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Monday, July 25, 2011
Buon Appetito Senza Glutine at Bar Italia Madison
Senza Glutine= Without Gluten

Last Tuesday, I had the wonderful privilege of dining with Lindsay aka The Lunch Belle and Jackie of The Promotion Factory at Bar Italia Madison. When Lindsay first invited me after dinner at Ovelia, I was excited to learn that she was going to check out Bar Italia gluten-free menu that was launched in early April. Once we finalized our date, I emailed the restaurant through their Contact Us page and was pleasantly surprised when Bar Italia's manager and partner, Hassan El Garrahy, emailed me directly to assure me there was indeed a gluten-free menu. Mr. El Garrahy and Chef/Partner Denis Franceschini are extremely well-known in the NYC restaurant scene with many years experience at restaurants such as Cipriani, so I felt like I was in good hands for my meal at Bar Italia Madison.

The swanky and friendly
Chef Denis Franchescini
and Me
As Lindsay and I met up with Jackie, a PR rep for the restaurant, we were immediately given the royal treatment. The wine flowed freely and we enjoyed the pleasant company of the Bar Italia staff including Chef Denis, the lovely captain Annalisa, and the ever personable (and impeccably dressed) owner Hassan. Chef Denis wanted us to try everything and believe me we did! Just when we thought we ordered enough, Denis and his staff brought out more.

I ate like a gluten-free queen at Bar Italia with everything from bread to appetizers to pasta and pizza and dessert. I was instantly transported back to my trip to Italy in 2009 where I was brought to tears while eating gluten-free pasta and drinking wine outside of Vatican City. Chef Denis went through each dish with us, many of which were naturally gluten-free. He explained how he likes to use less ingredients to bring out the true flavor of the dishes. Hassan echoed his thoughts by explaining they like to have a very "clean" menu. The flavors were rich without being overpowering and I even tried many dishes that were new to me. We started with not one but SIX appetizers, a pasta course, the main course, and dessert with wine at each course. As in Italy, we ate for hours! It was fantastic.

Here was our decadent menu for the night:


  • Bruschetta: gluten-free roll with tomato eggplant & roasted peppers. I love when restaurants have gluten-free bread readily available. The bruschetta was fresh and delicious. 
  • Polenta Gratinata: polenta with mushrooms. I am not a mushroom fan, but the polenta and the cheese was flavorful even with the mushrooms. This was one of Lindsay's favorite dishes. 
  • La Caprese di Bar Italia: mozzarella with cherry tomatoes. I think this was some of the creamiest, melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella that I ever ate. 
  • Tuna al Balsamico: seared sliced tuna with fennel and balsamic. Believe it or not, this was my first time EVER of not eating tuna out of a can. This was by far my favorite dish of the night. It was amazing and quelled my fears of eating fish. Thank you Chef Denis for getting me out of the can and onto the plate. ;-)
  • Polipetto all Griglia: grilled octopus & chick peas. I couldn't bring myself to eat these little guys. Sorry. 
  • Tartare di Salmone: tartare of salmon. Another first for me. This salmon was prepared simply with some avocado. I don't usually eat fish, but this was one of those "clean" dishes that Hassan spoke about and I didn't want to pass it by. I really need to get that "fishy" fear out of my head and enjoy dishes like this more often.
  • Insalata di Spinacini: baby spinach, apple, and bacon salad. Simple salad, but amazing flavors.

Black Truffle Pasta
  • Penne al Tartufo: gluten-free corn-based penne with black truffle and Parmigiano. Yet another first for me. Black truffles are a delicacy with limited and almost exclusive European production. This dish definitely had the richest flavor out of all of the amazing dishes we ate at Bar Italia. Deliziosissima! 

Main courses
  • Bianca Pizza with Prosciutto: gluten-free pizza with four cheese and prosciutto. Thin crust pizza, just like in Italy! I shared with the girls and the enjoyed their first gluten-free pizza.
  • Gnocchi di Patate con Taleggio e Pere: Potato gnocchi with taleggio and pear. *Not gluten-free. (Jackie's entree)
  • Orecchiette al Ragu' di Vitello: pasta with veal ragu. *Not gluten-free. (Lindsay's entree)

gluten-free tiramisu
  • Gluten-free Tiramisu: raw, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free. This was served semi-freddo and was half-way between a cake and an ice cream. This was a decadent way to end a luxurious meal. I was so full but think this gigantic hunk of tiramisu could have been an entree in itself. This was a special dish created by Andree El Garrahy, Bar Italia's gluten-free and raw food gourmet chef. Please note the size of this ginormous piece of tiramisu!
  • Mix sorbet: mango, peach, and lemon sorbet. The peach sorbet was out of this world. It tasted like freshly picked peaches and was a great choice in desserts. I could have eaten a whole bowl of the peach sorbet by itself. 

When dining with Italians you must be prepared to drink, A LOT! I drank lots of sauvignon blanc throughout the meal since I am not a red wine drinker. I also finished with prosecco and limoncello, an after-dinner digestivo. Also on the menu is a Caprese Martini, which is basically a salad in a glass consisting of tomato vodka, fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinaigrette, cherry tomato, basil, and a Parmesan cheese rim. I did not try this drink but Jackie assured us it is a very rich and unique drink menu item. 

Bar Italia Madison is truly a quintessential New York dining experience. From the decadent Italian menu to the personable and attentive staff, this is a perfect location for a special meal in Manhattan. I highly suggest this restaurant for a celebratory dinner or a special night out; you will not be disappointed. When a meal transports you back to another time and country, I consider that a huge success. I want to point out, the gluten-free menu is only a portion of the full Bar Italia menu so your friends and family will have their pick of Italian dishes for their meal.  

I want to thank Lindsay for the amazing invite to Bar Italia and Jackie for arranging us this decadent meal with her client, Bar Italia. (Disclaimer: the meal was completely paid for so Lindsay and I dined as guests.) I also want to thank both Denis and Hassan for understanding that a gluten-free menu goes way beyond words on a page that say "gluten-free". From the ingredients to the preparation, both Hassan and Denis completely understood that you can still eat an amazing meal while maintaining a gluten-free diet. They went above and beyond and delivered a decadent and safe gluten-free meal.

Click here to read Lindsay's review of Bar Italia Madison.

Bar Italia Madison
768 Madison Avenue

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Blogger Emily Ann said...

This looks amazing! I also live in NYC (my best friend is always trying to get me to come to Astoria) so I have to try this restaurant!

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