It’s not luck that makes gluten-free pizza dough rise impressively to the Good luck Pizza Co. Although, if you’ve eaten as many bad gluten-free pizzas as my family has in the year since our daughter’s celiac diagnosis, many of which looked like cardboard crackers or densely doughy bricks, you’ll know what to find a maid can feel like a small miracle.
But something special is cooking in the dedicated gluten-free pans of Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s new pizza-centric Italian replacement for Jamonera, which debuted at 105 S. 13th St. last week.
“Are you Of course Is it gluten free?” my wife asked warily, clutching a slice of puffy pizza with a tender crumb and granny-style crispy edges.
Indeed, it was. And the secret to its remarkable lightness and vibrant crust is the painstaking process of trial and error undertaken in recent months by ace food experimenter George Sabatino, the consultant chef and former Barbuzzo hired to develop the pasta.
Sabatino, who frequently documents his research on instagramwas determined to create a gluten-free counterpart to the high-hydration dough he’s already mastered for the standard pizzas here, skillet pies with crispy bottoms and soft crumbs full of fermented holes that keep them light and allow them to get up just before the fashionable Detroit.
“Believe me, I’ve made a lot of really heavy, dense doughs to start with because when there’s no gluten there’s nothing to hold the structure. Some (of the failed experiments) almost looked like spackle,” he said.
There’s still a difference if you stand Good Luck’s standard and gluten-free pizzas side by side, with bigger air pockets and more crust fluff than the wheat flour pizza. But Sabatino’s gluten-free dough, the result of at least 20 different experimental variations with different flour blends, hydration levels, and preparation techniques, is one of the most compelling g-free versions I’ve tasted. Most Philadelphia pizzerias that offer gluten-free pizza use pre-packaged, under-processed crusts. The Queen Village branch of Emmy squared makes a tasty gluten-free crust for its Detroit-style pizzas, but it’s inconsistent and rarely has the rise of the crust we tasted from Good Luck.
Sabatino finally landed on a mix of corn flour, potato and tapioca starches, and just a touch of xanthan and guar gums for binding. But it was the process that made the biggest difference in texture, he said, with a serving of pre-fermented batter used to kickstart the biggest batch.
Like the gluten-free dough, the gluten-free version, once mixed, is fermented for an additional 24 hours to develop more flavor and texture complexity before being pressed in long steel pans, dimpled, and then speckled olive oil like focaccia. .
Good Luck purchased these lean casseroles exclusively for its gluten-free pies. The dough is made in the same kitchen as the rest of the menu, which may be a limitation for some who are extremely gluten-sensitive, but it’s all done first thing in the morning with separate tools and cookie cutters. It is then baked inside the dedicated upper deck of a three-tier oven to avoid cross-contamination as much as possible.
If your party isn’t exclusively gluten-free, the standard pizzas, along with the rest of the menu currently curated by Good Luck chef Bill Braun, are absolutely worth a try. I loved our wheat flour pizza with sausage, peppers and broccoli turnip, and the sesame crusted Chicken Milanese with celery salad and walnuts.
Yes, there are several other intriguing projects competing for your pizza dollars in Philadelphia these days — even on 13th Street, where a longtime slice shop, Zio Brick Oven Pizza, will soon be joined by Prunella from Collectif Schulson in the former Zavino space. But diving deep into the task of creating pizza from fresh, gluten-free dough is a task that few pizzerias in the city have tackled and mastered. That alone is a reason to try the Good Luck Pizza Co.
— Craig La Ban
Gluten-free pizza, $20.50 to $25.50, at Good Luck Pizza Co., 105 S. 13th St., 215-922-6061; goodluckpizzaco.com