California Pizza Kitchen: Gluten-Free Update

Back in May we heard some rumors about a gluten-free pizza crust debuting at California Pizza Kitchen.

We were pretty excited then, but we’re even more excited now that we received a little love note from CPK. Sorry for not posting before the holiday, but I got all caught up in fireworks and berries and festive things like that.

“Hi,” the email begins. “The wait is over! Today California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) has launched gluten free pizza crust, making 29 of their original pizzas available gluten free. ”

disclaimer, I doubt this one is the gluten-free crust

“CPK has taken notice of the increased demand with more than 3 million Americans affected by Celiac Disease and created a specialty menu with various gluten free items. Among the 29 different gluten free pizzas available is America’s favorite, The Original BBQ Chicken pizza, the Pear & Gorgonzola pizza and the Wild Mushroom pizza. CPK also offers other gluten free appetizers, soups, salads, specialties, kids items and desserts to choose from on their current menu.”

The email goes on to say how excited they are to have these new foods for us, etc. etc. And that’s great. I’m glad they’re excited, because I am too — apparently there’s a branch in a mall not terribly far from me.

Looking at the pizza section of their website, the gluten-free options are highlighted front and center. There are only two pizzas that can’t be accommodated, so there’s still more choices than I could eat in a year of pizzas. And they sound delicious, but of course they come with the standard disclaimer:

“Gluten-Free” designations are based on information provided by our ingredient suppliers. Warning: Ingredients or production methods used by our suppliers may change, or there may be product differences among regional suppliers. Additionally, normal kitchen operations involve shared cooking and preparation areas, or we may need to substitute ingredients in menu items. We are therefore unable to guarantee that any menu item is free from gluten or any other allergen, and we assume no responsibility for guests with food allergies or sensitivities.

Have you tried California Pizza Kitchen’s gluten-free crust? Will you? If so, what did you think (and what toppings did you get?)?

42 thoughts on “California Pizza Kitchen: Gluten-Free Update”

  1. This is not Gluten Free, because they do not guarantee that any menu item is free from gluten. From a person that get very ill from eating any gluten this does not help. I get mad when restaurant clam do be gluten free but can guarantee me that I will not get sick. We need to stop letting claim gluten free when they are not!!

  2. I recently read a post on facebook that even though the Bang Bang Shrimp is listed as Gluten Free, it is made in a shared deep fryer with gluten items. So it is contiminated. That could be dangerous!

  3. I thought it was pretty good for GF pizza crust, and the interesting variety of toppings is great. Unlike many GF crusts I’ve had that are kinda mushy and small, this one is crispy and full-size. I tried the Garlic Chicken pizza, except with mushrooms and pineapples instead of chicken.

    My wife, also GF, tried both the BBQ Chicken salad and the Moroccan Chicken salad on our second visit and thought both were excellent.

    Be sure to double-check that they are taking necessary precautions in their oven to avoid cross-contamination. There’s still a lot of wheat flour flying around the kitchen and waiters might not be totally familiar with the new menu.

  4. Unfortunately I would not call that a “standard disclaimer”. The fact that they are not willing to utilize separate cooking utensils or areas and that they reserve the right to substitue ingredients without informing people makes it a completely unsafe option.

  5. We have had it here in Los Angeles for a few months. It’s the best gluten free crust I have had so far. Ask for the crust to be crispy. Lots of good topping choices. That makes a difference, most other places that offer gluten free crusts don’t offer the selections or quality.

  6. Just tried it today, and was very pleased! Myself and 3 family members {who don’t follow a gluten-free diet} all tried it and we all gave it a thumbs up. The crust is thin and crispy on the edges which I like. We tried the BBQ chicken, 5 cheese and tomato, and pepperoni/sausage/mushroom and all were delicious!

  7. We ate there last weekend for the first time (Newark, DE location).

    Wait-staff were friendly and knowledgeable.
    Restaurant was clean, well lit, and aesthetically pleasing.
    The menu was extensive, including the GF menu. There were even a couple appetizer options.
    The price was a bit higher than expected but not outrageous. The tab for two drinks (cherry limeade), two medium pizzas and a hot fudge sundae (big enough for 2) was about $50 with tip.

