Pizza is a delectable dish that most of us take for granted. The owner of Doughboys Pizzeria and Trattoria has found a way to put it back on the table for people who never thought they’d be able to eat it again.
At the busy corner of East Grand Avenue and Oak Park Boulevard in Grover Beach, Doughboys is a cozy little spot with about 10 tables inside.
Several festive blackboards list all the menu options, which range from ribs to wings, Italian subs to Caesar salads, lasagna to spaghetti with meatballs and — of course — pizza.
Though owner Deborah Masullo-Bellocchi had “worked in restaurants most of my life,” she had worked in doctors’ offices for almost 20 years when she took over Doughboys in January 2005. She kept most of the menu as it was (including the option of a 28-inch XXXL pizza), mainly adding pastas and “slightly changing the dough and sauce.”
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That pizza dough starts from scratch, including mixing the flour, hand-rolling the dough and letting it rise for two days before it’s hand-tossed to order. Crust choices range from the original New York style to Chicago deep dish, while the six available housemade sauces include traditional red, garlic white and a pesto, among others.
As for toppings, about two dozen are available, or go for one of Doughboy’s 15-plus signature pizzas. Among them are a Roasted BBQ Chicken, South of the Border, with chorizo sausage and cheddar cheese, and the Greek, with feta cheese, salami and Greek olives.
While pondering pizzas is a no-brainer for most of us, it’s typically off limits for anyone with celiac disease. Perhaps better known as gluten intolerance, it’s a digestive disorder that affects people to varying degrees, but in any case results in a toxic reaction when gluten is ingested.
Most closely associated with flour, gluten is ubiquitous in a wide range of foodstuffs, in part because of its properties as a binder, said Masullo-Bellocchi. People with severe intolerance have to avoid seemingly innocuous products such as energy bars, most marinades, processed meats and almost every brand of soy sauce.
Because of her previous profession, Masullo-Bellocchi was already interested in such food-related sensitivities, so it was natural that she started thinking about making gluten-free pizza dough at Doughboys.
It took about a year, “and my husband ate a lot of really bad pizza,” but by December 2007, the tasty result was a rice/tapioca blend with a nice little al dente touch to the bite.
Development of the dough also led to “La Pizza Senza Glutenata” — a line of five frozen pizzas now available at several local grocery stores. Because cross-contamination is an issue in production, Masullo-Bellocchi handcrafts these pizzas (the name means “gluten-free pizza” in Italian) “first thing in the morning with absolutely no flour around and no shared equipment.”
The gluten-free dough can be ordered anytime at Doughboys, but patrons should be aware that the same absolute lack of cross-contamination can’t be guaranteed, especially when the restaurant is busily up and running. Even moving dough from one surface to another can impart enough gluten to be an issue, and Masullo-Bellocchi noted that people with severe intolerance can’t even have a topping like jalapeños because gluten is used in the pickling process.
After having left the world of medical offices behind for Doughboys, Masullo-Bellocchi’s career is about to come full circle. Though she definitely plans on keeping the restaurant and pizza businesses going, she says that she “still has the passion” for working in the health industry, and is starting the nursing program at Cuesta College this fall.