Eating {gluten-free} in Berlin | Cielo di Berlino buckwheat pizza

September 9, 2014

Cielo di Berlino Italian restaurant gluten-free pizza Berlin

My strict no-eating-out policy following my celiac diagnosis just over a month ago has proved to be the hardest part of my diet transition. I mean, we moved to Berlin in large part for the food. Now I was supposed to hole up in our apartment, cooking every single meal until my digestion healed enough to brave the big, bad world of eating in restaurants that didn't understand the first thing about gluten cross-contaimination. I thought I might be old and grey before I could venture out to enjoy a meal again. Enter Cielo di Berlino.

I was skeptical about a pizza place that makes both buckwheat crust and regular crust pizza, envisioning air thick with poisonous wheat flour and work surfaces long covered in the sticky, glutenous stuff. But even on its website, it puts even the most dramatic of worrywarts like myself at ease, explaining how they make the different crusts in separate places to avoid cross-contaimination and they are cooked in the oven on dedicated sheets. It looked like other than the one Paleo restaurant in town, I wasn't gonna get much safer than this. So after a particularly long Ikea visit late one night, famished with nothing to cook at home, I threw caution into the wind and we headed here.

I had heard that sometimes the wait for food could be a bit long, but thankfully our food arrived before our grumbling bellies forced us to start gnawing on our arms. Our wide, hungry eyes were drawn to the salads, sure to come quicker than a pizza requiring a trip to the oven, so we started there. The dressing was a light and flavorful addition to the fresh greens with onions and cherry tomatoes, but it was the toasted pine nuts and wide, thin slices of the best parmesan I've ever tasted that really impressed me. After wolfing down my salad, I was even more eager to get to the main course.

The pizzas arrived, filling the large, platter-like plates, and we set to work. If it's your first buckwheat crust pizza, you discover it is actually work. Cutting the crust (true Italian pizza comes uncut) takes a heavy hand and a good knife. Unlike flaky, crisp wheat flour crusts, buckwheat is denser and a bit more chewy. This is not to say it is not good, it's just different. If I've learned one thing about gluten-free eating in my relatively short time having to do so, it's that you must adjust your expectations. A gluten-free baguette won't have the same buttery, flaky crust, the same way a buckwheat pizza crust won't have a light, crumbly feel. You can't expect things to have the same flavor or texture when they are made from entirely different ingredients. And frankly, they're better when they're something altogether new, rather than trying to be something they're not and failing miserably. Long story short, the buckwheat pizza crust is a tasty, satisfying alternative for those eating gluten-free.

Aside from the thin buckwheat crust, the pizzas were impressive in their flavorful toppings and generous cheesiness. My pizza had thinly-sliced pepperoni and a heady goat's cheese, while my husband's had an assortment of olives, peppers and a good kick (though, that might've just been his ample dousing of hot chill oil...). His being the winner that night, it was ordered again on our second trip, while I opted to mix it up with the classic Margherita, which was fresh, simple and delicious. The cheese, brought all the way to the outer edges of the pizza where it crisps in the most perfect way, makes the 'crust' my favorite part. We also tend to stuff ourselves so full of pizza here, there is literally no room left for any of the gluten-free desserts, but I hear good things from those who have indulged. The offerings can vary from something chocolate, to classic cheesecake or crème caramel. Next time, I really must remember this so that I pace myself to leave room for something sweet.

After two very successful trips to Cielo di Berlino, and I'm sure many more to come, I must offer high praise to the Italian culture and its knowledge of celiac disease. Apparently in Italy, children are regularly tested for it and there are ample alternatives to standard wheat-based pizzas and pastas. A simple 'senza glutine' will be met with a nod of understanding and a plethora of gluten-free options brought to you. The very kind Italian ladies running this place have thankfully brought this compassion and understanding for those of us who must not only eat differently, but also very carefully, to a city and culture that too often does not understand the rather high-maintenace needs of those with this disease. I am eternally grateful that they did.

Cielo di Berlino Italian restaurant salad with pine nuts and parmesan Berlin

Cielo di Berlino
Monumentenstraße 31
10829 Berlin (Tempelhof-Schöneberg)
S+U Yorckstrasse
Pizza daily from 16:00, Sundays from 14:00
Cash only

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