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Life of Pie

Stella Barra

America’s favorite food: made over, still amazing

Courtesy of Stella Barra

Each night, hundreds of individual-sized pizzas are served at the four locations of Jeff Mahin's Stella Barra Pizzeria ( And whether you're in L.A., Chicago, Santa Monica, or its just-opened outpost in North Bethesda, Md., you'll find offerings that would flummox the pizzaiolo at your neighborhood shop.

"It's never going to taste like traditional pizza dough, but it should taste good," Mahin says of his newly concocted gluten-free crust recipe. The chef's secret? Adding boiled potatoes to the mix, which yields a "structure and chew that are almost like dough." The good news: Mahin's unique, fluffy base has found fans beyond the allergy-afflicted. Now going gluten-free "is a choice," he explains, "like becoming a vegetarian."

But Mahin's gluten-less slices are just the beginning of America's pizzaissance. Pepperoni seems pedestrian compared to what's coming out of the ovens at Donatella Arpaia's chic New York pizzeria, Prova ( The must-have pie there is adorned with uni, squid ink, mint, and lemon zest. Meanwhile, Trecento Quindici Decano ( in Aspen, Colo., covers its "everything" breakfast pizza with smoked fish, dill cream cheese, capers, and tomatoes. And dessert lovers could do much worse than the strawberry and Nutella pie at Filini Bar and Restaurant in Chicago (

While Prova trumpets the sea urchin that bedecks its signature dish, Mahin takes a slyer approach. "A good portion of our pizzas happen to be vegan," he says, "but we don't advertise it on the menu because it dissuades people." No matter. As you tear into slices of his delicious, inspired Rossa pie (arugula, garlic, Calabrian chilies), you'll hardly care that you've been fooled.

Flour(less) Power
The secret ingredient for homemade gluten-free pizza

The plus side to making a gluten-free pie at home? Crafting the crust may actually be less complicated. "In a sense, working with gluten-free flour is easier than working with wheat flour," chef Jeff Mahin says. Under-knead regular dough, and you'll leave it shapeless; get too knead-y, and you'll end up with a turgid mess that will just fall apart. Using gluten-free flour eliminates this problem because you'll have no gluten to try to manipulate.

Mahin's recommendation for the base of your pizza: Bob's Red Mill, which makes a great all-purpose gluten-free flour. If you're inexperienced and worried about flubbing your first pie, just allot a little extra time for a second run. "It's cooking," says Mahin. "You're probably going to screw it up a few times, but that's the process."

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