    The pizza toppings were decent though bland.
    The pizza crust was thin and very bland. Seems to the the stock GF pizza crust used at most restaurants.
    There was only one dessert option.

    Conclusion: We will likely go back but probably won’t order the pizza again. For that price we can make several pizzas at home that taste much better (we recommend Still Riding Pizza crusts or Against The Grain Gourmet crusts). If the switched to a better crust we’d probably eat there quite a lot.

  8. Unfortunately CPK’s kitchen practices make it unsafe for Celiac’s to eat their gluten free crust. They use the same sauce (including ladle), cheese and toppings for gf and wheat pizza’s making cross contamination a definite. This is not incidental cross contamination as their disclaimer says, but deliberate. When I spoke with corporate about changing this to have separate sauce and cheese and just offering one totally safe gf pizza (and allowing folks to take their own risks with the other toppings) they said they could not accommodate that request. This decision “not to accommodate” went all the way up to the CEO. It is a simple fix to allow people with Celiac Disease to safely enjoy their gf crust. Very unfortunate.

  9. I love Pizza! I have tried many GF Pizza/Pizza Crusts.

    I found a Blue Moon Pizza in the Atlanta area that has a GF Pizza that is Okay. Good toppings. I’ve tried the Mellow Mushroom Pizzas in a couple of different states. They do use separate facilities to make the Pizza. I absolutely hate the crust. One waiter shared with me that most people don’t finish the crust. I believe they use the Still Riding Crusts.

    There is a local Pizza place in Chattanooga, Lupi’s that has two or three locations. They are very careful about not having cross contamination. From the taste, I would say that it is the Still Riding crusts. To me, they are either mushy or if they bake them crisp, they have a foul taste.

    Rustic crust (Which doesn’t have to be frozen) is okay. I love their sauce which is sold separately. Udi’s pizza crust is also okay.

    Against The Grain makes two pizzas with toppings on them and one that is just crust with three cheeses baked in. This last one is my favorite. I would make a pizza with this crust just to eat the crust. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I just bake the crust. I have a very meticulous way that I bake my pizzas with my favorite toppings in a design. My non-celiac friends think they are great.

  10. BTW, tonight I am in Sioux Falls, SD. The restaurant book lists Buffaloberries (With GF Pizza) which is no longer open. Also anyone planning to go to Sanaa’s Gourmet should call ahead to see when they serve. Sometimes they close up & go on vacation.

    I’ll try Beau Jo’s Colorado Style Pizza tomorrow night in Rapid City.

  11. Nope. Not going to risk it. Not yet anyway. The same when PF Changs first started with a gluten free menu..too musch cross contamination.

  12. Just today I read that CPK uses the same implements and toppings on their gluten free pizza that they use on their regular pizzas. They use a piece of foil on a regular pizza pan, and big deal, they have a so called “dedicated” pizza cutter. How is this gluten free? Sounds to me like they have absolutely NO idea about cross contamination. I certainly wouldn’t risk eating there.

  13. I have heard a few locations of CPK are good about using fresh, uncontaminated ingredients. However, it appears the corporate policy is that the crusts are GF & the toppings once were GF but may have flour in them from the process of making normal pizzas. Different bloggers and groups have tried to get an official response but are not getting one. Be careful.

  14. Anytime you purchase a processed food item from a grocery store or a chain restaurant, you cannot be guaranteed of the quality of ingredients – like gluten-free. They are mass suppliers and usually go by what their ingredient factories put on their labels. Not to mention, if the pizzas are not organic, then many of the ingredients may also be GMO. I still think it’s best, gluten free or not, to eat whole foods and cook your own items from scratch at home.

  15. Absolutely not. Unless they are willing to use separate preparation and cooking spaces, these items will simply not be safe for those of us with celiac disease. They should not be allowed to call these items gluten-free. Frankly, I’m annoyed that they say they are doing this for individuals with celiac disease and then refuse to do it correctly.

  16. It worries me that you published this without seeming to have looked into it further. California Pizza Kitchen has actually come out and said that their crust is not appropriate for celiac disease sufferers but only for people who “choose to eat gluten-free”. While cross-contamination is always a danger, they didn’t take anything more than the minimal precautions and so it’s almost assured in their kitchens. They claim they are checking into how they could make it safer but in the meantime, it’s dangerous for celiacs. I wish you had had someone go into a store or at least call and find out what precautions they were taking before announcing this news!

