Carrabba’s Cares About Watching the Wheat
Usually I have a cute antidote to get my blog started, but Carrabba’s has blown me away with their care and protection for gluten allergies so this is more of a serious appreciation. In all my years of being gluten-free, I have not encountered a restaurant who has dedicated this much care into assuring their food is gluten-free. Even a day after my first visit, and I am still blown away about their dedication to a gluten-free menu.
I went to the Carrabba’s in Schererville for opening day. Everyone was so nice and the staff was very well trained and informed about the menu and what a gluten allergy is. When I walked in, I asked for a Gluten-Free Menu and without hesitation, the hostess handed me one. Cherish, my waitress was great and although this was Carrabba’s opening day, it was like she had been there for years.
Cherish walked me through the menu and explained that the kitchen takes extra precaution to assure that they protect their gluten-free guests from cross contamination. She said that all of the grilled entrees are safe for me to eat and the kitchen makes sure that the gluten free dishes are prepared away from any trace of wheat flour.
Word spread quickly that I had a gluten allergy. The trainer came by and explained a bit more about their gluten-free procedures. All of the salads (minus the Caesar Salad as it contains croutons) and grilled items are gluten-free. Actually, the manager (Gary who we will get to later…) said that the Caesar Salad could even be gluten-free if the crouton weren’t added. When an allergy is labeled on the ticket, the kitchen takes no chances and grabs all freshly sanitized pans and bowls. The trainer explained that staff members must go through a very extensive training to understand what an allergy is and how it is very important to insure the guests that items are free of their allergen. How awesome!
As I was waiting, I was paying attention to what was happening in the back-of-the-house. The kitchen is open and guests can see what the cooks are cooking (no pun intended…). Not sure if it was my order, but I heard the staff yell out, “gluten allergy!” The staff working with the gluten free food grabbed everything clean—utensils, bowls, gloves, you name it. When my meal came out, it came on a separate tray as the “gluten” food. Cherish said that the Carrabba’s staff does this as another precautionary measure to ensure my food is gluten-free.
Yet, that is not all. My new friend, Gary (see, I told you he was coming back!) came and talked to me about the gluten-free process at Carrabba’s. He was great. Simply great. Gary even admitted that Carrabba’s thought this “gluten-free thing” was a fad and some kind of a diet like the South Beach Diet. However, he admitted that they were proven wrong and took gluten-free eating into their hands and wanted to make their menu and kitchen as safe as possible for gluten intolerant guests.
On Carrabba’s menu, gluten-free guests will notice that gluten-free pasta is not on the menu. Gary said that Carrabba’s cannot guarantee that pasta would be gluten-free as there is a chance for cooks to grab wrong pots, water splashing when boiling, and so on. Carrabba’s has gone above and beyond to make their restaurants a gluten-free friendly place. They recreated their recipes so that anything that goes on the grill is gluten free. The flour they use on the grill is a RICE flour and no longer wheat. If there is a breaded chicken, that goes on a separate grill and no chance will touch the gluten-free areas or other food. They treat a wheat allergy like a seafood, peanut, soy, milk allergy and keep everything separate and away from one another so there is no chance from cross contamination. Gary said he knows it only takes a little flake for some, and he, as well as the other members of the Carrabba’s Family, want to insure that their allergy guests have a safe experience and do not consume any of their allergy. Carrabba’s will not and does not want to serve anything that they cannot guarantee is free from the guests allergy. Not many places (and especially chain restaurants) will take that kind of care for their guests.
Another great thing about Carrabba’s menu is that none of the dishes listed on the gluten-free menu have to be modified in any way. It is all made without the flour and still filled with flavor. The chicken marsala and the mashed potatoes were excellent. The chicken was very tender and loaded with flavor. The dry and wet marinades added a nice flavor to the chicken and so glad that Carrabba’s took out the wheat! The Lombardo Marsala wine sauce on top of the chicken was delightful and really was great and loaded with flavor. The mashed potatoes (sorry, even for lunch I can’t say no to a potato!) were creamy and loved that the skins were in there. I highly recommend it!
One thing I wished I would have tried was Mamam Mandola’s Sicilian Chicken Soup. It is listed as it comes with noodles, BUT (this is a good but) because Carabba’s is dedicated to protecting its glutenafree guests, the noodles are added to the soup after the soup is put into the cup/bowl. How great is that?! Well, Gary, I guess I will be coming back for some soup!