My dear safe friend (also a wonderful artist, see her work for sale here) Kate called me a few Fridays ago saying: “Emporio, the restaurant down the street from me is now offering gluten-free pasta and pizza. Do want to try it?”
Now, you know how I feel about GF menus: they’re great for the GF community but they don’t necessarily, or usually, translate into food allergy friendliness. However, a hot Lower East Side eatery doing GF intrigued me enough to check it out and I’m glad that I did.
In the last few years, New York City’s Lower East Side has completely transformed itself. When I was a grade schooler, it was still part of the former Jewish ghetto. My mom and I would shop for wholesale bedding (read: toilet seats) as well as blue corduroys for my school uniform; completely unhip. To my complete and utter typical New Yorker surprise, in the last ten years, Orchard Street, and the streets around it, have become the hottest of the hot for bars and restaurants. But still, not great for dining food allergy friendly; “hot” doesn’t usually translate to food allergy friendly. (But even that depends. See Pastis) But here we are now, 2011 and Emporio is doing GF.
I looked at the Emporio menu online and they looked like they had several menu items that should/could be allergy friendly. I didn’t have a chance to call ahead (busy day) but when I arrived, I spoke with Emporio's GM Marcus who walked me through the entire menu, ingredient by ingredient.
The pizza they make in house using Italian milled bean flours, so they chef told me. However, the GM Marcus made it very clear that they bake them in the same oven with wheat-based pizzas. He said: “This gluten-free pizza will not be appropriate for anyone with a gluten or wheat allergy, only if you have an intolerance.” I was impressed with this level of knowledge about the difference between an allergy and intolerance and his complete transparency about cooking methods and ingredients. Well done, Emporio's staff!
When I asked about what GF pasta they were using, he brought over the bag to show me an Italian rice only brand I hadn’t heard of nor seen in the stores here, it looked yummy. And again, I was impressed that he took the guesswork out of our conversation by disclosing the brand.
Last minute, I changed my order to the steak, instead of GF pasta, which brought me into direct contact with the chef, Jared. He was expediting orders in the open kitchen and so he showed me the grill (where they grill octopus, i.e. not for me) and the clean pan they would use for me and my dish. Additionally, he walked me through all the steps they would take to ensure my meal was as safe as possible. I thanked Jared for his assistance with my food allergy needs. He said: “It’s not an issue. It’s easy to do and we’re happy to do it.”
Exactly what you want to hear. My dinner was super delicious and I’m ready to go back and with Chef Jared and GM Marcus at the helm, I bet it will be great.
231 Mott Street
New York, NY 10012