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Uno Chicago Grill, recently lauded as America's Healthiest Chain Restaurant , has added cheese and pepperoni pizzas to what is already one of the most extensive gluten-free menus available for a casual dining chain. This is good news to the estimated three million Americans diagnosed with celiac disease, as well as an additional seven million Americans who have a wheat intolerance or allergy and rely on gluten-free foods. While awareness of celiac disease is rising, an estimated 97 percent of those who have it remain undiagnosed .
"Food allergies are a very serious, sometimes life-threatening, issue for many Americans," notes Uno's Executive Chef Christopher Gatto. "Pizza is our signature product, and we wanted to offer a gluten-free pizza so all of our guests could enjoy it when dining at Uno."
It took over a year of research and development to find just the right recipe for a brand that is known for its iconic pizza. "While we want to meet the needs of guests with allergies, we never forget that we are about great taste and choice, and that means developing new dishes that are healthful without sacrificing great flavor," Gatto says.
Uno Chicago Grill works closely with its Nutrition Advisory Board, which meets quarterly to discuss trends and solutions to improve the quality and nutritional value of its menu. The board includes world-class physicians with expertise in coronary disease, weight management, and other food/health related issues. Uno CEO Frank Guidara oversees the Advisory Board and brings his expertise as a member of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Roundtable.
The new gluten-free pizza is being tested at Uno Chicago Grill locations in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts (excluding Worcester, Springfield/Holyoke, and Dedham).
"Thus far, indications have been extremely favorable, and sales are exceeding our expectations," notes Rick Hendrie, senior vice president of marketing for Uno. "We hope to roll it out to all stores in 2009."
According to the Gluten Intolerance Group, surveys show that about 15 to 25 percent of consumers report looking for gluten-free products, far more than need to.
Uno boasts a number of healthy firsts, including being the first national restaurant chain to eliminate artificial trans-fats and to increase menu and nutritional transparency via nutrition information centers located in their restaurants. The company's gluten-free menu has over 12 items ranging from entrées, salads, sides and desserts. For guest convenience and safety, Uno clearly labels menu items with ingredients that are linked to the most common food allergies, such as fish/shellfish, soy, tree nuts/peanuts, egg, milk and wheat/gluten. Diners can also preview the menu and nutritional information online via the company's website at www.unos.com.
The company has invested more than $2 million in nutritional advancements since 2005 and, according to Guidara, will continue its commitment to providing delicious, fresh and healthful menu options for its guests.