Happy Healthitarians: Picazzo’s specializes in gluten-free, vegan and organic comfort foods

Happy Healthitarians: Picazzo’s specializes in gluten-free, vegan and organic comfort foods

By Jordan Houston

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen is serving up a solution for those looking to shed any lingering “Quarantine 15” pounds.

Picazzo’s, located at 7325 Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard, is an Arizona-based family-owned healthcentric restaurant, offering a menu of salads, entrees, pasta and pizza. The eatery fuses modern Italian cuisine with bold flavors of Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican ingredients.

Boasting other locations in Sedona, Tempe, Gilbert, Paradise Valley and Arrowhead, Picazzo’s serves 90% to 95% organic produce. It sources whole foods rich in nutrients for self-described “Healthitarians” — including gluten-free diners.

According to Picazzo’s Director of Operations Chris Disney, the restaurant’s business has been booming following the onset of the pandemic, despite supply shortages faced by businesses across the country.

“It’s great as far as business goes,” Disney tells Airpark News. “After the pandemic, people who have probably been sitting at home and doing take out and just kind of comfort and stress eating — I think (they) are trying to catch up on healthier lifestyles again.”

Cue Picazzo’s.

The Italian kitchen prides itself on its gluten- and- vegan-free menus. Picazzo’s sources NAE (no antibiotics ever), hormone-free and American Humane Certified chicken wings and breast, according to its website. It also features nitrate/nitrite-free meats, like its sausage from certified-green company Polidori.

All sauces and dressings are made from scratch using organic spices and non-GMO sunflower and imported olive oils, Picazzo’s site continues. Guests can either opt to indulge in dishes like the lasagna Bolognese ($18), the sustainable salmon picatta ($27) or the original hand-stretched Meaty Meaty pizza ($22).

A separate vegan menu features offerings of salads, entrées, pasta, pizza and desserts using brands that support the plant-based diet, such as Follow Your Heart, Daiya and Beyond Meat.

“We have the vegan menu and offer a lot of vegan products that kind of, I think, just make it an easier transition (to a healthier lifestyle),” Disney says. “Our produce is 95% organic, which is pretty unheard of. The ingredients are really important.”

Rick Freedman founded Picazzo’s in Sedona in 2002 when he saw the need for a nice pizza place in the growing area. In 2004, the restaurant expanded into the Valley and opened its Scottsdale Airpark location.

The company reevaluated what makes it unique from its new saturated market of competitors. The business built off of its already-popular gluten-free pizza crust when it opened its Paradise Valley location in 2008.

Moving toward full Italian options was Picazzo’s turning point. It pioneered offering a full menu of gluten-free options for people to choose traditionally gluten-filled dishes without fear.

As it appealed more and more to the gluten-free customers, Picazzo’s saw an opening to provide options for other types of dietary restrictions, including soy, GMO, corn, dairy and veganism.

Despite economic hardships brought on by COVID-19, Disney says Picazzo’s continues to evolve. The restaurant has battled with supply shortages but is doubling down on its efforts to continue to expand its already extensive list of vegan and health-conscious menu offerings.

“There are definitely some struggles on the operations side of things — but everything under the sun is having an outing, and that is something not everybody understands,” Disney explains, noting that the restaurant has been facing paper supply shortages. Picazzo’s strives to utilize eco-friendly packaging, a luxury that is harder to come by, he says.

The menu isn’t the only thing changing, either.

The Picazzo’s Scottsdale location is being remodeled to update its signage, Disney says. Comfortable booth seating, providing for an inviting atmosphere, is being incorporated into the interior, as well as pops of greenery via new snake plants.
Daring Plant Chicken, a 100% plant-based product with zero animal hormones, animal antibiotics and saturated fat, is also hitting the menu for those looking to satisfy chicken cravings guilt free.

“I would say for a lot of Picazzo’s items, we literally get down in the turmoil and into the products. We read the labels,” Disney says. “We are doing this for the people who are trying to be gluten free or moving in that direction.”

For more information about Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen, or to order online, visit picazzos.com. 


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