Gluten-Free in NYC
I had the most AMAZING time in NYC last month! I cannot believe just how many SAFE, gluten-free options are available there. I am excited to tell you all about them but first, why I was there. I was in NYC for the Gluten Free Calendar Celebrate Celiac™ event and Celiac Awareness Night with the Yankees. I had the great pleasure of meeting so many fantastic people at this event! The guests were so kind and grateful for the event in their city. The vendors were excited to share their gluten-free products and provide delicious samples and the special guests couldn’t have been more knowledgable and true advocates for our community. It was nice to finally meet these amazing people in person: Craig Pinto of Kicking 4 Celiacs, Jenna Drew Miss New Jersey International, Erin Smith the NYC Celiac Meetup group founder and personality behind Gluten Free Fun and Gluten Free Globetrotter, Jackie Ourman of Jackieourman.com, Molly of Sprue Story, the adorable Kelly of Gluten Free Labels and and last but certainly not least, one of my new GFF’s Jaquy Yngvason of Tasty Freedom. Jaquy and I have developed an amazing friendship that I know will last a lifetime. We have similar passions and interests especially when it comes to raising celiac awareness. These individuals are an inspiration to me and truly some of the greatest advocates in our community. I feel honored to call them my friends.
Once I arrived, I got to meet my sweet friend Jaquy (who I mentioned above) and her boyfriend Josh who is just as awesome as she is and one heck of a talented cameraman! Jaquy and I already knew there were some things we absolutely wanted to do while there, especially since she is working on a celiac documentary (which is AWESOME by the way, check out a teaser HERE). We wanted to show that there are some fantastic, SAFE places to eat in NYC. We started at Jennifer’s Way Bakery where we also met up with another friend of mine, the talented Jackie Ourman who is so sweet and an incredibly talented chef (her IG pics always make me drool). Once we arrived we were greeted by Leo, Jennifer Esposito’s boyfriend. He wasn’t in a suit ordering others around, no he was in an apron working the cash register and helping guests! Jennifer was sitting at a table visiting with a mother and her child who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. She didn’t hurry to finish with them just because we were there but gave them her full attention and finished her conversation without haste. This showed them and us of what she truly stands for, genuine love and concern for those in the celiac community. Jennifer gave us this same attention and focus when we all sat down to visit. We ended up talking for over 2 hours and WOW what an enlightening and emotional conversation it was for all of us. It was phenomenal to hear her story and see that she loves our community more than anyone could ever guess without meeting her in person. She is in that bakery nearly everyday to provide a safe haven for us. I was one of those who wondered if she really was there everyday and was interested to learn more about why she started the bakery. She truly is such an inspirational person and as far from the “traditional celebrity” as she can be. Even through celiac related pain and illness Jennifer is such a hard worker often spending 10+ hrs a day in the bakery. I feel honored to have met her and heard her story. While there, we enjoyed some of her baked goods. I was a total nut for the jam thumbprint and then the rosemary lemon cookies…yum!
After our fabulous visit with Jennifer, we were even more excited about our next destination since it is one of the only restaurants she will dine at. So we headed to the famous Pala Pizza who just showed up in Delight Gluten Free Magazine as one of the best gluten-free pizza places in America. They were SPOT on with their judgement. I kid you not, Pala Pizza in NYC is my favorite restaurant EVER!!! I consider the meal I had there to be my “last supper” or the one I would want if I only got one more. The food was phenomenal! I cannot reiterate enough how fresh, full of flavor and appetizing this meal was. When we arrived, the owner Edena welcomed us with a big hug and smile. She gave us a private tour of the kitchen making sure to tell us all about how they have a separate station for gluten-free preparation only including a separate oven. They are VERY conscious of those with celiac disease and the need for avoiding cross contamination. Edena was very knowledgable and was willing to answer any questions we had.
