Ottawa’s gluten-free pizza: Melodie visits Bella Vista Restaurant

Melodie Cardin (Twitter) has lived in the National Capital Region since 2000. A 2007 graduate of Carleton University’s school of journalism, she’s now the Manager of Communications for a small project assisting Canadian researchers to collaborate internationally. Melodie has also blogged at Losing It In Ottawa, and plays roller derby with the Rideau Valley Roller Girls.

I began suffering from migraines in my early twenties and discovered that gluten is a major trigger. I went more or less gluten-free in 2009 (I can still have the odd bit, but I try to avoid it as much as possible.)

Four years ago, it was hard to find gluten-free alternatives in Ottawa. Now, Ottawa has become almost a haven for celiacs and others who suffer from gluten sensitivity.

In particular, the options for pizza have really taken off; even chains like Pizza Pizza and Gabriel’s offer gluten-free crust options, and plenty of the nicer, gourmet pizza places do also.

So for those poor souls out there who can’t just eat “normal” pizza – who makes the best?

There are a few in Ottawa I’m partial to, and lots more I’m ready to try.

Bella Vista’s gluten-free pizza

My starting place is Bella Vista Restaurant, and this is partly because Bella Vista is one of the few places that has had gluten-free for a long time. (Also partly because I was at a party in the South end, so it was convenient.) It’s a bit off the beaten track for downtown folks like me, but it has a few things that set it apart.

Particularly, crust thickness. While many GF crusts are thin, (it’s hard to get a thick crust to hold together) Bella Vista’s is thick. I enjoy thin crust gourmet Italian-style pizzas very much, but I also enjoy a thick crust American-style pizza once in awhile, and this is what you’ll find at Bella Vista. Nothing inventive particularly inventive on this menu – combination, Greek, Hawaiian. I ordered a combination. It comes nicely cooked with the right amount of cheese – I’m usually a fan of more cheese, but I don’t like pizza that’s too greasy. The crust is crispy on the bottom, soft inside. It is a little denser and has a slightly more crumbly texture than a regular version, but it’s a very respectable facsimile. It’s sort of like having pizza on a ciabatta.

The gluten-free version is a little more expensive than the regular, but you can still get a large for under $30.

I do not like cold pizza, but I do like it reheated, so I partly judge a pizza on how well the leftovers warm up. (I heat it in my toaster oven, or even in the large oven, rather than the microwave, which I find makes the crust too soft.) Bella Vista’s is still good the next day although the slightly bizarre texture does become a bit more pronounced.

Bella Vista also gets points for doing take-out, delivery in the South end, and having a big eat-in restaurant that also offers gluten free pasta and lots of other options.

It’s not fancy – but it is family-friendly. I should mention that although they are knowledgeable and have been catering to GF needs for a long time, their kitchen isn’t dedicated.

Bella Vista: 7.5/10

Thanks Melodie! We’re sure the GF community will appreciate your recommendation.