Interview: Russo’s NY Pizzeria

Russo's NY Pizzeria1) Russo’s NY Pizzeria founder Anthony Russo is not personally gluten-free, but started offering gluten-free pizza due to customer demand. Part of that demand may come from the fact that the gluten-free diet has become a fad. There will still be customers who need to be gluten-free for life, but when the fad ends and the demand lessens, will Russo’s still offer gluten-free pizza?

Yes, most of our customers who enjoy our gluten-free pizzas and gluten-free menu items have celiac disease so we will continue to offer gluten-free options.

2) Pizza seems to be the party food of choice for kids, and spaghetti and meatballs seems to be a staple of the kids’ menu in restaurants. Russo’s offers gluten-free versions of all three foods, but being gluten-free can make kids feel different. What has been your experience with families coming in who may have one child who is gluten-free and one who is not?

Because our pizza tastes so good, families can share the gluten-free pizza together. Children who are gluten-free do not have to feel different since parents can serve the same menu items to all children in the family.

3) How do you educate your staff to ensure that the gluten-free food you serve is safe for celiacs (free from cross-contamination)?  

We have a very strong training program for all new employees so they can learn proper protocol for handling gluten-free food. The gluten-free training program explains why safe gluten-free food preparation is vital to the health of those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. It also teaches staff to identify gluten-containing ingredients, including those that may not be immediately obvious.

Specific training covers dry and cold storage, equipment concerns, and cross-contamination. This includes preparing the kitchen and using separate utensils. We also have constant training updates for existing staff.

4) If customers specify that they have “celiac” rather than just say that they are “gluten-free,” is their food handled any differently? (That is to say that someone who requests gluten-free may or may not be gluten-free for medical reasons and may or may not be affected by cross-contamination, whereas a celiac is undoubtedly eating gluten-free as a treatment for his disease and will indeed be affected.)

We handle all gluten-free requests the same way, following our strict standards. The majority of the time, we don’t know whether customers are gluten-free by choice or otherwise, so we must prepare food following the same standards.

Learn more about Russo’s New York Pizzeria at nypizzeria.com.