One year. That's how long it took Gabe Hertz – owner of Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria in Troy – to perfect the gluten-free crust he uses for the pizzas and calzones at his new restaurant. Creating a good-tasting version was essential to Hertz, who started the restaurant for kids like his daughter, Renee (the pizzeria's namesake), who have food allergies.
Their family had all but given up on eating out, since Renee, now 14, is allergic to a list of ingredients – most significantly gluten and nuts. Instead Hertz, who grew up in the restaurant business, would cook meals at home. Hertz's wife, Wendy, nudged him about opening his own place: "Renee loves your food. Why don't you try to make this happen?"
Today, fellow families have a place to take their kids: The restaurant is 100-percent gluten and nut free, right down to the soups, salads, desserts and appetizers – and offers dairy alternatives, too. And, equally important to Hertz, the food tastes great for everyone, whether they have allergies or not.
"Sometimes we have parents come in that get teary when they enter the restaurant," says Hertz, who's clocking 90-hour work weeks since the restaurant opened in February. "They're just so grateful to have a place to eat together. That's what this is all about – seeing the happiness of these parents that have no fear in taking their kids out for dinner."
Hertz shared a favorite dessert choice: Chocolate-chip cookies with a chocolatey dough for a yummy, gluten-free indulgence.
- 2 bowls
- 1 cookie sheet
- 1 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (Hertz recommends Namaste brand)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. of salt
- 2 tsp. of vanilla
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup butter (at room temperature)
- 1 cup sweet chocolate chips (split in half)
- On the stovetop, melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat. Pour the hot butter into a bowl with a half cup of chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips are dissolved; cool.
- In another bowl, mix together the gluten-free flour,* baking powder, salt, vanilla, sugar and eggs.
- Stir the melted butter and chocolate into the dry ingredients; then add in the remaining chocolate chips.
- Freeze the dough for 30 minutes.
- Roll into balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake each pan of cookies for 13-15 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Cool and serve.
*Hertz always looks carefully at the labels for both the chocolate chips and the gluten-free flour to confirm that they're not processed in a facility that also has nuts. He recommends Namaste brand gluten-free flour.