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    Jefferson Adams

    Gluten-Free Vegan Blogger Complains About Chic Seafood Restaurant

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      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.


    Caption: Image: CC BY-SA 4.0--Wikimedia Commons: Abxbay

    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.

    Writing on Instagram, Nicole Warne, who runs the noted Gary Pepper Girl fashion and lifestyle blog, complained that the famous restaurant, Grotta Palazzese in Puglia, would not change its $200 set menu to suit her dietary request. 

    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.

    Read more at Insider.com


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    I haven't made reservations overseas in advance, and I would guess that's an entirely different situation that would require a lot more communication, follow up, etc. Generally speaking, however, I try to make it easier for the restaurant to accommodate me, including giving a notice of my dietary restrictions when making the reservation, especially when it comes to fine dining.  A few times this information has not been conveyed to the kitchen beforehand, so now if I don't know the restaurant or I'm traveling to a new place I can't easily return to, I'm a little pushier about following up a few days before and asking them to give the chef a heads up (in case the kitchen can make an adapted sauce for a particular entree, for example). It's frustrating when a server says "Oh, next time give us a day's notice and we can adjust for you" and, well, you did.


    A tasting menu is much more involved than a single entree, and I would not order a multi course meal unless our server checks with the kitchen and confirms that they can alter the set menu.  That said, there are a few restaurants in my area that have willingly done this, much to my delight.  Still, I always try to find something on the menu that would act as a backup option, and I try to be flexible and open minded about the details, especially in a fine dining establishment. The kitchen has its own rhythm, and stopping to clean a space or grab new, clean gear can be a challenge and I try to be aware of this. There have been a few times when my altered meal was notably different but the chef seemed to take it as a challenge, and frankly, I felt like the alterations were improvements rather than compromises.  Of course, it doesn't always work out that well, but I definitely appreciate it when it does.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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