Nestled in north Austin, the Arboretum is a quaint upscale community that offers plenty of dining, entertainment and boutique shopping for locals and tourists alike. Hailed as one of the top outdoor malls in Texas, there’s plenty to do, see and eat at this elegant emporium. Whether you’re in the mood for sushi, seafood or elevated Tex-Mex, you can find an appetizing array of options to dine out while you peruse the shops, hang with friends or take in a matinee at The Regal. And fresh on the dining scene at the Arboretum is the renowned Russo’s, which recently opened their newest location next to CostCo and Boston Market.What started in 1978 as a modest Italian pizzeria in Texas has since grown to a multi-location franchise known for its locally sourced ingredients and chef-made pastas with house sauces and homegrown recipes. From the fresh lasagnas and tiramisus to the NY style pies with homemade crusts and cannolis – all made daily – Russo’s has managed to maintain their delectable small-town charm throughout the years.While Russo’s is celebrated for their larger than life pizzas with housemade NY style crusts and sauces, what most folks don’t know is that Russo’s also has the secret ingredient to great gluten free pizzas too! In fact, their honey-based gluten free pizza crusts are so tasty that they’re available in local grocery stores along with other gluten free freezer products like Russo’s Pizza Poppers and Cheese Ravioli.Here’s a little taste of my gluten free dining experience at the new Russo’s location at the Arboretum in north Austin:The cozy pizza parlor sits at the bottom floor of a two story building with a quaint outdoor patio off to the side. As I approached the entrance, there was a small garden with fresh parsley, basil and thyme planted by the door – a very charming touch.The interior of the restaurant is small but warm and welcoming. A few booths line the walls and a handful of tables fill the intimate dining area. The soda machines are hidden away to the right of the entry and at the very front of the counter, behind a glass case, sits a huge freshly made cheese pizza calling out to me to break the glass and take a bite! A friendly server greeted us as soon as we entered and instructed us to sit wherever we liked. We chose a big cushy booth next to the window and made ourselves comfortable.To get started, our server brought out a warm dish of seasoned flat bread and marinara sauce to whet our appetites while we carefully considered the seemingly endless menu possibilities. Between the Strombolis, homemade Lasagna, gluten free Primavera and specialty pizzas like Cauliflower Pizza and Prosciutto and Fig Pizza, we didn’t know where to begin!We settled on an appetizer of Insalata Caprese, which was beautifully plated and presented with roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garden fresh basil and a semi-sweet balsamic glaze and Sicilian extra virgin olive oil drizzle. The tomatoes were ultra ripe and juicy and the mozzarella was creamy and delicate. The basil did a great job of highlighting the varied rich flavors in the cheese and the tomato and the perfectly seasoned drizzle had a honey-sweet after taste.The next Sicilian inspired treat was a colorful, Italian style dish of gluten free Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad. This is a decent gluten free alternative to pizza that includes grilled chicken, kale, gluten free penne pasta, Roma tomatoes and Russo’s homemade pesto sauce. The kale garnish was crisp and fresh, the grilled chicken was savory with a perfect char, the roma tomatoes burst in your mouth with fresh flavor and Russo’s house pesto sauce has just the right amount of oomph! But you shouldn’t miss your chance to try a slice – or two or three – of Russo’s famous NY pizza, because it definitely steals the show!Served hot and still sizzling, these pizzas are packed with fresh, local ingredients, unique Sicilian recipes and a New York/Texas hybrid flare that can’t be beat! We ordered the Chef Russo inspired Pomodoro pizza with fresh mozzarella, Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and Russo’s pizza sauce – made in house daily – and the decadent Truffle Mushroom pizza with fresh portabella mushrooms, Wisconsin mozzarella, truffle olive oil sauce and a fresh arugula topping. Both of these pizzas were prepared with Russo’s tasty honey-based gluten free thin crust and were just as good, if not better, than the regular pizzas! The Pomodoro Pizza is cheesy, light and fragrant – perfect for those who like the traditional Margherita pizza. The sauce isn’t overwhelming and the cheese comes in dollops rather than smothered all over the pizza. The Truffle Mushroom pizza is another good choice for vegetarians or omnivores who enjoy a fancier take on veggie pizzas. This shroom-tastic slice is aromatic, colorful and full of deep flavors and interesting textures. The arugula topping adds a great crunch and finish. Definitely a pizza worth trying if you’re in the mood for something besides your basic pepperoni and cheese.Overall, Russo’s has proven to be not only a great spot for gluten free pizza seekers, but also for gourmet pizza fans of all kinds to get their fancy pizza fix! Russo’s has it all: insalatas, calzones, pastas, and, most importantly, all the pizzas you could ever want in all the varieties you could ever ask for! They may be more pricy than your average pizza parlor, but that because you’re paying for family recipes, fresh ingredients and fine service, and you can taste it in every bite! I would recommend Russo’s to anyone in Austin looking for a gluten free – or regular – pizza that’s a slice above the rest.