Strict Gluten Free Eaters Beware… Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano

Biaggi’s has an extensive gluten free menu and touts their GF offerings.  As of this posting, this screenshot appears right on their home page.

Gluten-Free Dishes
A gluten-restricted diet doesn’t have to make your dining choices difficult. At Biaggi’s, we recognize the challenges of dietary restrictions and created a complete Gluten-Free menu to give gluten-intolerant guests a variety of meal options. Our gluten-free dishes infuse all of the flavor, care and quality you expect from Biaggi’s!

Two words stick out to me… “care” and “quality”.  Yeah…

This past Friday we went out to dinner with some friends.  They wanted to know if we had other options (than the two restaurants I can eat at).  I knew Biaggi’s (a midwestern-ish Italian restaurant) had a gluten free menu although I had heard and read mixed reviews about the celiac-friendliness of their menu.  I gave them a call to see what was up.  The resulting conversation ranks right up there as one of the most disturbing such conversations I’ve had.

The manager’s attitude seemed to be taken straight from the Jimmy Kimmel “school of dismissiveness of gluten issues”.  A few nuggets *no separate prep area, *no separate utensils, *”this is an Italian restaurant, your food is going to have some gluten in it”, *”we’ve had no one complain of getting sick” – GFF commentary… “yeah right” and maybe most jaw dropping for me… *”the pasta is boiled in the same water we use for regular pasta”

Quotes are paraphrases but capture the essence of what I was told.

Let me be clear, I do not expect every restaurant to be able to accommodate my food needs.  But I do expect to be treated with respect and when I read “care” and “quality” used in conjunction with a gluten free menu, I expect it to be true.

The menu does have a couple more disclaimers…

You may wish to call ahead for reservations and inform the host that you will need to order from the Gluten-Free Menu. Please inform the staff serving your table that your food needs to be wheat, oat, rye and barley-free.

Commentary… Seems good and reasonable to me.  Call ahead so they can take necessary steps to provide for you.  Yes!  Glad I called ahead to figure out they really just don’t care.

This menu is provided by Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano as a service to our guests. Biaggi’s assumes no responsibility for its use and any resulting liability or consequential damages are denied. Guests are encouraged to consider the information provided to their own satisfaction in light of individual needs and requirements.

Commentary… Standard cover your liability verbiage.  Biaggi’s… if you’re going to do this and at the same time use the words “care” and “quality” and have horrible training, customer service and respect for people.  Just stop it.  Remove care and quality and add another statement that says people with medically necessary gluten free diets stay away.

Shame on you Biaggi’s for jumping on the gluten free bandwagon at the expense of the health of others.  There’s no good reason why you can do a much better job at this.

This is going to be staff dependent, maybe your local Biaggi’s is super gluten conscience and celiac friendly.  Unfortunately, mine is not.

Update: I did receive a follow up email on this.  It was a mixed bag in my book.  I was told that some of the information I received was wrong but I also felt the person backed away from claiming their kitchen is fully celiac-safe.

A portion of the response I received…

I have reviewed your original letter, my response, and the website you attached with my Chef Partner. He and I agree that our practices and procedures produce the most Gluten Free (mistakes excepted) meals that we can in our cooking environment. We put the satisfaction of all our guests as our top priority and make every attempt to meet each and everyone’s needs. We realize, however, that there are somethings that we cannot do. Not for lack of effort or concern, it is that it is outside the parameters of business situation.

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