This may sound foreign (pun intended), but you can have dinner out, at a fancy restaurant, and Italian food at that, while following a gluten-free diet. Go Italian at Il Forniao Restaurant! I was thrilled when an Italian restaurant approached me several years ago – to give a presentation to their chefs and corporate staff about the merits of gluten-free, and the possibility of creating a gluten-free menu. How refreshing to see change come from within the restaurant industry. I’m not exactly sure the reason: whether someone at the top knows someone who’s gluten-free or what, but somehow they realized the importance of providing “gluten-free” as an option to their patrons. As a fellow gluten-free diner myself, I really appreciate this. Il Fornaio offers authentic Italian cuisine at their 21 locations throughout California, Las Vegas, Seattle, Denver and Reston, Virginia. I knew of them from years of working in the corporate world – I used to love going out to business dinners there. Il Fornaio has always served high-end Italian food – made with fresh, whole ingredients using traditional cooking techniques. It’s simply delicious. So, to learn that this gourmet Italian restaurant wanted to provide a gluten-free menu to guests was super exciting to me. I have been consulting to Il Fornaio on their gluten-free menu since 2011. My husband and I have wanted to check out the menu for a long time, and now with our “baby” turning five years old, we had a chance to get away for a special dinner out. I wanted to share our experience and this wonderful gluten-free option with all of you. We visited their downtown San Jose location, situated in the historic Sainte Claire Hotel. As we sat down, I discovered that each table was complete with their standard menu, their regional/seasonal menu options, and their gluten-free menu! The gluten-free menu is not hidden in the back somewhere, or only mentioned once you ask. Gluten-free isn’t an afterthought at Il Fornaio, it’s at the forefront of their interaction with diners. Our waiter, Sean, was very knowledgeable about items that are gluten-free (and what are not), the gluten-free items available on the seasonal menu, and even what could be made special (that wasn’t on the menu). I had a great confidence that my meal would arrive gluten-free based on their knowledge of the subject. For their gluten-free menu, they had several pasta dishes that are made with their special gluten-free pasta. Their gluten-free pasta is imported from Italy and is made with corn, quinoa and rice. For those that are on a paleo diet or grain-free diet they have salads, as well as grilled chicken, salmon, tuna and more. As it is a rare opportunity for me to have pasta, I couldn’t resist and had their Alla Vodka: Gluten-free pasta with bacon and vodka-cream-tomato sauce. And to start we had their beet, arugula and walnut salad. They even have gluten-free desserts. In our case, we were treated to an array of gluten-free cookies Our dinner was incredible and I look forward to going back with some gluten-free nutrition colleagues soon. If you have a chance to support them by dining out at their restaurant, let us know what you think.
Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Educator, globally respected nutrition expert, published researcher, and accomplished author. Her guidance is backed by over twenty years of clinical experience and scientific research with complex neurological and physiological needs; particularly autism, ADHD, and related disorders. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism and also the founder of BioIndividualNutrition.com. Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.