Celiac Diagnostic Center - Suzanne’s Story

Gluten-Free Living...in a Bakery!

By Bari Faye Siegel

When Suzanne Kolmetsky bought Christine's Italian Pastry Shoppe in Northfield almost a decade ago, she loved eating sweets almost as much as she loved baking them. She never tired of tasting and trying her creations.

"I'm in a bakery. It's all here for me to see, everyday," said Kolmetsky, 32. "There is so much variety and I never got sick of it. I ate creamy stuff one day, crunchy stuff the next. Tasting is part of my job as the baker."

Little did she know at the time that those "bites, licks and tastes" were making her sick, tired and leaving her with abdominal cramps that made her double over in pain.

Kolmetsky was diagnosed with celiac disease three years ago at Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates (AGA) in Egg Harbor Township. She always knew something was wrong. Back in high school, she was diagnosed - misdiagnosed - with a hiatel hernia and acid reflux by a family doctor.

"I knew it wasn't that but I had lost my insurance and never went back to the doctor. So I had to live with it for 13 years," she said. Several years later, she went to another family doctor who incorrectly labeled her problems "irritable bowel syndrome."

Kolmetsky, committed to her bakery and customers, ignored her symptoms. She was resigned to living with the pain until a family member insisted she continue her search for a proper diagnosis.

She found AGA and now her life, and her bakery, will never be the same.

"Dr. (Barry) Kaufman made such a difference in my life. My life changed very drastically. He and his staff were very helpful. He diagnosed me with celiac and helped me to learn about gluten-free living. He continues to help me manage my health.

"More than anything, AGA gave me emotional satisfaction. With a proper diagnosis, I know what I have. I found such relief in finally knowing. Now, I can live with it. I can manage my diet. I can be pain-free and healthy."

At the same time Kolmetsky was enjoying the freedom of receiving her diagnosis, she was also struggling with finding gluten-free alternatives for all the things she love the most - breads, cakes, cookies and pizza!

"It finally hit me shortly after I was diagnosed! If I couldn't find any gluten-free items that were palatable and didn't make me wish for all the foods I couldn't eat, then I figured others couldn't either," she said.

A gluten-free line of baked goods including eight different varieties of cookies, 10 kinds of muffins, white bread, cinnamon bread, cinnamon raisin bread, pizza crust, pies, hot dog and hamburger rolls and special order cakes - even fancy wedding cakes! - are now available at Christine's Italian Pastry Shoppe.

"I am a big bread person and was constantly craving it when I couldn't have gluten. My breads and rolls are excellent. With the sweet stuff, you can't tell the difference between regular and gluten-free. In fact, it's far moister and often when non-gluten free people taste it, they actually prefer the gluten free stuff."

Tuesdays are gluten-free days at the bakery. All of the stainless steel cookware comes out. Everything gets a good scrub-down -- the equipment, the mixers, the oven, and all the utensils. Of course, they are cleaned daily, but Kolmetsky does an extra cleaning throughout before starting to make her gluten-free goodies, just to make sure there is no cross-contamination by airborne flour.

Freshly baked gluten-free items are available Tuesdays after 3 p.m. However, customers can always find yummy goodies that have been individually wrapped and frozen shortly after coming out of the oven.

If you are looking for something specific, have a large order or want a special-order cake or pie, please call and order in advance. Call 609-646-5666 or visit Christine's Italian Pastry Shoppe on Facebook. For more information, you can also visit www.glutenfreephilly.com or check out the Gluten Free Registry online.

Christine's Italian Pastry Shoppe is located at 314-316 Tilton Road in Northfield. Coupons for the bakery can be found in the Entertainment Book and Money Mailer.