Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Otto Pizzeria and Gluten-free

After supposedly eating gluten-free at Otto, I was ill, as was another gluten-free gal at the table. It made no sense, the waitress showed us the bag of Italian gluten-free pasta they'd be using and I ordered something very simple: cacio e pepe.

Now that I've finished reading Heat, I think I know why. [Heat is the book by Bill Buford where he quits his job at the New Yorker, works at Babbo for a year, traces Mario's culinary career and life, and does some traveling, eating, and cooking in Italy and writes about all of it with a dash of self-deprecation and alot of humor. It's a fine read; I suggest taking it out of the library.] I already knew how Mario cooks, having followed his career since eating at Po in the spring of 1994. I knew he typically uses pasta water in his pasta sauces as a thickener. In my naïveté, I believed that if a chef was using gluten-free pasta for people who are gluten-free he would NOT slosh the same gluten-filled pasta water into the sauce.

Now this is *merely conjecture* but owing to the fact that I had major tummy upset after a dinner of gluten-free pasta [which never happens at home] I have to conclude that using said gluten-free pasta DID NOT include a gluten-free training on why it would be important NOT to use "regular" pasta water when making a sauce for gluten-free folks.

This is not good. Get those people some serious training!

6 comments:

ChupieandJ'smama said...

Or perhaps he didn't use a clean colander to drain it. My worst fear. There are so many things that can go wrong. Sorry you got sick. I hope this resto gets better training before something else happens.

Jonah said...

AG,
Sorry for the tummy upset. That should never happen if the restaurant claims a dish is gluten-free!
But, when it does, perhaps a 'tummy massage' would help:

http://www.thefurniture.com/store/proddetail.asp?prod=MG-0002

Cheers,
Jonah

Allergic Girl said...

mama--there are sooo many steps if you are really going to make the effort to be GF in a resto--my sense was they bought a bag of GF pasta and thought they were done. to be fair i will go back and chat with my manager friend and see what he says about what their training has been.

jonah--thanks! i actually do do tummy massages with light olive oil - i smell like a foccacia afterwards but my stomach feels better. PS was that too much info? ;-)

John said...

In regards to “Otto Pizzeria and Gluten-Free,” we agree that it makes no sense that you became ill after eating "Bionaturae" gluten-free pasta at Otto, unless it was the high content of soy in this particular pasta that aggravated your stomach. Food allergy prevention has always been something that we take very seriously, and every Mario Batali employee from the cooks to the dishwashers and servers is trained to be understanding of cross-contamination dangers. We assure you that we know we cannot use gluten-filled water to sauce the gluten-free pasta and we prevent this by always using separate pans, water, and utensils not only for gluten-free pasta preparation, but for any potential allergy in the kitchen. We do regret that you associate Otto with the upset stomach you had after your dinner here, and are left confused by your mention that you lead a soy-free lifestyle to help your overall allergies. The gluten-free pasta made by "Bionaturae" does indeed contain high soy content as you know from posting it on your blog. Had we known you were soy free as well we would have suggested you dine without the pasta option. I apologize for the confusion and your tender tummy. Sincerely, CC, General Manager of Otto Enoteca Pizzeria.

Jonah said...

> i smell like a foccacia afterwards

LOL .... mmmmm, nothing like biting into a good foccacia :-)

ciao,
Jonah

Allergic Girl said...

Dear Otto GM,

Thank you for your considered comment. I appreciate your insights; however, I have a few points I’d like to clarify.

Regarding soy and me: I’m not allergic to soy, if I were I never would have tried the pasta as even a small amount of soy could have resulted in serious consequences. What I have is a soy intolerance-it upsets my tummy when eaten in large quantities. I eat two tablespoons of soy sauce about twice a month without any incident. Whilst I did read the label, soy was not the first ingredient, nor the second, nor the third but the fourth that I recall [and double checked online], which means it should have been a “low” amount of soy flour not “high” as you mention. However, as you mention, soy might have been the culprit and not any cross-contamination issues in regards to my tummy.

**However, the presence of soy flour does not explain why the second diner at the table, who does not have any soy issues, was also quite ill after her gluten-free pasta dinner at OTTO?**

As for training your staff, I’m very glad to hear they’re aware of the dangers of cross contamination. However, the night of this fateful dinner, [http://allergicgirl.blogspot.com/2007/05/otto-pizzeria.html#links] Mother’s day evening, two reservationists NOR our server knew what gluten-free pasta was nor that OTTO served it. I had to insist that it was a manager who told me about the GF pasta, at which point our waitress found some and brought out the bag for me to see.

Did these three staff members miss the gluten-free pasta memo or the training on the dangers of food allergies and cross-contamination and just happen to be on duty that night? All three?

Dear GM: Before this Mother’s Day dinner, I had had very positive experiences at OTTO and I was excited about the steps MB was taking to provide a gluten-free meal. I’d like to get back on the positive track.

I would welcome an opportunity to talk to you about this in person, to set the record straight for any future GF diner.

Feel free to email me, allergicgirl@gmail.com.