I can remember a time when P.F. Chang’s was the only restaurant I knew of that had a gluten-free menu. That made it our go-to restaurant. In my 8 years of eating gluten-free I’ve only been glutened once at a Chang’s (and I’ve probably eaten there 50 times), but I think my glutening had more to do with a language barrier than cross-contamination.
Here are just a few of the restaurant chains that now have gluten-free menus:
- Bonefish Grill
- Carrabba’s Italian Grill
- Maggiano’s Little Italy
- Mellow Mushroom
- Old Spaghetti Factory
- Outback Steakhouse
- Pei Wei Asian Diner
- Ruby Tuesday
Finding a restaurant with a gluten-free menu can be downright exhilarating. You breathe a sigh of relief that you’ll eat more than lettuce and shredded carrots drizzled with olive oil, you revel in the fact that there is an entire page of options that actually look appetizing, and you relax knowing that those preparing your food understand gluten issues.
I finally had a chance to try Amerigo’s gluten-free menu, but I was reminded of a basic gluten-free dining rule:
Never let your guard down!
I was immediately impressed with the many options that were listed on a menu that actually looked like a menu. No flimsy little photocopied paper, a real menu. And the menu items looked amazing. They even had gluten-free pasta!
I had to try the pasta.
Most people would just settle for knowing that the pasta is gluten-free. But this gluten-free blogging geek had to know what the pasta was made from. I know Maggiano’s uses a delicious corn pasta. I enjoyed rice pasta at an Italian restaurant in Portland before. I’m a huge fan of quinoa, and lately I’ve really been enjoying Bionaturae pasta which combines potato, rice, and soy flour.
I really was just curious, so I asked the waitress.
Me: What kind of flour is your gluten-free pasta made from?
Waitress: Uh, I’m not sure. I think maybe wheat?
Me: Oh no, oh no, oh no! That’s impossible. Because WHEAT is NOT gluten-free. ALL wheat has gluten in it!
Waitress: Let me go check.
I know it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t know the ingredients in the gluten-free pasta. But instantly I knew that she had no idea how to serve a gluten-free diner safely.
My waitress never did return with an answer to my question. In fact, my waitress didn’t return at all. A new waiter took over who made me feel a lot more comfortable about my impending dining experience. I’m so thankful, because the Spaghetti Pomodoro with Shrimp was incredible!
I’ll definitely return to Amerigo for another meal. While I’m very thankful that gluten-free menus now abound, this is a reminder to be careful, ask questions, and never let your guard down.