Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pizza and Vino at Zavino

Zavino offers a variety of gluten-free pizzas
By Sara Blank

Although Philly gets a bad rap for its Byzantine liquor laws, we do have many options that don't exist in other large cities. With an abundant number of BYOBs and generous happy hours in town, I've become quite spoiled with our options. Since moving here, I've been in the pursuit of the best gluten-free happy hour the city has to offer, and I would be remiss not to share the love for my favorite restaurant in town.

I've long said to friends that Zavino has the best gluten-free pizza I’ve enjoyed at a restaurant anywhere. With its authentic-tasting crusts, Zavino quickly has become a favorite Center City spot. At Zavino, I don’t feel the need to qualify to my non-gluten-free friends that we're eating gluten-free pizza; the fluffy, flavorful crusts need no justification. Though Zavino does use a shared oven for its gluten-free pizzas, the gluten-free dough is prepared separately and those crusts are baked atop a separate pan to ensure there's no contact with any oven surfaces that would create cross-contamination.

Zavino's baked ricotta gluten-free flatbread
Zavino’s chic yet casual vibe makes it an instant hit among those visiting Center City (112 S. 13th St., 215-732-2400) or University City (3200 Chestnut St., 215-823-6897) at any time, but during happy hour (4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) the house wines and several specials (including full-sized pizzas) are only $5. With many of the dishes already gluten free, and nearly all of the pizzas able to be modified, I’ve adopted a few standbys.

Most recently, I enjoyed Zavino's margherita pizza and cheesy bread (a baked ricotta flatbread with olive oil for dipping) from the happy-hour menu. Bonus: there is no upcharge for ordering gluten free. Though not on the happy-hour menu, a favorite of mine is the spaghetti squash, mixed with carrots, zucchini, pine nuts and tomato sauce, and topped with shredded provolone cheese. For good measure, we added greens in the form of the chicken paillard salad (sans poultry for a slightly lighter fare), a refreshing arugula-based salad with watermelon radish and thyme vinaigrette.

Spaghetti squash at Zavino
Zavino impresses with its ample selection of gluten-free options, but I’m most enamored with the quality of the food. Between the flavorful food options and welcoming atmosphere, the Center City location has quickly become my undeniable go-to for a night out with friends. The cozy dining room and relaxed outdoor seating on warm-weather days makes Zavino the perfect place to start or end an evening.

While Zavino seems quiet about their breadth of its gluten-free offerings (I was tipped off by a fellow Center City Celiac), I look forward to trying other options during future visits. In the meantime, I will continue to do my part in spreading the word about Zavino's delicious gluten-free pizza and - just as important - its happy hour specials.

Friday, June 7, 2019

News & Notes: June 7, 2019

(PC: OwowCow)
The lousy spring weather has finally broken, hopefully for good. The beginning of summer calls for what else - ice cream! The award-winning OwowCow Creamery, which has Pennsylvania locations in Chalfont (101 N. Main St., 215-716-7703), Easton (1262 Simon Blvd., Unit B106, 610-438-5269), Ottsville (4105 Durham Rd., 610-847-7070) and Wrightstown (591 Durham Rd., 215-598-3248) as well as a New Jersey outpost in Lambertville (237 N. Union St., 609-397-2234), will scoop gluten-free flavors from the freezer and also offers gluten-free cones.

Speaking of dessert, there's a new gluten-free bakery in Philly's Fairmount section. Dessertcrazy (1925 Fairmount Ave., 267-764-1411) is keto friendly, using alternative sweeteners for its baked goods.


The all-gluten-free Bleu Bear Bakery, from the owners of Haddonfield Donut Company, opens tomorrow in Haddonfield (109 Kings Hwy. E., 856-429-3703).

Move over, escape rooms: axe throwing is the newest group bonding experience. Kick Axe Throwing in Old City (833-745-9293) has several gluten-free options like baked chicken nuggets, salads and sandwiches on gluten-free bread to nosh on as you channel your inner Paul Bunyan.


