten-free stuff, but trust me…you’ll love the gluten-free stuff just as much.
This place is a diamond in the rough…a gem just waiting to be discovered. I’m so glad I stopped in for lunch that day. What I found was a competent restaurant owner and chef who took every step possible to make it a safe, satisfying, and fabulous dining experience. I can’t stress my satisfaction enough. Steve and Guido’s (now WOW) are both worthy of praise. And the food…well…the food is amazing. But you shouldn’t take my word for it. Go try it yourself…
…with a side of the garlic cheese dip!