Gluten Free Manhattan
I spent the past week (and some) in NY. Mostly in Queens, but we took a couple of trips into the city. Instead of writing multiple posts about Manhattan, I’ve decided to combine them all into one post (and then do a separate one for a place out on the island and a place in Bellmore).
This was my “hope-to-go-to” list: Pip’s Place, Tu-Lu’s, Nizza, Bistango, and Risotteria. A list of places which varied from affordable to pricey, and which were rather spread out. Alas… but, now I have places to add to my “see it next time!” list.
We DID make it to Tu-Lu’s, Nizza, and Risotteria, as well as a place I hadn’t heard of called Stogo.
Risotteria. This restaurant has been recommended to me by so many people, I just had to go. They’re not 100% gluten free, but I did extensive research. A lot of good reviews. A lot of bad reviews. To be expected in the food business. But what made me more confident is that every single bad review I found was because someone didn’t like what they ordered, they didn’t like their server, they didn’t like the very close quarters in which you are seated. But I didn’t find one that said they got sick after eating there.
Risotteria ended up being my choice of places the night we were to meet-up with a good friend whom I hadn’t seen since about the time I went gluten free. I remembered that he’d learned he was dairy intolerant, so I wanted to be sure to pick a place that we could both enjoy. They do gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian. Their disclaimer says that they strive to be 100% gluten free, but there’s always risk of cross-contamination in their supply line. Although their menu gives the impression of few dairy free options, my friend discovered (from our very helpful – and also dairy free – server) that quite a lot of the dishes which were not inherently dairy free could be prepared that way.
When she took our order, she double-checked who had which food issues. Everything gluten free, aside from the pre-meal bread sticks, came out with little flags to indicate their gluten free status.
I’ve always wanted to try risotto. We’ve had a box in the cupboard for a year and never seem to get around to making it. So for my meal, I went with risotto (chicken-stock based) with Gruyere, shitake, and arugula. The risotto was smooth and creamy. The mushrooms a fine touch. Arugula is something that I love and hate. Depends how bitter it is. This batch was fairly bitter, so I ended up pushing the green leaves aside and eating the rest. Teresa enjoyed the arugula, however, so we didn’t waste it! She ordered a Panini – mozzarella, tomato, and pesto. I was expecting fresh tomato (since the menu specified dried in other options), but these were dried. Not my favorite usually, but they complimented the sandwich nicely.
For dessert, I tried their Black & White cookies. This is a NY treat that I’ve sorely missed. Until Risotteria, I’d yet to find one that tasted spot on. This one was amazing. And large! And fresh. And delicious!
Here are the down-sides. They’re expensive. They’re in a small building, so you will be sitting next to complete strangers. Our table had to be pulled out so that I could get in and out of my seat. Because of the small building size and close quarters, it is very loud. Do not go here for good conversation or a romantic outing. It just isn’t possible.
That aside, for a tasty meal at a place that understands gluten and dairy issues, you really cannot go wrong with a trip to Risotteria! Just be prepared to wait for your table!
After the three of us walked around the city for awhile, we came across a place my friend was familiar with called Stogo. They serve gluten free and dairy free ice cream. Their ice creams are made with dairy substitutes such as soy milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. They also have sorbet. My friend got the Mexican Chocolate (which came with a warning of ‘spicy!’), I got Mint Chocolate Chip, and Teresa tried the Salted Caramel Pecan. They enjoyed theirs, and I also loved the Salted Caramel Pecan. The MCC, was, most unfortunately, spearmint not peppermint, and therefore tasted overwhelmingly like toothpaste. The chocolate chips could not make up for this, and I tossed it after two bites. Next time, I’ll ask if I can taste first before I buy (approximately $4.50/small cup). But, I’d go again. Although Teresa and I can both have dairy, it’s great to know of a place which truly caters to those who cannot.
