The Mona Lisa Of The Desert

5 Comments 25 August 2006


Gourmet Pizza & Salad
Sedona, Tempe, Scottsdale, and Flagstaff, AZ

PicazzosImagine the best gourmet pizza restaurant in your area deciding to cater extensively to gluten-free patrons. This is the situation in Arizona at Picazzo’s, "where pizza is art." The instigator was a man in Sedona, with the real name of Tom Sawyer, who was diagnosed with celiac disease. Tom missed his pizza, began experimenting with flour mixes, and then with determination, in March 2005, approached the owner of Picazzo’s, Dennis Daniel, to help him.

Daniel empathetically listened to Sawyer explain the gluten situation; how many people are sickened by it and therefore are deprived of eating a regular pizza. Together they designed a gluten-free crust that met Picazzo’s high standard of taste and texture. To test the market for this unique pizza, Picazzo’s had a free gluten-free pizza day in June 2005. Was there a market? The Tempe location served 500 grateful people on Saturday and over 300 on Sunday. Daniel was impressed by the emotional reactions of many of the guests who either cried tears of joy or hugged him.


PizzasaladAt this point, Daniel was determined to dive in 100% to serve these customers, so he hired a nutritionist. Every label on every product was meticulously examined for gluten, including the liquor. He told me, "I have to do this better than anyone else has ever done." Since Picazzo’s makes everything but two dishes from scratch, only about twelve ingredients were questionable until the suppliers came through with more information.

Picazzo’s now has a complete three page gluten-free menu which includes their Cheesecakebeautiful award-winning salads served with gluten-free flatbreads, huge garlic cheese breads, chicken wings (yes, chicken wings!), thirty-eight different pizzas (not including the endless variety of options in their "create your own pizza" section, including homemade italian sausage), along with cheesecake. They also have a large page devoted to drinks featuring premium gluten-free liquors. All of the gluten-free beers are available at no profit because of shipping costs, but it’s worth it for Daniel to go this extra length for his customers. All of this AND an extensive international and domestic wine list.

Gfticket_1MakingdoughSeparate_ovenEverything is orchestrated to ensure there is no cross-comtamination. Your order is stamped GF as soon as it is brought to the kitchen. The person in charge of creating your meal folds down his apron to expose the clean underside and changes gloves. Pre-made dough is taken out of a bag and the crust is formed beneath plastic wrap. Then your pie is put into its own separate oven which is used only for gluten-free orders. Even salad dressing and condiment containers are color coded to ensure your safety.

Daniel has received thousands of feedback cards and I could tell he notes and appreciates each and every one of his customer’s comments. Now recognized by the Celiac Sprue Association, Picazzo’s four locations each sell between 150-200 gluten-free pizzas a week. At Picazzo’s, they are not only artisans of pizza, but they are masters of over-the-top customer service.


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Your Comments

5 Comments so far

  1. 1
    Erin says:

    I went to Picazzo’s in Sedona, AZ last November and had the same awesome experience. Everyone including the bartender knew exactly what gluten was and how avoiding cross contamination was essential.

    I had a Pepperoni and Ricotta (Red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, homemade Italian sausage, ricotta, parmesan and romano cheeses) which took me a good 15 minutes to decide on out of the 38 pizzas to order, not to mention the create your own pizzas. At the time I went, you could only order a medium gluten-free pizza which was fine with me. I took the leftover pizza back to my hotel and enjoyed it the next day. It tasted just as yummy the next day as it did fresh at Picazzo’s the night before.

    I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone venturing to Arizona. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for a Picazzo’s to open in NYC.

  2. 2
    Jenn says:

    Picazzo’s is always offering franchise possibilites – if you have about a spare half million dollars for startup costs.

    I first tried their pizza for the Southern Arizona Celiac Support Group fundraiser. Even day old, reheated pizza was yummy. Then we got gift cards to use at the restaurant.

    I finally got to have the restaurant experience a couple weeks ago. My non-celiac sister, brother in law, and boyfriend joined me. Boyfriend shared my GF pizza, which we ordered first. Five minutes later, my sister decided on a pizza. And they both came out at the same time! I was expecting to have to wait an hour, but did not.

    I wasn’t impressed with their flatbread (but melted brie and roasted garlic is always good); everything else I really enjoyed. I have to make more day trips to the valley with a dinner stopover at Picazzo’s.

  3. 3
    Jenn says:

    I forgot to mention that the Scottsdale Picazzo’s restaurant is in the same shopping center as Aspire Markets.

    After a lovely dinner, I was looking forward to a short walk to Aspire and get some yummy bakery item for later.

    All I found was an empty store and a note saying there was a lien for failure to pay rent to the owner.

    A very sad ending to a perfect night.

  4. 4
    Chris in MA says:

    Just got back from AZ and did the Celiac Chicks Arizona tour. The Scottsdale Picazzo’s was a great experience. I went with a large, extended-family group. Amazing gluten-free pizza (and more… I gorged myself) and once again I am indebted to all your fine research and Wild West explorations. (I’ve previously hit all the great Portland, OR spots you’ve written about.) Thanks Kelly and Kim!

  5. 5
    Andrea says:

    I went to Pizza Picasso in Scottsdale about 2 weeks ago and my boyfriend had to basically roll me out of the there.

    Its been 6 years since I have tasted garlic bread and PP’s gluten-free garlic bread was pretty close to the real thing. Crispy and buttery with marinara sauce on the side. Even my friends who are non-celiacs thought it tasted great.

    Then I had the ultimate pepperoni pizza. The consistency of the crust was like a regular slice of pizza, it was definitely the best gluten-free pizza I have ever tasted!

    It was a wonderful experience and I wish they had a Pizza Picasso here in NYC!

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Kelly Courson


Thanks for stopping by! I'm Kelly Courson and this is where I've shared my gluten-free finds since 2003. The world has been my gluten-free oyster for 14 years now and I love sharing what I've learned in order to help others adapt to a gluten-free diet. Have a look around and feel free to leave a comment. Connecting with people like you is what has kept me going this long! Seriously.

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