When the first dishes started coming, I thought I was going to jump out of my seat with excitement! We started with fried calamari…YES fried calamari! Pala’s celiac secret is that their fryers are dedicated gluten-free because they only make their fried dishes gluten-free now. I love it!! Next came an array of appetizers including Arancini- risotto balls stuffed with spinach and mozzarella cheese, Polpette- meatballs, tomato sauce and parmigiano cheese and lastly, Formaggio Fritto- smoked scamorza, parmigiano cheese and mozzarella balls. Also, we received the Crostini- Zucchini, cherry tomatoes and daiya cheese on gluten-free bread and a gorgeous golden beet salad. IT WAS ALL AMAZING!!! Nobody could ever tell it was gluten-free. The flavor and presentation of each dish was impeccable!
Following appetizers came our true, rustic Italiano pizza. My favorite food is pizza so you can only imagine how excited I was to eat this. I have never had better pizza in my life! We received the Zucca with butternut squash puree, pancetta, smoked scamorza cheese, mozzarella & fresh parsley pizza as well as a dairy-free Etna with Eggplant, daiya cheese, cherry tomato sauce, fresh basil. Both were truly amazing! It was the best gluten-free crust hands down. I especially loved the Zucca’s unique smokey flavor of the scamorza combined with the smooth butternut squash puree topping.
Dessert was the perfect ending to the perfect meal. We enjoyed three gorgeous desserts (yes, we had to roll out… after out tasty dinner. I was in awe at how beautfiul they looked when they came out. Any dessert would be lucky to have this kind of presentation but my eyes were in awe to see a gluten-free dessert get this type of special attention. The Torta di Mela
Apple tart tatin with vanilla dairy-free ice cream was my favorite with it’s flaky crust and sweet apple filling. I wish words could describe how good this was… The Tortino al Cioccolato
Flourless chocolate cake with almonds and english cream was rich and delicious. Any chocolate lover would be in Heaven with this dessert. Finally, the chocolate tart with pistachios and english cream topped with sea salt was a delectable dessert. Chocolate filling inside a chocolate tart made for a smooth and flaky party for the tastebuds.
I honestly cannot say enough about this amazing restaurant and the fabulous owner, Edena. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone and everyone. It is a NYC MUST! I just hope that one day, Edena will decide to bring one to me on the West Coast. SO ARE YOU READY TO WIN A $40 PALA PIZZA GIFT CARD?! Enter below.
Of course, one of the greatest things for me about visiting NYC is getting to see one of my best friends, Julie!! You know those friends who you know will always be a part of your life? She is absolutely one of them and someone who not only supports me but encourages me in all that I do. I couldn’t wait to hang out with her!! We of course had to do all the touristy stuff including Times Square, Central Park and Little Italy but we also enjoyed hitting up all the places I wanted to try gluten-free from including S’mac, a tasty macaroni and cheese restaurant that not only offers gluten-free versions of their menu offerings but prepares them safely so those with celiac disease can enjoy without getting sick. I have to say that the Alpine, a Swiss mac with gruyere and slab bacon was very tasty. We also visited Dylan’s Candy Bar and got some gluten-free candy to take home to my boys and enjoyed pan fried dumplings and crispy rock shrimp tempura at Lilli and Loo’s, a GIG trained restaurant. I had heard such great things about Pip’s Place, a dedicated gluten-free bakery, that I couldn’t resist stopping in for some goodies. I loved everything I got and felt that they did a fabulous job on their tasty treats.
As you can see from the photos below, I had an absolutely amazing time!! My sweet friend Julie even surprised me when we arrived at her home with this cute card welcoming me to the big apple with gluten-free cookies and fresh apples PLUS an NYC themed book for my babies. I am so blessed to have friends like her in my life who are so thoughtful. Our time with her sweet family in their home just outside of the city, near the beach was also fantastic way to take in all of New York during my trip and enjoy my last day.
NYC was amazing, I can’t wait to go back in the Spring for our Celiac Awareness Night with the Knicks and NYC Celebrate Celiac™ event. Thank you to my sweet NYC friends for making this all possible…hugs!!