  17. This is not gluten free by any stretch of the imagination. I think they should not be allowed to call it gluten free very misleading!!

  18. After reading their disclaimer and some of the comments, I am not interested in trying their pizzas, or even eating in their restaurant. It is important that restaurants understand and value the importance of gluten cross contamination!

  19. How can you say they are gluten free when the following is their disclaimer? I would be afraid to trust the product.
    “Gluten-Free” designations are based on information provided by our ingredient suppliers. Warning: Ingredients or production methods used by our suppliers may change, or there may be product differences among regional suppliers. Additionally, normal kitchen operations involve shared cooking and preparation areas, or we may need to substitute ingredients in menu items. We are therefore unable to guarantee that any menu item is free from gluten or any other allergen, and we assume no responsibility for guests with food allergies or sensitivities.”

  20. I recently had a CPK at the Garden State Plaza, NJ location. I happened to be sitting at the counter so I did see them put it on a piece of foil before putting it in the oven…as for same utensils as reg. pies, I couldn’t see. The crust wasn’t bad, but not not that great either…I haven’t had a GF crust yet that is…but I keep comparing them to the gluten crusts I remember eating. I’d eat there again because the toppings (sausage,mushroom, pepperoni)were good and I didn’t have any sort of negative reaction afterward, so I assume my pizza was GF with no contamination. I wouldn’t go out of my way for this pizza, but in a shopping mall setting, such as the one I was in, with few other GF options I’d try it again.

  21. Obviously CPK is only interested in saying GF so that they can “jump on” what they consider to be the new trend in eating. Unfortunately, this makes it even more difficult for those of us with Celiac Disease. I definitely have not, and never will eat there. They clearly do not care. It is about Marketing.

  22. At least 50% of Celiacs have a dairy allergy, migHt be more like 75%. We also have many other allergies. I happen to have an egg allergy, too. Is there a gluten free,egg, and dairy free crust? Can we choose vegetable, meat, toppings, with tomatoes, olives, herbs, etc.? I may have to make my own. Caryl


  24. After being really sick for days and now dealing with dermatitis herpetiformis from cross contamination in a restaurant kitchen I can definitely say I will not be trying California Pizza Kitchen. They are endangering true celiacs with these claims.

  25. The only CPK in our area are the frozen pizzas in the supermarkets. So, unless they start producing GF frozen pizzas, we’re not likely to ever try any CPK items. There is a local pizza parlor with GF pizzas, but it isn’t very good. We have heard that Godfather’s Pizza makes GF pizzas and plan to travel to the closest one (200+ miles away) in a couple of months just to try the GF pizza.
    Our favorite homemade pizza crust is a combination of the Chebe Pizza mix and Chebe Focaccia mix. Makes a very flavorable crust!

  26. Boston’s has a great Gluten Free pizza, it’s my favorite. I have searched and searched for a good pizza crust and theirs is my favorite so fa. BJ’s Brewhouse also has a good one. I am still looking for the perfect pie crust. I am getting pretty good at making my own, but have not seen one out anywhere that even looks worth eating.

  27. @Terry – I I live in Northern NJ was wondering about the GSP location. Thanks for the heads up! I feel the same way about Uno’s GF crust – very bland but also comparing to gluten crusts. Glad there’s another option for my husband (who isn’t GF) and I to go to when we’re out and about. The only excellent GF crust that I have had was in Burlington, VT at the American Flatbreads. They use a local GF bakery’s crust that is spectacular (West Meadow Farm Bakery in Essex Junction). Also the most amazing local ingredients I have ever tasted.

  28. I was excited about the Gluten Free offering from CPK and went with my daughter to their location a few nights ago. Just by chance we were seated at the bar in front of the food preparation station. Needless to say it took us about 30 seconds to determine that it was unsafe for a Gluten Intolerant person to eat there. The ingredients are shared, there is flour in the air from the homeade non-gluten free cust. After speaking with the server they offered to wear gloves to prepare our pizza, but that didnt’ solve the shared ingredients issue.

    If it is your “choice” to be gluten free, then great. If you are gluten-intolerant – beware!

