Gluten Free in the FC

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FC stands for Fairfield County (in Connecticut).  Or at least it did when The OC was as big deal and we wanted to be like the show.

I’m from Fairfield County (although was born in New York) and am often there on weekends to visit my family.  This past weekend happened to be my sister’s 21st birthday and Alex and I made the trek on Metro North to Westport for her birthday dinner.  Maddy’s only restaurant requirement was that it had to be Italian, which is what I grew up eating due to my mom’s heritage, but is slightly more problematic now that I am gluten-free.  We lucked out.  We went to Rizzuto’s in Westport, a CT chain with two other locations.  If you want an allergy-friendly Italian restaurant in Connecticut, this is the place to go.  They ask you about food allergies when you make your reservation, and confirm them when you check in for dinner.

Rizzuto’s is in a location near the train station that has been occupied by several restaurants beforehand (when I lived there, it was John Harvard’s).  I have a feeling though, Rizzuto’s is going to last.  Their signature style is wood-fired Italian fare- their smoky flavors make it stand out from other Italian restaurants in Fairfield County.  Onto our dining experience.

Alex and I arrived first, and waited at the bar with drinks for the rest of the family to show up.  Despite not enjoying one myself, I am pretty sure they make a mean cocktail and the large bar area attracts a lot of older singles.  We were seated in the back of the main dining area with view of the ovens and kitchen.  It’s a large space, but the colors and woody decor make it feel pretty cozy.  When it came to ordering, there were a lot of preliminary questions about food allergies (I’m GF and my sister’s allergic to nuts) and the waiter was neither frazzled nor uninformed about the food.  He told us with confidence that there were no nuts in ANY dishes except for two desserts and that they had gluten-free pasta and pizza.  Jackpot.  It really makes a dining experience so much better when the service is knowledgable and accomodating.  Even with delicious food, poor food-allergy service can really taint a lovely dinner.

For appetizers, we ordered the antipasto plate which includes 2 meats, 2 cheeses, and 2 vegetables and Alex ordered the oysters.  The antipasto was a perfect amount of food for 5.  They scored points for having my favorite soft cheese, humboldt fog, which I only get to enjoy when it goes on sale at WF.  The veggies were marinated well and retained the smoky flavor from the wood-fire, which was good and not too strong and campfire like.  The oysters came from the Long Island Sound (holla) so you can also feel good about eating local.  According to Alex, they were awesome.

For dinner, I was torn.  Should I order the pasta or the pizza?  After Alex declared, “When was the last time you had pizza” I made up my mind.  Pizza it was.  Maddy ordered the gluten-free Rigatoni al Pollo (wood-grilled chicken, broccoli rabe, roasted tomatoes) so I could taste.  She’s the best.  Since gluten-free pizza becomes all about the crust, that was what I was most focused on and was most happy with.  It was a thick, bready crust that came from Sami’s Bakery (the waiter said it was based in San Franscisco, but I did some online research and found it in Tampa, hm).  Although I was sort of sad they didn’t make it themselves, it really was the best GF crust I’ve ever had (yes, better than Udi’s). For toppings, I went with goat cheese and vegetables.  It was a pretty dry pizza, not a lot of sauce, not too much cheese, but the crust made up for that.  When I ate the leftovers the next day, I added more cheese, and that helped.  At first, it was just okay, but Maddy asked for more “sauce” and they came with a large gravy bowl of tomato/wine/garlic sauce that raised the level of this dish to outstanding.  Their gluten-free pasta of choice was made from corn, as most restaurant GF pastas are, so it was not mushy like rice pasta can be.  Oh, and mom, Alex, and Lily said their food was really yummy too.  We left Rizzuto’s really full but really happy.  This will be out go-to special meal place from now on.

Here’s a good list of other gluten-free restaurants in Fairfield County.

“Wheat is Murder”

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The above title was headline in the Fairfield County Weekly Newspaper’s article on gluten-free restaurants in Fairfield County.  Aside from the unclever headline, the article was a good resource on where to eat gluten-free in my home state of Connecticut (as is this blog). 

The gluten-free lifestyle and celiac disease have enjoyed some press lately in the New York area.  The above referenced article appeared last week and my grandmother found a more health-focused article on celiac disease in her local paper in Levittown, Long Island. 

More widely read, however, would be two New York Times Q&A type articles in their science and health sections. The first one headlined as “Gluten and Gluttony” (also ridiculous), was sent to me and my two sisters from my dad.  Its argument that cutting gluten from your diet is not necessarily beneficial to those other than celiacs (meaning those with gluten sensitivities) incited my father’s tendency to be a skeptic and had me defending the merits of families (particularly ours) getting tested for celiac because of its genetic nature.  It had many celiacs and those with gluten-sensitivites up in arms

The second article, “Can You Be Intolerant to Foods like Pasta?” is instead in the health section and has a gastroenterologist answer questions about gluten-sensitivities and celiac disease.  While this article highlights the controversy over gluten-sensitivity, it doesn’t dismiss the population of people that are gluten-intolerant but not celiacs. 

It’s good that the gluten-free lifestyle is frequenting media outlets, but I fear that it still being seen as a trendy new diet, rather than a serious medical condition.