This past weekend, I enjoyed my first gluten-free experience at Paisano’s Italian Garden Cafe in the Greater Toronto Area (116 Willowdale Avenue, North York).
When my Dad said that he wanted to celebrate his 65th birthday at his favourite restaurant, admittedly, I panicked about what I might eat! Being both gluten- and cow dairy-intolerant, I’m sure you can imagine that dining out can be difficult (though I knew my family would make sure there were some GF options before committing). Of course, my “gluten-free guardian,” my Mom, called ahead to make sure they could accommodate me, as well as my sister-in law, who is also gluten-intolerant… and to my pleasant surprise, they were well-versed in gluten-free food preparation having “served many gluten-free meals” (though one could never tell from their website, as they do not promote this at all).
Once we took ‘shelter from the storm’ inside this casual and intimate ‘little taste of Italy’, I mulled over the menu, not knowing what I could or could-not eat (with no mention of ‘gluten-free’ on the menu). When I asked the waiter about their GF options, he confidently explained the pasta and meat dishes they could accommodate, later double-checking the pasta sauce options with the chef, at my request (better safe than sorry!). Once he told me they had gluten-free penne in stock, my sister-in-law and I opted for the ‘Linguine Al Pesto’ with pine nuts, substituting the pasta and eliminating the parmesan cheese, of course. The well-presented dish was light and aromatic, and I ‘took it down,’ while my sis-in-law savoured the complementary tastes.
While the restaurant did not have any gluten-free dessert options, they got extra points for allowing us to bring something in as part of our celebration. Fortunately, we have two ‘bakeristas’ in my family, so while my family enjoyed an egg-free vanilla cake with chocolate and vanilla cream, prepared by my younger sister (who is a Pastry Chef), my sister-in-law and I enjoyed her delicious ‘Spook-tacular Cupcakes’ (reminiscent of jelly rolls… @PastelBakery) and some simple ‘Cookie-wiches’ I made using Cherrybrook’s GF Chocolate Cookie Mix and Betty Crocker’s vanilla frosting. Not bad at all!
Overall, my dining experience was a positive one. I felt safe and comfortable at all times (which, as GF people know, is half the battle when dining out). Needless to say, Paisano’s has been added to my GTA GF City Guide. I just hope they will soon start promoting their GF options so that the gluten-free community can add this to their ‘must-try’ list.
Have you visited Paisano’s and have an experience to share? Drop us a comment below…