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Tre Soldi's New Gluten-Free Pizzas Still 'Authentically Italian'

By Janet Rausa Fuller | March 4, 2014 7:10am
 The pizzas at Tre Soldi, including this Pizza Matriciana, can now be made with gluten-free dough.
The pizzas at Tre Soldi, including this Pizza Matriciana, can now be made with gluten-free dough.
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DNAInfo/Janet Rausa Fuller

STREETERVILLE — Tre Soldi prides itself on its authentically Roman dishes, and its newly expanded pizza menu is no exception.

Eight pizzas have been added to the menu and all 14 varieties can now be had gluten-free. If that seems un-Italian, well, it's not.

One in 100 Italians have celiac disease, according to the Italian Celiac Association (one in 133 Americans have it). Gluten-free eating in the pizza motherland is not only a trendy, it's a way of life.

"In Italy, so many restaurants have a second menu with gluten-free pasta, dessert and pizza," said Paolo Spataro, a technician for the Italian flour company Le 5 Stagioni, which supplies Tre Soldi with its special gluten-free flour blend. Spataro was in town last week from Italy visiting the restaurant at 212 E. Ohio St. and other clients.

Around Chicago, gluten-free dining is gaining traction. Senza, a gluten-free, fine-dining restaurant in Lakeview, earned one Michelin star last fall. But gluten-free pizza has mostly been the domain of deep-dish chains such as Lou Malnati's and Chicago's Pizza, not the more upscale places claiming authentic Italian menus and methods.

Tre Soldi owner Jack Weiss said a handful of customers ask for gluten-free pizza every week. He and chef Federico Comacchio tested three flour blends before settling on a mix of potato, rice and corn flours.

"As far as getting the most authentically Italian product, this flour is what we found works best," Weiss said.

That said, gluten-free flour, which lacks the protein that makes dough stretchy, can be quite fussy.

The particular blend Tre Soldi uses is "very delicate, very soft and quick in rising," said Luciano Calavotti of Viola Imports, which imports the Le 5 Stagioni flour for the restaurant.

The dough is very sticky, requiring oiled hands and a gentle touch. The restaurant keeps a dedicated gluten-free cooking area to prevent cross-contamination. And the gluten-free pizzas bake in a convection oven, not Tre Soldi's regular deck oven.

The crust ends up a bit thinner and has more "bite" but "it's very, very much Roman-style and has a really good chew to it," Weiss said.

"Believe me," Spataro said, "it's like the regular pizza."

The pizzas at Tre Soldi range from $15 to $17. New varieties include the N'duja, topped with spicy sausage and an egg, and the Porchetta with ham, fennel and ricotta.