That’s right, the Satchel, owner and namesake of the ESPN-recognized Satchel’s Pizza here in Gainesville. The pizza is tasty, the deep-dish is incredible, the salad is addictive, and the millet and flax crust is the ultimate indulgence. You can only order a full-size “gluten-free” pizza (more on that later), so every time I order one I happily eat cold pizza for a week.
Satchel’s is one of the few restaurants here in town with a worthwhile gluten-free option, even if it’s not technically 100 percent GF. (I’ve been lucky enough not to get sick off of it).
I talked to Satchel about the inception of their millet and flax pies and why we should all be grateful it’s even on the menu. Check it out below:
How long have you been serving gluten-free pizza at Satchel’s?
Oh, I can’t remember for sure. Maybe 2 or 3 years at least.
Is the dough homemade or brought in?
We could not make a gluten-free product very well simply because our prep room is tiny and we make lots of gluten full products there, like our pizza dough. We buy it from Sami’s Bakery. They ship them to us weekly.
What made you start serving it?
A customer who works at Ward’s, who is gluten intolerant, brought one in and suggested we sell them. Since my mother in-law has Celiac Disease, and I knew many people were gluten intolerant, I thought it would be a great idea. At first we were buying 4 or 5 a week from Ward’s, and soon they were popular enough to get straight from Sami’s.
Has it been a hit? I certainly love treating myself to a Pineapple and Sausage GF pizza once in awhile.
It has mostly been a huge success. We sell about 50 per week now and even people who eat gluten like the crunchy sweetness of the millet and flax crust. We used to call them our “gluten-free” pizza, but we had a woman come through who is highly sensitive to wheat and got sick from eating them. She informed us that while she can only tolerate 1 part per 2000 of wheat, the Sami’s crusts are about 1 part per 200 wheat, (or some such ratio,) and she said that since Sami’s isn’t a gluten-free bakery that there food is not entirely gluten-free.
Exactly how safe do you think the pizza is, in terms of cross contamination? I know there’s a warning on the menu, but I’ve never gotten sick from it. Do you take steps to keep it away from glutenous pizza?
Well, I know there are products out there that would be more gluten-free but from what I’ve tasted none of them are great pizza crust alternatives to the one we use currently. Also, since our kitchen has gluten floating all over it, even if we got an entirely gluten-free crust that I approved of, there is no way to ensure it wouldn’t be contaminated in our facility. So, I decided to stick with what we have, call them a millet and flax crust, and let people know that they contain traces of gluten. We use different peels to make them on, we wipe down the oven stone, and we try and stop spinning pies when they are heading out of the kitchen. We try to make sure they stay as gluten-free as possible but there are limits inside a small pizza kitchen.
Has anyone ever complained that they got sick?
Over the last few years I have heard of 2 people complaining of getting sick from the millet and flax pies. Both were obviously highly intolerant to gluten. Of course, as owner of a restaurant the last thing I want to hear is someone has gotten sick from our food so it is sad. But that’s why we have the warning to customers. We are always trying to make the pizzas with less possibility of contamination from the gluten , but even the product is not 100 percent gluten-free.
How about positive comments?
We have so many people compliment us on this pie. There are folks practically in tears over eating a pizza for the first time in so many years. There are health nuts who are happy to have a more healthy option. Lots and lots of positive feedback on this.
Any plans for more GF offerings? Your homemade desserts always look so delicious!
We do vegan desserts from time to time and they don’t always sell so good. I have not considered a gluten-free dessert mostly because our baker is so busy keeping up with the dessert menu we already have. Not to mention that there is the added chance for contamination of gluten. But, I never say never, so it may be something we try in the future.
I know a few people who’d love to not have to order an entire pizza. Could a smaller serving, perhaps a personal sized pizza, ever be possible?
You know, the restaurant business is crazy… Our food cost is supposed to be 25 percent to allow us to cover the labor and overhead and come out with a profit later. If we put this formula to the millet and flax pizza it would be $16 before we ever put sauce or cheese or toppings on it. It is very expensive to buy and have shipped to us. So, unfortunately, there is not much of a chance I can see of making a smaller portion. Seems to me that gluten intolerant people would love to have a couple extra meals in the fridge for the days ahead. When this pie was something we sold 10 per week of as a bonus to our customers we could take the hit on the cost, but now we are making so many, the cost will have to go up. We can’t have a lot of items that we don’t make money on.
Right now we are well over 50 percent food cost on the millet and flax pies and also our deep dish pies. So, these are specialty items that we will have to raise prices on to continue to be profitable and also have products people want. This is a very difficult aspect to the job, raising prices when I know that people have tight budgets, but in the end it is best if we stay open, have a place the community enjoys, offer great jobs, and are able to pay the bills. The items that will be hardest are the ones that cost so much to make. Trying to keep one of these millet and flax pies around to cut slices from is just not a viable option since there is so much flour floating around the kitchen and it is trouble to keep them free of gluten as we make them. We’re trying to keep it simple and selling them as we do is the best thing we have come up with so far.