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Monday, March 24, 2014
Gluten-Free at the Olive Garden
I am not really a chain-restaurant type of girl. I live in New York City where there are thousands of restaurants up and down each block. Even as someone living with Celiac Disease, I have hundreds of safe gluten-free choices from restaurants, food trucks, bodegas, and markets across the five boroughs. I realize I am lucky living in such a gluten-free friendly city but not everyone is so lucky.

With all of these food choices, it is VERY rare that I eat at a chain restaurant. If I do, I am usually out of New York City and visiting family and friends elsewhere. In these destinations, I realize that chain restaurants are sometimes the only option for someone with Celiac Disease. I have no problem with chain restaurants serving gluten-free food, as long as they are doing it correctly and safely!

A few weeks ago, I started seeing postings on social media and even a TV commercial for the Olive Garden, a very popular Italian food chain in the United States. I was skeptical at first, given the enormous amount of gluten in that place, so I reached out to the source via Twitter.

I appreciated the Olive Garden's public response on Twitter but wanted more information. Here is what they had to say via email:

Hi Erin,

Thank you for the interest you have expressed in dining with us again- this means a lot to us! After 30+ years of living with this restriction, we can appreciate your reservation in dining in our restaurants. Unfortunately, it would be impossible for us to guarantee that our gluten-free pasta is free of allergens, but we can tell you that our new gluten-free pasta is being prepared with very strict cooking methods to prevent cross-contamination. We would be happy to provide you with some background information, as well as our procedures when it comes to the preparation and handling of our gluten-free pasta. 

First off, our new gluten-free rotini pasta is imported from Italy and made from a combination of corn and rice flour. Improved taste and texture was a major priority when selecting this new gluten-free option and we've been told it’s delicious! 

Our gluten-free rotini is cooked and handled with separate sanitized pots and cooking utensils. Also, the water used to boil our pasta is completely isolated and uncontaminated. This practice is thoroughly communicated to all of our culinary team members by our managers. Our managers ensure that our service team is trained to make proper suggestions for our gluten intolerant guests. In an effort to ensure your safety, a lot of time and effort goes into training our team. 

Our hope is that you and your readers will give us a try and let us know what you think! 

Sincerely,Lidia Perez 
Olive Garden Social Media- Guest Relations

Gluten-Free Rotini with Fresh Tomato Pomodoro Sauce

Here is a link to the Olive Garden's gluten-free information and menu. Here is what they say on that page:

Olive Garden created this menu for our gluten intolerant guests. Please be aware that the handcrafted nature of our menu items, variety of procedures in our kitchens, cross-contamination with ingredients containing gluten and our reliance on suppliers may result in variations in the ingredients of these menu items. We therefore make no guarantees regarding the gluten content of these items.

I think if I was in a city that didn't have a gluten-free menu anywhere else, I might consider the Olive Garden but only after talking extensively with the local manager and chef in the kitchen. Has anyone tried the new gluten-free pizza at the Olive Garden? What did you think? I would love to hear your comments below!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I probably wouldn't risk it! you know of any Celiac Support Groups in NYC?

Blogger Unknown said...

You came to the right place. I run the largest Celiac group in New York City!

Join us:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have celiac or gluten/wheat allergies (so keep that in mind as you read my review - I am only weighing in on the taste of their gluten free pasta) but was advised by my nutritionist and naturopath to eliminate or at least reduce wheat in my diet. I can have wheat on occasion and in small amounts so there is no dire emergency for me if food is contaminated (the result has been the elimination of intestinal distress and back and body aches which return if I eat too much wheat). We rarely eat Italian food out but Olive Garden is my mom's favorite restaurant and we took her there recently for her birthday. I ordered the bottomless pasta bowl using gluten free rotini pasta (it's a lot of food - couldn't even finish one bowl) and I couldn't get over how delicious the pasta was! The very best gluten free pasta I've ever tasted. I'd love to buy some for home use but don't think it's available for sale - at least not yet. If they ever sold it, it would be a huge hit.

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