By AML Publisher
Photos by Belle Vie Photography
Walk into Lansdale’s quaint corner Virago Baking Company and the cases are packed with one delicious treat after another: dozens of mouth-watering, generously iced cupcakes, hearty pies, breakfast breads, birthday cakes and more. Seems like any other small town bustling bakery business until you take a close look at the menu. Everything in Regina Mason‘s sensationally successful bakery is gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan. “I knew I wanted to open a bakery in Lansdale, but not your typical concept. There really is no way to compete with the local supermarkets in a traditional bakery model and there is very high demand now for what we offer with food allergies being so prevalent. A bakery for the Philadelphia region that prides itself in offering the same items but made for those dietary restrictions in mind are what we pride ourselves on-and, what can I say, it is working,” explained Mason.
Opening an all natural bakery café catering to vegans and celiacs in 2007 was an astute business move by Mason considering the prevalence of those Americans following a vegan lifestyle or diagnosed with a gluten intolerance-known across the medical industry as celiac disease. Celiacs were not part of mainstream America until these past few years when celebrities like The View’s Elizabeth Hasselbeck became diagnosed and produced a top-selling cookbook. Also thrusting celiac disease into the limelight with numerous appearances on Larry King, Oprah and prime time television-actress Jenny McCarthy who embraced a gluten-free diet for her autistic son.
According to Philadelphia’s National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) and their website celiaccentral.org, over 3 million Americans have celiac disease but only 5% have been correctly diagnosed. Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. This means that, essentially, the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten.
Celiac disease is triggered by consumption of the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the finger-like villi of the small intestine. When the villi become damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment. Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.
Regina has designated days of the week where Virago only bakes gluten-free. So, there are strict guidelines in place to avoid any cross contamination for those with higher sensitivity to gluten-free particles. In addition, Virago serves a light lunch menu using all natural products. Items such as wraps, salads, soup, quiche and frittata are available as gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian for customers. On Fridays and Saturdays, Virago offers gluten-free pizza by the slice, take & bake or a plain pizza shell.
The good news for local celiacs looking to celebrate the holiday season-Virago Baking Company will ship anywhere across the Delaware Valley (and country) to make sure you have your fair share of holiday treats and sweets. “The goal of my bakery is that we want our baked goods to look just like they would if you walked into a traditional bakery. If you are a celiac, you deserve a beautiful birthday or wedding cake that is gluten-free, looks great and tastes delicious. Dietary restrictions and choices exist and it’s really our job to make our customers excited to have our pies and cakes and enjoy them just as they would if they did not have to watch, or choose, how they eat. We have a lot of customers who buy from us just because they find my baked goods delicious, not because they have a food allergy, restriction or intolerance,” explained Mason.
Virago Baking Company is located at 620 South Broad Street in Lansdale, PA 19446. Their hours of operation are: Tuesday through Friday 7AM to 6PM, Saturday 8AM to 5PM, Sunday 8AM to 1PM. They are closed Mondays. Call: 215-412-7071.
Their website is: www.viragobakingcompany.com
Follow Virago on Twitter at: twitter.com/ViragoBakingCo
Join their Facebook Fan Page to keep up to date with specials and bakery news.
Think you may have celiac disease? Visit celiaccentral.org for a checklist of symptoms and comprehensive information.