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Gluten-free backlash?

The other night I went out with a group of people to a new restaurant called Salito’s in Sausalito, California. I hadn’t looked at the menu ahead of time, but rarely do I have a problem eating out gluten-free these days (unless it is a Chinese restaurant). Restaurant awareness has grown tremendously since I was diagnosed with celiac disease 10 years ago, and especially in the last few years. If you haven’t heard of gluten-free by now, you are living under a rock. But after this dining experience, I wondered for the first time if there could actually be a backlash happening in some places.

First of all, they brought big bowls of house-made bread. No big deal, I’m used to that. I drank my wine while everyone stuffed their faces with bread and butter. Then appetizers were ordered and plates of tuna carpaccio arrived smothered in ponzu sauce (which contains soy sauce, which contains wheat). Okay, my fault, I was chatting while someone else ordered. Still not a big deal – I would order my meal and be fine. I motioned the waiter over and said, “Hi, I need to eat gluten-free” and when I saw his expression I added “and I’m not just being trendy, I really need to be gluten-free.” He responded, “Oh, so your not gluten-free?” as he made air quotes with his fingers. “No, I am not gluten-free” I said, making the same air quotes, “I am gluten-free.”

From there, we went back and forth about the dishes on the menu and he went back to the kitchen and checked on something. When he came back, he said “So… that [the thing he checked on] is totally…NOT okay for you.” Thanks buddy. “Okay,” I said, “Then just tell me about the fish… I see a lot of kinds here with several different preparations. Does that work for me?” And then, the quote of the night:

“Those dishes come with pasta, and they are the only thing on the menu that we will substitute… for four dollars extra.”

FOUR DOLLARS? To get potatoes or vegetables instead of pasta? Are you F-ING kidding me? How much will you take OFF my bill if I order NO pasta? Or if I order something that includes your fancy house-made kettle bread and local organic butter, but ask you not to bring it, because that would just be wasting it? Forgive me, but doesn’t it sound like I am being punished for not being able to eat the pasta? I have to pay MORE because I can eat less?

I wish I had said all that at the time, instead of just now, while writing this blog post! But then again, I just wanted to enjoy the company and the night.

In the end, I ordered a plate of prosciutto (hold the bread), a side order of potatoes and a side order of brussel sprouts. It was all really delicious, and I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant, but unfortunately I had a bad taste in my mouth when I left.

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