PizzaExpress is set to launch a range of gluten-free options on its menus for the first time, including gluten-free pizzas.
The company said it wanted to cater for the 1 in 100 people in the UK who have coeliac disease, and has made a number of operational changes to make sure that it adheres to Coeliac UK's NGCI (non-gluten containing ingredients) accreditation.
The Gondola-owned casual dining chain will stretch and finish all pizzas using gluten-free flour, to avoid cross contamination with regular pizza bases.
Meanwhile, separate ladles will be used to spread passata sauce onto gluten-free bases, while new mozzarella packets and passata jars will be opened when preparing gluten-free pizzas.
In addition, clean pizza peels (the large spade-like utensils used to take the pizzas out of the oven) will be used, while new pizza screens (the round, metal frames that the pizzas are stretched onto) have been purchased and will be stored separately to those used for PizzaExpress' regular pizzas.
The company said it would also train staff at its 420 restaurants to ensure they are familiar with the needs of customers who cannot eat gluten.
Gluten-free pizzas will be served on black boards (pictured) to avoid confusion with regular pizzas when they are served to customers.
The gluten-free pizza bases will be available in classic and children's sizes, and all but four of the toppings PizzaExpress uses are suitable for those who can't eat gluten.
Emma Woods, marketing director at PizzaExpress, who has been instrumental to gaining the NGCI accreditation for the brand, said, "We know, because they've told us, that people with coeliac disease want to come to our restaurants, and we want to welcome them. We've been obsessively concerned with getting our approach right. Not only have we found a gluten-free base that behaves in a similar way to our famous dough, but we've created a whole range of delicious gluten-free dishes, without compromising on taste."
Other new dishes on offer at the restaurant to be certified gluten-free from 30 April include:
- Risotto d'Oro (£5.45) - a white wine risotto with roasted butternut squash, garlic oil and gorgonzola, finished with rocket and grana padano
- Leggera Superfood Salad (£9.95) - A 295-calorie salad with baby spinach, seasonal mixed leaves, roasted butternut squash, beetroot, light baby mozzarella, avocado, pine kernels, cucumber, lentils and basil with a balsamic syrup
- Chocolate Brownie (£4.25 as part of Dolcetti range with coffee) - Classic chocolate brownie with gluten-free flour served with fresh strawberry slices
- Green's Gluten-free Pilsner (£4.45)