Aaah…. Now that the holidays are over, I have time to reflect on how easy eating at restaurants has become for Celiac or gluten sensitive people. With relatives visiting for 10 days over the holidays, we did our share of eating out. Below is my Gluten Free assessment of each:
Amici’s in downtown San Jose, CA – ****
A good solid four stars for their care in creating a pizza with no cross contamination. The pizza crust was good; toppings, generous. What stood out was the exceptional service, especially for loud, boisterous multi-generational parties of 10 or more like ours. With three gluten intolerants (yes, my lovely genes live on), three raucous kids under 7, and each of the “normal” adults with their food quirks of no black olives, no garlic, etc., I was simply amazed at the wait staff’s unflappability to graciously, effortlessly accommodate each of us like it was no big deal. My head was spinning with the complexity of our order. The true test at 2am that night/morning was a calm stomach.
Following the meal with a walk in the wonderland-of-lights at Christmas in the Park, a long standing San Jose tradition, didn’t hurt the overall good feeling of the evening.
My Pizza in Morgan Hill, CA – *****
Okay…this gluten free pizza is just as perfect a replica of “real” pizza as any of us have ever tried. Thus, the Five stars. The crust is the best of any GF pizza I’ve ever tried, having the perfect “pizza” smell and initial crunch when biting into it, not to mention the right amount of Italian cheesiness and generous toppings. Yee Ha for this pizza!
Giuseppo’s Pasta & Grill-****
Although we initially hesitated to lunch here, because the menu did not list one gluten free item; we ventured in on a cold day,because the amazing Christmas decorations with the cozy, lit fireplace looked inviting. I just figured I would have to order my standard Italian restaurant meal of chicken marsala. Of course, chicken marsala still involves grilling the wait staff about not dredging the chicken or thickening the sauce with flour. On a whim, I decided to ask if they had gluten free pasta. Surprisingly, they did.
Apparently, the owner’s wife had just found out she was gluten intolerant, and the owner was a bit horrified that he had a restaurant where his wife could eat next to nothing on the menu. Consequently, they had GF pasta for customers that needed it, even though the menu did not indicate that. The chef knew he had to cook the pasta in a separate pot to eliminate cross contamination; thank goodness.
Consequently, I ordered a pasta dish and was impressed the noodles were not those tasteless transparent strings of pure rice used in Asian restaurants. The pasta had substance and flavor. Thumbs up for Giusseppe’s for jumping into the gluten free world.
Orrozco Tacqueria in Gilroy, CA – *****
This is a little hole-in-the-wall diner, which was most likely a former hamburger joint. They make a gluten free Molcajete meal that is utterly outstanding! Molcajete is a stew-type dish in a green chile sauce with different types of meat or seafood. Orrozco lays a piece of grilled, pre sliced cactus over the top of this molten concoction served in a giant lava bowl. Four people can comfortably be fed from this one dish, especially since the homemade corn tortillas accompanying the molcajete are quite filling…and scrumptious in and of themselves. For gluten intolerant eaters, they will make quesadillas with corn tortillas. Also, unbelievably good. Orrozco’s is the best restaurant/tacqueria food I have ever had, and that is saying something growing up in the Mexican-food-loving state of California.
Maurizio’s in Morgan Hill, CA-***
The chef at Maurizio’s is so agreeable to my gluten free limitations and my boredom with the standard Italian menu that he asks me when I walk in the door, “What are you in the mood for tonight…beef, veal, chicken, fish?” Now that is special. Although Maurizio’s just recently added gluten free pasta to their repertoire of gluten free choices, I am only giving them a three star rating, because the pasta leans toward the transparent, tasteless type of GF pasta, instead of the richer flavors of the multi-grained GF pastas.
However, the non-pasta gluten free meals I’ve had there have been wonderful. The sauces and layers of flavor have been rich and satisfying.
What I learned this holiday season about dining out…
-always ask for the gluten free item you are hoping to eat. The kitchen may have it in the back like Guiseppe’s did.
– eating out is getting to be less of a hassle, less embarrassing, and more enjoyable!
You still need to be careful eating out – I looked on Applebee’s website and they say list all of their gluten free things. My brother is a cook for Applebees and he said he didn’t even know that they have gluten free things. I told him that their fries are listed as gluten free and he said they just fry them in the same fryer as their breaded things. 😦 There are some restaurants in our area that are gluten free. We don’t eat out that often. I choose to cook at home. 🙂
Heather, Your brother brings up a good point, as Celiacs and gluten intolerants we can NEVER just trust restaurant claims, but have to do some questioning before eating safely, ie the French fry issue you mentioned. In my 8/30/2012 post, I addressed this very issue when a health drink label wrote gluten free on the front, but listed wheat in the list of ingredients. Thank you for keeping this issue front and center, because we will be the ones at risk if we blindly trust the claims made by either restaurants or product labels!
Sorry if I’m writing this twice. I was replying and my post disappeared. It just takes a little bit of questioning. At first, I was afraid to ask questions. I don’t know if I was embarassed or if I thought they would spit in my food. Now I’m used to asking questions and most people are pretty gracious.