(After my article on cross contamination and pizza restaurants, I wanted to write up a pizza restaurant that takes cross contamination seriously. This restaurant takes a lot of the necessary precautions to keep their gluten free customers safe.)
Pennini’s Ristorante Italiano is located in Moraga, CA. When I called and spoke to the owner, Pat, I was really impressed at his knowledge of gluten free and preventing cross contamination. I am sure you read my article about cross contamination being common in a pizza restaurant. It is impossible to prevent 100% of cross contamination, but this pizza restaurant really seems to take many steps to keep their customers safe.
Pennini’s started serving gluten free pizzas back in 2008 after one of Pat’s customers educated him about gluten free. When Mariposa, a local bakery in the East Bay with a dedicated gluten free kitchen, started offering their crusts wholesale, Pat ran a taste test in his restaurant to compare his current gluten free crust to the Mariposa gluten free crust. Mariposa won hands down. About four years ago they switched to using only Mariposa Baking Company’s gluten free pizza crusts.
Pennini’s has a strict gluten handling policy in place.
- Gluten free crusts from Mariposa are stored separately in their bags.
- Gluten free pizzas are made in a separate area of the kitchen.
- Gloves are changed to make a gluten free order.
- They use sanitized screens to put the pizza on. (Screens are not perfect, you need to make a choice if this is enough protection from cross contamination for you.
- Pennini’s uses a Roto Flex oven that has four shelves. They cook the gluten free pizzas on the top shelf in the oven to prevent flour from falling down onto gluten free pizzas..
- There are separate paddles and cutters that are only for gluten free pizza orders.
- Servers are trained to ask questions to completely understand the customer’s allergy and to know which toppings and sauces are gluten free.
I also found out that Pennini’s provides school lunches to the local public school. (I originally called while they were trying to fill an order of 80 pizzas for the school.) Pennini’s brings in hot lunch a couple of times a week for the school’s pasta day and pizza day. I was surprised to learn that Pennini’s receives an average of 57 orders for gluten free pasta on pasta days. They cook the pasta in fresh water and in sterilized pans when making this for the gluten free students.
It is really nice to see a local business so active in their community. Pennini’s frequently donates and participates in fundraisers for local schools and non-profits.