Restaurant Review - Versantes Pizza
Gluten-free menu - Was there a “gluten-free” menu available?
No. There was not a “gluten-free” menu available, but for many of the restaurants I’ve reviewed so far, these typically seem to be misleading marketing tactics for targeting a unique population. While a gluten-free menu was unavailable, the manager (John) happened to take my order and was more than happy to thoroughly answer all of my questions pertaining to my gluten-free options.
Service - Service was above and beyond what you would expect from your typical pizzeria. Once the order was placed, we picked a table and waited for our personal-sized pizzas. Before long, both my gluten-free pizza and my friend’s wheat crust pizza came to the table at the same time. Upon ordering at most restaurants (even those with a gluten-free menu) my wife and I have always felt like we need to make a scene in order to be taken seriously on how significant even the slightest amount of gluten can affect those with a sensitivity. At Versantes, I was spared the inconvenience of waiting longer for my gluten-free meal and, having talked to John prior to ordering, I actually felt confident that my meal was going to truly be gluten-free.
Knowledge - John definitely had extensive knowledge of what “gluten-free” meant. He made it clear that he and his staff thoroughly understand the importance of 100% gluten-free preparation by explaining the establishment’s gluten-free procedures which include: using only clean utensils, having a clean flourless workspace specific for gluten-free pizzas, washing hands regularly (and re-gloving when preparing a gluten-free meal), and establishing specified gluten-free sauces/ingredients to prevent cross-contamination. And to think, I never even told him who I was, let alone that I would be doing a review on his establishment, prior to receiving all of this information! It is great to know that they provide this truly awesome customer service to ALL customers. The part that really made me feel confident about sending my patients to eat at this establishment was when he stated “We want to prepare every gluten-free meal as if each person could have the worst possible reaction regardless of whether they have Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity, or an anaphylactic reaction”. Ding-Ding-Ding! We have a winner!
Safety of Food - The fact that this is not a typical “New York” style pizza joint decreases the chance of cross-contamination significantly (pizzas are not hand tossed with loads of white flour contaminating the air and workspaces). According to the manager, the wheat dough is made in the morning and then the crusts are coated in a thick layer of corn meal. The pre-made gluten-free crust is stored in a freezer separate from the other breads and crusts. Also, the gluten-free pizza is baked on a special tray and has its own location when placed in the oven. Recently, the restaurant t even replaced their original gluten-free crust with a gluten, egg, and dairy-free version, to cater to those with egg or dairy allergies or a lactose intolerance. Receiving this thorough explanation of the process went a long way in once again assuring me that my food would be safe. In addition, Verstantes offers gluten-free beer from Red Bridge, hard cider, as well as other gluten-free soft drinks.
The salad bar was really the only questionable area of the facility. Although the salad bar can appear to be safe, it does need a little work to assure no chance for contamination from the dressings, pastas, or croutons. I feel making a few changes to this area could be a huge selling point for this establishment. Simply offering croutons and pastas in individual containers or in a separate area and having the dressings in squeeze bottles would be very simple ways to make this salad bar gluten-free, thus making the Versantes the only restaurant in Bend with a gluten-free salad bar.
Taste and Cost/Serving Size - The taste and cost can’t be beat! I haven’t had pizza in over a year, primarily due to the fact that it’s typically not a safe food item or specialty dining location for those with a gluten sensitivity. I ended up enjoying my entire (individual sized) gluten-free pizza (with no cheese of course and loaded with veggies and chicken) and was beyond satisfied by both the cost and taste. This place can’t be beat!
Overall Experience - Excellent. From the initial conversation with the manager, to the last bite of my very delicious pizza, the entire experience was truly outstanding. My only suggestion was to make some small changes to the salad bar to allow those with a gluten-sensitivity to also enjoy this feature. After my Versantes experience, I contacted the manager and he actually allowed me to come back to personally view the steps taken behind the scenes to ensure their gluten-free options are truly gluten-free. Just the fact that he allowed me, the “Gluten-Free Critic”, to see what actually goes on behind the scenes, was impressive. This was a first, by the way, and assured me this facility had nothing to hide. I should mention that most restaurants won’t even allow me to talk with the chef (big red flag!).
With my second visit to Versantes, the manager took me, step by step, through the impressive process of building a gluten-free pizza, from start to finish. After my tour I was able to share several ideas on how to make a few small improvements to the establishment (including the 100% gluten-free salad bar) while also giving my thoughts on ways this business can help to create better awareness and set an example for the rest of the restaurant industry. I will definitely be returning to Verstantes and I encourage my gluten-free patients to check it out as well.
I give Versantes 5 out of 5 stars
*This score does not reflect the salad bar. I chose to not include the salad bar in my scoring as it is extremely rare (if not impossible) to find a gluten-free salad bar. I do encourage those with food allergies, gluten intolerance, or Celiac Disease to use extreme caution when it comes to all salad bars as the risk for cross contamination is VERY high.*