For some of us, the diagnosis of gluten intolerance or Celiac disease can feel like a death sentence. After diagnosis, most people will go through the standard stages of mourning: Denial, anger ... and gorging oneself on the nearest subpar gluten-free cupcakes. Luckily, when I moved to New York City, I was thrilled at the amount of restaurants offering gluten-free dishes. Just go on Yelp and search gluten free restaurants in New York City and you'll see what I mean: despite being home to the best pizza and bagels, this city is actually a mecca for the gluten intolerant.
What I quickly realized, however, was that most of these restaurants that advertise gluten-free dishes actually have no idea how to safely prepare them. Our flours, breads, and baked goods are made of entirely different ingredients — so why can’t restaurants understand they require completely different preparations without cross-contamination? There is definitely still work to be done.
But after four years of gluten-free, NYC living, I now call myself an expert on the subject. Want to know where you can find the best gluten-free pizza in New York City? Or even something less obvious, like meatballs? Trust me when I say I’ve got you covered. I've done the boots on the ground research, and my stomach has the answers.
Read on for a list of my six favorite gluten free spots, organized by dish and by downtown New York City neighborhood.
Best Bakery: Tu-Lu’s, East Village
For those based on the East side, Tu-Lu’s gluten-free breads, cupcakes, and cakes are the winners — the Red Velvet cupcakes in particular are not to be missed. Even better, many of their products are vegan as well. Plus, they deliver all over the city, so you can have them delivered to a friend’s office as the perfect gluten-free birthday surprise!
Best Pizza: Pala, Lower East Side
After sampling pizzas at the West Village’s much famed Risotteria and Keste, I found this converted garage on the Lower East Side to be the clear winner. With a wide range of toppings from traditional (mozzarella, tomatoes, mushrooms) to nontraditional (butternut squash, raisins, zucchini), these pies are the closest I’ve found to the real thing. And now that they're offering frozen pizzas to ship or take home, you'll never have to go without.
Best Meatballs and Breadsticks: Risotteria, West Village
Most people don’t know that normal meatballs are gluten-full, since breadcrumbs are used to hold the meat together. But if you’re craving the traditional Italian dish, look no further than this Bleecker Street mainstay. Drenched in rich marinara and draped in parsley, you can dip in their world class breadsticks for an extra special treat. For dessert, don’t miss the Tres Leches cake — it’s the best gluten-free cake in the city.
Best Pasta: Lupa, Greenwich Village
Although it’s a tad expensive, the homemade pastas at this upscale venue make Lupa the perfect spot for a date without gluten. My favorite dish? The Carbonara and Short Rib ragu. But if you’re looking for pastas that taste great but won’t empty your savings account, visit Baker & Co. — it’s only a five minute walk away.
Best Risotto: Risotteria Melotti, East Village
Although most people intuitively assume the best gluten-free risotto is at the aptly named Risotteria, in my opinion, this East Village cafe reigns supreme. It is completely unassuming and 100 percent gluten-free, making it the perfect spot for a low key evening with friends. The duck risotto and arancini (fried risotto balls) are must orders, but you can skip the scallops.
Best Breakfast Sandwich: Cafe Cluny, West Village
On those rare — or frequent — weekend mornings when your queasy stomach craves nothing other than that magical combination of bread, egg and bacon, order this quaint cafe’s breakfast club. Their gluten-free bread is straight up delicious, and won’t crumble under the weight of avocado and spicy mayonnaise. Lightweights can also order a plain omelette with toast — we’ll try not to judge.