As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a family friend surprised us (in a good way!) with a quick wedding over the holidays last year. After the couple got married in City Hall, they treated us to lunch in an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. However there was another surprise–the restaurant they’d chosen wasn’t an ordinary trattoria. It was completely (as in the entire menu) gluten-free. I’d never heard of Senza Gluten (which translates, literally, to “without” gluten), or any restaurant like it but I was intrigued. Interestingly the chef, Jemiko L. Solo, doesn’t have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance himself–he just loved Italian food and had a friend who did. He decided to make a safe space for others suffering from the disease or trying to stick to a diet with what he hoped would be delicious food.
Senza Gluten is by all appearances a typical trattoria–cramped tables, cozy lighting, and rustic decor. The menu is also very Italian: long and with just about every typical option you’d expect to see on there. I wasn’t afraid to shy away from the items that would normally involve wheat, but there were quite a few dishes that were naturally gluten-free if you were so inclined. The bread basket didn’t quite do it for me, but I was expecting that. My sister often bakes gluten-free and I know from past experiments with different flours that I dislike most the flavor and texture of “white” bread made with gluten-free flour blends.
However things only got better. The appetizers were outstanding, and I was immediately impressed with the plating. When toasted (and drenched in olive oil, garlic, and basil, naturally) the bread for the bruschetta dish was much improved. The caprese salad was one of the best I’ve had, and even in the middle of winter the beefsteak tomatoes were tasty. I ordered butternut squash ravioli in a butter Parmesan sage sauce and honestly wouldn’t have guessed the dough was gluten-free–it was that good. David went for his favorite indulgence, chicken Parmesan over spaghetti, and while he said he could tell the flavors were slightly different, he still enjoyed it.
For dessert, I ordered a hazelnut cake with macerated strawberries while David went for another favorite of his, a molten chocolate cake. The gluten-free flour flavor was again pronounced in both (less so with the chocolate), but it was easily muted when paired with the complex accompaniments that were smartly paired with each dish. I was happy to read that all the desserts offered were made on-site (they definitely tasted fresh–the bread comes from a local bakery and the pasta is a corn-based Italian import).
Overall, I really liked the restaurant. It was comfortable and laid-back in a really good way. The servers were professional and efficient (if not a bit overwhelmed, though we were a very big party spread over a few tables). Though I don’t have any serious food allergies, I could imagine what it would be like to be afraid of un-careful waiters or accidental contamination. It’s wonderful–and very New York–to have an entire restaurant dedicated to a subset within cuisine. And while I don’t think I could ever say goodbye to carbs, to a gluten-free meal’s credit I ate a lot (in a tight dress, after a hectic morning) and didn’t feel uncomfortably full or bloated. Good food and a happy stomach? That’s a definite win-win!
206 Sullivan Street
New York, New York
Tel: 212 475 7775