To recap: in April, I stopped by Otto to say hey to a manager friend. When he asked why I hadn’t been in to dine in ages I said because I’m gluten-free.
He said, “We have gluten-free pasta now. You can have it with any of the sauces we make.”
“Great,” I said and planned a date to try it out.
Mother’s Day, I returned with four mothers/daughters for dinner, one of whom is also gluten-free. The dinning experience was a comedy of errors, [look in the comments section] which ended with both this Allergic Girl and my GF friend having tummy distress that evening.
After finishing Heat, I wrote a post theorizing that perhaps they used gluten-filled water in the gluten-free pasta sauce; why else would this Allergic Girl and her GF friend become ill?
Eater picked up the post which is how I suspect the GM of Otto found the post and sent in this response:
“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.”
Below is my response:
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 help to 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, Mother’s day evening, two reservationists NOR our waitress knew what gluten-free pasta was or 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, firstname.lastname@example.org.