Celiac.com 08/30/2019 - A gluten-free, vegan blogger with nearly a million Instagram followers is criticizing a popular restaurant in Puglia, Italy, for failing to alter its $200 tasting menu to accommodate her dietary restrictions.
Many gluten-free folks have been there: You arrange reservations at a fancy restaurant, and you mention that you are gluten-free. You think they have your back, and you show up and they serve you food with gluten in it.
A glance at the post, however, raises several questions, and might offer some tips for how to make sure that both the patron and the restaurant are on the same page when it comes to food restrictions.
Ms. Warne indicates that she made her dietary restrictions clear when she booked the reservation three months ahead of her visit. However, when she arrived, she claims she was told the restaurant couldn't tweak its tasting menu to fit her diet. However, Ms. Warne does not indicate that the restaurant communicated that they understood her request, or that they confirmed their ability to accommodate her. That's not to criticize Ms. Warne, but to offer some food for gluten-free thought.
She doesn't seem to be accusing the restaurant of a bait and switch. That is, she doesn't seem to say: Hey, the restaurant said they would accommodate our dietary request and would serve us dish X instead of dish Y, but when we got there, they refused.
She seems, rather, to be saying that she informed the restaurant she was gluten-free and vegan when she made the reservation three months before her visit, that she was then served the standard set menu that was neither vegan nor gluten-free, and that the restaurant would not cop to the mistake.
Having faced the challenges of ordering gluten-free in a number of countries, including Italy, we sympathize with Ms. Warne's efforts, and with her disappointment. If you have celiac disease and you've ever tried to navigate restaurants for gluten-free food, you know there is plenty of room for errors, mistakes, and misunderstandings; and that's when both parties speak the same language.
Most restaurants are happy to help their customers navigate food restrictions. Most restaurants want their customers to have a good experience, so it's hard to imagine they deliberately disregarded her preferences. It's not hard to imagine that they refused to cop to their mistake out of stubbornness, embarrassment, greed or some combination of the three.
One good rule of thumb when dealing with any restaurant, especially restaurants in foreign countries, is to double and even triple check the arrangements, because much can be lost in translation, or in the chain of communication.
Do your due diligence. If you really want to eat in a particular restaurant and you want them to accommodate your dietary restrictions, it is best to look at the menu in advance. Have an idea in mind of the kind of food you might want or the changes you're seeking. Be ready to email or call, or even find someone who speaks the language to run offense for you, if you don't speak the language. And follow-up, preferably a day or two ahead of your visit, just to confirm.
Look, it sucks to pay two-hundred Euro for a meal you really can't eat. The only solution we know is communication and negotiation. Even then, people looking to eat gluten-free or vegan can face challenges like those faced by Ms. Warne. Best of luck to everyone in their gluten-free dining efforts. Meantime, do you have a comment or a story about a gluten-free restaurant fail? Share it below.
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