The other night, an old friend of mine and I were set to go out for dinner. We haven't seen each other in way too long and she had suggested we go to Sorrentino's restaurant west end location. Of course we had been there in my pre-celiac life, she and I, but Abisaac and I never go there or even think to go there. Honestly since being diagnosed celiac for whatever reason this restaurant has never even crossed my mind, which is odd considering we pass it almost daily.
My first thought, after giving myself a rough time for having seemingly forgotten about a tasty restaurant that I pass all the time, was to check out their website and see if I can eat there with ease or if I needed to prepare myself emotionally for disappointment and plain lettuce salad, hold the dressing (boring)!
The menu listed on the website looks tasty, the prices are moderate and therefore this restaurant is likely one for special occasions and not daily dining. I still wasn't quite sure if these yummy looking foods were secretly loaded with my kryptonite (gluten). I called the restaurant around 3:30pm and spoke with one of the chefs. I find that this is the best time to call any restaurant when asking detailed questions about their menu. The staff have likely just arrived, it's not yet busy with customers and they have more time to devote to answering my questions without being pulled back into the kitchen because everything is boiling over (good pun there huh!).
The chef that I spoke to (my apologies, I cannot remember his name) was very helpful and more than willing to go through the entire menu section by section with me. He outlined every single item that was gluten free friendly and there were a lot of them. He even pointed out some that I should "remember to tell the waiter about your dietary restriction because sometimes we dust that item with flour for extra texture and appearance, but it's not necessary". Wow, that was something I never even considered as a possibility. I know that restaurants often dust things with flour for texture and presentation, I just did not realize they would not do it when/if needed. (I know that was a double negative and poor English, but that's how I thought it needed to be said). In other restaurants I had simply been told "no that item is not gluten free" and so I moved on and did not consider it as an option for my dinner.
It is interesting to note just how many restaurants out there are unable to be flexible when making dishes. Whether it is because their kitchen staff are not as skillfully trained or that the restaurant is managed in such a way that does not allow for diversity in any way in the plates presentation and make up (aka: no substitutions). I am no expert, but I know people who work in restaurant kitchens and have absolutely no formal chef training. As well I can only hope and assume they have been adequately trained when it comes to dietary restrictions and cross contamination precautions in the kitchen. I also know some restaurants whereby they are taught that this meal is to be prepared and presented on the plate in this manner and there can be no alterations to its appearance or prep. Neither of these is helpful to me when it comes to ensuring my safety when dining out.
Bottom line: I was overjoyed to see that the majority of the gluten free menu items available at Sorrentino's restaurant west end location were in fact gluten free friendly AND exceptions could be made to some of the non-gluten free items to make them gluten free as well. In the end my dining experience was great, catching up with an old friend was great and the food was amazing -filled with flavor gluten free friendly and satisfying on all counts. I'd say this was a great success all around and I will definitely have to drag Abisaac out to Sorrentino's the next time we are looking for a nice place to eat for a special occasion.