This past weekend my sisters, mother and I had a lovely girls day complete with sightseeing local historic buildings, shopping and of course, eating. We were about 40 minutes away from our hometown, so I was not familiar with the restaurants in the area. Having Celiac Disease really makes going out to eat a major challenge, not to mention the amount of stress and anxiety it causes. This day was spontaneous so I did not have my normal amount of time to conduct my restaurant research.
After a long day of sightseeing and intense shopping (yes intense, it’s a real workout, the saying “shop ’til you drop” is totally true), we were starving. We did not expect to be out all day so I had only brought enough snacks to get me through lunchtime. Since it was already 4:30pm and we had a 40 minute drive ahead of us plus about another hour to prepare and cook dinner, I decided to look for some celiac safe restaurants in the town that we were in using my favorite website, Find Me Gluten Free.
To my surprise, I found California Pizza Kitchen on the list marked as celiac friendly with a 100% review score from 7 people (for that specific location). Being a Celiac, I automatically dismiss chain restaurants (well, restaurants in general honestly) from being safe because they usually aren’t regardless if they have a gluten free menu or not. Since it appeared to be our only option, we decided to go for it, and I am SO glad we did.
As soon as we entered the restaurant we were greeted by a smiling man at the host stand. I asked if they had a separate gluten free menu and began to explain that I have Celiac Disease and asked if they were able to properly accommodate me. To my surprise, he was extremely knowledgeable about celiac and informed me that they have a certified gluten free pizza menu and that they could also properly accommodate me if I wanted to order something off of the regular menu. At that point, I told him that I also cannot have dairy and double checked that they would be able to do that as well, he told me that they absolutely could. I was elated!
I started off with their Sangria Flight. Our server took the order and told me she was 99.9% sure that the sangrias were gluten free but she just wanted to double check the ingredients to make sure. That made me feel good because I knew that they were serious about my health condition and making sure I did not get sick. A few minutes later the same man I originally talked to (whom we later found out was the manager) came over with an ingredient list and read off all of the ingredients in the 3 sangria flavors and we confirmed together that we were good to go. It was delicious, the Beehive Sangria (far right) was my favorite!
For my main dish I ordered the BBQ Chicken Pizza without cheese and added pineapples from the certified GF pizza menu, of course. I decided on this because it seemed to be the thing that most of the reviewers raved about and also because I have not been able to order pizza in YEARS. I was thrilled to see my dish come out with a special gluten free marker on it, further making me feel safe and keeping my anxiety at a minimum. The reviewers were right, it was an AMAZING pizza!
The manager came by with our server about 10 minutes after the food was delivered to check in and see how I liked the pizza and to ask how I was feeling (which caught me off guard because I have NEVER had a restaurant care so much about making sure I was okay). I told him that it was the most amazing pizza I have ever had and that I was feeling wonderful! I felt as if I was eating in my own home, thats how comfortable and welcome I was feeling!
Needless to say the customer service and food were exceptional! My overall experience was fantastic and California Pizza Kitchen has just gained a customer for LIFE! It was so refreshing to be able to enjoy a nice meal with my family and not have high anxiety with the fear that I would get cross-contaminated. I will be returning very soon and I cannot wait to explore all of the other great things they have on their menu!
*Menu items may differ depending on location. Link to their nutritional/allergen guide here.