Pizza lovers with gluten intolerance in Mason have cause to celebrate.
The Mason LaRosa’s store is one of just eight LaRosa’s restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area to offer a new gluten-free pizza option.
Michael LaRosa, the company’s chief executive officer, says the reaction from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.
“This is clearly the single product that has generated the most heart-warming and enthusiastic response from our guests. People are saying, ‘I haven’t had a LaRosa’s pizza for 15 years. Now I can enjoy it, and I’ve had it three times this week.’ ”
As Josh Pichler reports, LaRosa’s new market is largely comprised of children and adults with a gluten intolerance.
For them, eating foods that contain gluten can lead to damage of the lining of the small intestine, known as celiac disease. The condition prevents the body from absorbing essential nutrients, which can then lead to abdominal pain, nausea and unexplained weight loss.
Gluten is found in all types of wheat and wheat products, such as pizza crust. It’s what gives dough its elasticity. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, celiac disease affects at least 3 million Americans.
The new crust — LaRosa’s sauce, toppings and cheese are already gluten-free — is an item two years in the making. LaRosa’s contracted with a supplied in Georgia, French Meadow Bakery, a fully certified organic bakery, to make the dough.
LaRosa’s, which was founded in 1954 and today has 65 pizzerias, worked with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to certify management, and implemented tools and procedures to minimize potential cross contamination.
The new gluten-free pie required extensive training for employees at the eight locations that currently offer the product.
“Our thought there is to have geographic coverage,” Michael LaRosa said. “Sure, we could put it in more stores, but we wanted to make 110 percent certain that we didn’t risk anyone’s safety. For some folks, it’s a lifestyle choice. For other folks, (gluten) can make them ill. We took that with high regard.”
Mark LaRosa, the company’s president and chief culinary officer, said that the pizza, which comes in a medium size and costs the same as a regular medium pizza ($13.99), has the same taste, but a difference in texture.
“The dough just has a little bit different bite and chew, but it has a very pleasant flavor, it just doesn’t come through as a traditional wheat-flavored dough,” said Mark LaRosa.
The new offering was prompted by increasing customer demand over the past five years, said Michael LaRosa.
“In any successful business, you have to have the mindset that you listen to your customers,” he said.
The Mason LaRosa’s is at the corner of Triway Drive and Ohio 42. Other locations offering the gluten-free pizza are: Anderson, Boudinot Avenue, Kenwood, Alexandria, Oxford, Beavercreek and Centerville.