As the next stop on my gluten free food tour, I decided to explore pizza options from the UK pizza chains.  If you remember, I recently did a post about the great pizza at The Florist Arms in Bethnal Green.  The quality of their pizza sans gluten was surprisingly delicious, and gave me hope that the big boys had also figured out the secret sauce of gluten free pizza crust.  After some research, I discovered that Pizza Hut, Pizza Express and Dominos all offer gluten free options, which warranted a proper taste off.  I ordered three similar pizzas, one each from Pizza Hut and Dominos with peppers and mushrooms and a Giardiniera from Pizza Express with artichokes, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives and pesto.  Let’s see how they did!

In general, I consider Pizza Express a few notches above the traditional pizza chains in quality, though I wouldn’t go as far as saying I love Pizza Express.  They stick to the traditional styles of pizza, and avoid the gimmicky stuff, like these.  I ordered the Giardiniera online, and was shocked when I looked at the pizza.  It looked like real pizza!  After a quick taste however, I realized that there was no way this was a gluten free pizza.  In my haste to order, I did not select the gluten free crust.  Whoops.  My bad. I quickly reordered and ran over to pick up the correct pizza (image below).

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I thought Pizza Express, with higher quality ingredients and better pizza overall, would crush the competition.  After opening the box, we noticed that the pesto-part of the sauce was not visible and the pizza was sloppily prepared.  Not a great start.  After one bite, our faces turned quickly to disappointment.  The super thin gluten free crust had a very strange texture and taste.  It was still slightly doughy and undercooked, which difficult to achieve when the crust is paper thin.  The crust was also too thin to hold the toppings, flopping over with a general state of sadness.

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The toppings were fine, the mozzarella was nice and the tomato sauce was probably the best among the three, but the flavor and texture of the crust was too much to overcome.  It was the cheapest, at £10.60, so at least Pizza Express got a consolation prize!  Now on to Pizza Hut!Pizza Hut has been my top choice for the big pizza chains historically and Julie in particular has a soft spot for the thick, pan pizza (hello, Book-It from elementary school!).  Our quickly delivered pie looked like a normal, thin crust pizza, though it comes in the shape of a square, which I assume ensures that no one mistakes it for the normal, round, gluten filled pizzas.  Smart thinking Pizza Hut.

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The crust was thicker and had a little more substance to it than the Pizza Express pie, and kudos to Pizza Hut for not undercooking a thin crust pizza.  While I would not say the pizza was amazing, it was very solid gluten free pizza.  The toppings and cheese were of much lower quality than Pizza Express, but met our expectations for Pizza Hut.  The sauce was a little too sweet, like most pizza chains, but not terrible.  Overall, this pizza was a pleasant surprise.  The crust itself still had a distinctive flavor that lots of gluten free breads have, but had good texture.  It was even able to hold its toppings. But at £12.49, it’s the worst value of the bunch.

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The last contestant was Dominos. Typically, I find Dominos to be the worst of the major chains.  Even in college, they were my distant third choice for late night, drunken pizza ordering, which is saying something in a town of 1,000.It took me a while to navigate the Dominos ordering system, which required me to switch from the default large size pizza to a small for the gluten free crust option to appear.  I initially thought they did not offer gluten free pizza due to the confusing ordering system.  Luckily, my superior brainpower prevailed and I placed my order.

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The pizza was the smallest of the three and in the middle in terms of cost, at £11.99.  My one appearance gripe is that the pizza did not come sliced.  This was done to avoid potential cross contamination, but seriously Dominos, you cannot afford two pizza cutters per store?  Come on.

The pizza did look good, probably the closest to normal of the whole bunch, and even had some thickness to the crust, which is difficult to achieve with gluten free flour without tasting dense and heavy.  The crust was crispy and easily held the weight of its toppings.  While it still did not taste exactly like a normal pizza, it was the closest of the three, with an airy, bread-like crust.  The only real letdown was the cheese, but that is true of all Dominos pizzas.  Why is their cheese so much worse than the other chains?  At least the pizza came with a garlic and herb dipping sauce, something I avoided, but would have definitely inhaled if I were still in college and it was 2am.

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In a stunning result, the Dominos pizza is the winner.  I am shocked and you should be too.  As our main criteria is ‘closest to normal pizza crust as we can get’ we were pleasantly surprised by the texture and volume of Dominos’ crust.  If your body cannot handle gluten and you have the urge to order some pizza, then Dominos should be your choice.  Unless you live near The Florist Arms of course.
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