On the last day of our vacation, Teresa and I took a second trip into the city, with two of her friends. Originally, we were going to eat at Uno’s, because it was near the Museum of Natural History, and I’d eaten at other Uno’s before without problems. This Uno’s, however, was not as safe as others I’d been to, but at least they were honest! (Shared kitchen, air full of gluten-flour, and so forth.) So we made the trip to Nizza which had received a rave review here. The place was packed with people getting ready to go to the theater, and we were told we’d have to wait until 8p for a table (it was just before or just after 6p). He also said we could go next door to their sister restaurant (a burger place, I forget the name), and that they were all covered as gluten free, but Nizza had the GIG logo out front, and, unless I overlooked it, did not see one next door. I wasn’t really in the mood for a burger either. We’d recently had two days of marvelous Italian out on the island, so I was up for more of that cuisine, or at least some good NYC-style pizza!
The manager realized that a woman at the bar was using a stool just for her purse, so he had her move it, which gave us 4 seats at the bar. I was not impressed that the counter wasn’t wiped down, but this was alleviated by the staff providing us each with a rubber placemat after they knew who was eating gluten free (we got black ones, our non-GF friends got grey ones). We were then given utensils and napkins.
I was sorry to learn that the gluten free menu only included pizza with spicy sausage and long hots (which I believe are peppers, someone correct me if I’m wrong), which didn’t appeal. The place was pricey, but had been reviewed so highly on the Triumph Dining blog, that Teresa and I decided we would each get a dish and then share. I ordered Caprese Salad, which was slices of the biggest tomatoes I’d ever seen, large, fresh slices of buffalo mozzarella, and the tiniest basil leaves ever. Plus way too much extra virgin olive oil (the dish was swimming in it), for $14.25. Teresa ordered the Ziti al Forno, which is oven roasted ziti with tomato cream and quattro formaggi (four cheeses). Neither of us were impressed. My plate at least looked appetizing, but the more I ate, the more I discovered the not-so-fresh tomatoes hiding underneath, and the cheese became less fresh as well. Once I discovered the pool of olive oil, I stopped altogether. Teresa’s looked and tasted like it came out of a can. It was clearly pre-made (corn) pasta out of a bag as opposed to freshly made. She ate it so as not to waste it, but then accepted some calamari from one of our friends.
The non-GF eaters did enjoy their meal. And perhaps we would enjoy something else on their menu (the pre-meal bread was delicious, although I would have selected a less bitter/sharp olive oil to pair it with), but we were so disappointed with the dishes we did get that it’s unlikely we’d ever go back.
At the end of our evening, we set out to find Tu-Lu’s Gluten Free Bakery. It’s easy to miss, so keep a sharp eye out. The width of Tu-Lu’s is slightly greater than two doors, but there’s a nice counter to sit at if you want to eat your treats there. I did some of both. I bought (and ate most of) a delicious chocolate cake with the smoothest Vanilla frosting I have ever seen, and then ordered a Snickerdoodle cookie, a dark chocolate fudge brownie, and a 3-Cheese, Basil Pesto & Tomato Panini to go.
Unfortunately the photo I took of the cake did not come out, but I assure you it was wonderful, as was the Panini and the cookie. I’ve provided a link for you to their website, specifically to the brownie I got. WOW was it good! Teresa said it reminded her of the texture of brownies her grandmother used to make. It was one of the best brownies I have ever eaten.
The other great thing about Tu-Lu’s is talking with the employees and other customers. While I was there, I met a little girl who was anxious to try the same cake I was eating, and a woman who had traveled from PA to try out the gluten free places in the city. I hope she had a successful and tasty trip! It’s always a joy to speak with other gluten free people, because they really get it. And occasionally, you get the non-GF people who truly understand as well (Teresa, of course), such as John at Mama’s Restaurant, which I shall review in another post.
Aside from how good (or bad) any of our meals in Manhattan tasted, I can tell you that not one of them made me ill, and as you know from my previous posts, I am extremely sensitive to the smallest speck of gluten!
If you’ve been to any of the places I reviewed in this post, or others in the city that we either didn’t make it to (or didn’t know about) please comment and share your experiences!