  29. It is unfortunate that California Kitchen is not designating a separate area to prepare their “gluten-free” pizza. Since food preparation areas and cooking ovens are shared, there is a high likelihood of cross-contamination. It is well know that flour can stay suspended in air for up to 24 hours. I could not, in good conscience, recommend this to my patients.
    Lynn Cicero, M.S., R.D

  30. Yes, agreed with most of the comments above, so far I am not impressed with their fickle stance on gluten free pizza.
    Quote above from CPK states ”
    “CPK has taken notice of the increased demand with more than 3 million Americans affected by Celiac Disease and created a specialty menu with various gluten free items”

    Yet later says: “Additionally, normal kitchen operations involve shared cooking and preparation areas, or we may need to substitute ingredients in menu items. We are therefore unable to guarantee that any menu item is free from gluten or any other allergen, and we assume no responsibility for guests with food allergies or sensitivities.”

    I think anyone who goes out to eat and is gluten free assumes the risk that since they’re not preparing their own food they are taking a chance. However, to have this company cater to celiacs at first (quoted above), and then say they are not taking the necessary precautions to cater to them is ridiculous.

  31. I believe it is totally outrageous for this company to ignore the possibility of cross-contamination issues. To use the same ladle, utensils, even the same area– is beyond irresponsible. Frankly, I think we should all boycott this place and not even eat a salad there! If flour is flying around the kitchen (their words), that means the whole kitchen is contaminated and for them not to set aside a small area to prepare the gf pizzas is just plain wrong. Sadly, I used to love this place– won’t go there til the problem is straightened out. Write to corporate and let them know how you feel!

  32. Gluten free here for 8 years! We ate at CPK this week and it was great. We didn’t have any issues unlike what we have had at Outback (horrible experiences 3 times with “accidents” so they are off our list forever) and Maggianos (gave us wheat pastawith a carryout order and assured us that yes it was gluten free) The staff at CPK was very knowledgeable and we will eat there again.

  33. I did Go and have Myself A gluten free pizza from California Pizza Kitchen…It was good But they do cross combine :( Maybe that can change?)

  34. I live in Atlanta and so far I am very disappointed with GF pizzas when dining out. I am very content making my own. If you haven’t tried it yet, Namaste Foods Pizza Crust Mix is really good! It makes a thin crust–which I prefer–that has some really nice seasoning to it. My husband is not gluten sensitive but he is always REALLY happy when I make this pizza. :-)

  35. I think that it is in our best interest to recognize and applaud the efforts of large restaurant chains that offer GF items, and continue to educate them in a friendly way. Although they may not completely get it yet, we don’t want to hammer these chains so hard that they stop trying. Yes, it is always safer to eat at home, but I travel frequently, and a chain restaurant that offers anything on the menu that is GF makes life a lot easier when you can’t make your own food. CPK has already come a long way. Just a year and a half ago, I was at a CPK with a large group from work, and the waitress and the manager told me there was absolutely nothing they could serve me that would be GF. With their knowledge, I had to go across the mall, buy a GF meal at PF Chang’s and bring it back to CPK to eat with my group. I wrote the corporate office, and they basically said, sorry about that, there’s nothing we can do. I intended never to go back to a CPK, but now I will be happy to give them my business.

  36. There’s quite a difference between being gluten sensitive/intolerant and having a diagnosis of full-blown celiac disease. I am gluten intolerant and can take a chance on a small dusting of gluten in my pizza, but if you’re celiac you can’t take this chance. If CPK did not add a disclaimer to their GF pizza crust, they would surely be sued by someone who feels they’ve had a reaction to the pizza. It’s sad, but true. We all have to take personal responsibility for the food that we eat. If you’re celiac and even a particle of wheat will make you ill, you probably shouldn’t eat the pizza.

  37. Thanks for all the comments… there’s not a CPK within at least 100 miles from my home, although I remember eating at one before in college and enjoying their pizza. I’ll be near one later this week, and was excited to have a restaurant to suggest to my family where we can all get food we’ll enjoy. However, I’m disappointed to see that the company hasn’t taken more steps to reduce cross-contamination. I can understand the risk of having wheat flour in the air… but to not even use separate utensils and toppings seems wildly irresponsible.

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