South Jersey isn't left out this week: Sprouts Farmers Market just opened its first Garden State store in Marlton (237 Rt. 73 S., 856-355-8228), while the all-gluten-free Heartbeet Kitchen is readying another area location, this one in Maple Shade (2442 Rt. 38 W.). The latter is scheduled to open this summer.

The newest Alumni Grill location in Glassboro (222 Rowan Blvd., 856-243-5519) has a gluten-free fryer for french fries and also offers salads, burgers and sandwiches.

In Medford, Cielito Lindo (185 Rt. 70, 609-257-3459) has a dedicated fryer for chips and can make many dishes gluten free.

There are some new gluten-free options at the Jersey Shore this year. Jack's Shack in Stone Harbor (261 96th St., 609-368-4565) has a dedicated fryer for gluten-free chicken tenders and fries as well as corn tacos and Udi's sandwich rolls. (Thanks to reader Meghan R.)

The Younger Brother in Cape May (314 Beach Ave., 609-898-2009) notes gluten-free selections on its dinner menu. Yes, you're reading that right: gluten-free mac & cheese poppers prepared in a dedicated fryer, crab cakes and more. Sister restaurant Shamone Bites + Wine (421 Washington St. Mall, 609-884-6088) can also accommodate gluten-free diners with advance notice.

Woodie's Drive-In in Ship Bottom, Long Beach Island has gluten-free burger buns. (Thanks Scott H.)

In Margate, Tomatoe's (9300 Amherst Ave., 609-822-7535) lists gluten-free options on its menu.

The dining room menu at Marie's Seafood in Sea Isle City (4304 Park Rd., 609-263-8812) notes gluten-free fare, but be aware that the hoisin sriracha sauce served with the shrimp rolls is no longer gluten free.

Guy's Sammich Joint, Guy Fieri's casual cafe at Harrah's in Atlantic City (777 Harrah's Blvd., 609-441-5000), has gluten-free buns.


Brazi Bites' Cinnamon Churro Brazilian Cheese Bread is now at select Target stores, with availability soon at Whole Foods, Safeway, Albertsons and other markets. A twist on the popular Latin American treat, the new Cinnamon Churro recipe was crafted in collaboration with well-known gluten-free pastry chef, and four-time Food Network Cupcake Wars Champion, Kyra Bussanich. Target will soon have the company's new Empanadas, which come in four flavors: Black Bean & Cheddar, Chickpea Veggie, Chicken & Cheese and Beef & Bean.

Target is also where you can find Feel Good Foods' new snack bites, made with cauliflower crust. They come in three varieties: Three Cheese Pomodoro, Chicken Sausage and Uncured Pepperoni.

So new it's not even on the website, General Mills just debuted another gluten-free Chex variety, Peanut Butter.


Kellogg's Kashi brand has introduced two new gluten-free waffles: Berry Bliss and Golden Goodness. Both are made with quinoa and other superfoods.


Katz Gluten Free's new mini muffin snacks are great for lunchboxes and on the go. Use promo code SNACK for 20% off and purchase through this affiliate link to support Gluten Free Philly. Thank you!


The Gluten Free Philly app is new and improved: Version 2.0, if you will! It's faster and packed with more than 1,700 listings in the tri-state area. Download it from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is hosting a Celiac support group meeting on Sunday, June 30 at its King of Prussia Specialty Care Center (550 S. Goddard Blvd.). The event runs from noon to 2 p.m. and children and their families are welcome. The theme is summertime fun (vacations, travel, camps, etc.). The kids will have a summer-themed craft to do together. RSVP via email by June 23 with the number of kids and adults attending. Please bring a gluten-free snack to share.

You can register for Sunday's Step Beyond Celiac 5K walk/run at the Philadelphia Zoo beginning at 7 a.m. The event begins at 8 a.m. Hope to see you there!

Have a great weekend!

- Michael