I was recently very excited to read on a Celiac Bay Area gluten free message board about an Italian Restaurant in the Napa area that offered a gluten free menu and whose owner’s wife and daughter had Celiac, indicating that they actually understood the problems of cross contamination and gluten free dining. For Memorial Day weekend, DH and I decided to stay overnight in the Sebastapol area , taking the opportunity to have a great gluten free Italian meal and enjoy our favorite hard apple cider at Ace in the Hole Cider Pub. All went according to plan and by Saturday evening we found ourselves at the bright and shiny resort area style shopping and eating district in Windsor. We walked around the shops, making one stop at a cooking supply store, before finally going in to Mangiamo’s for a much awaited meal. The restaurant itself is a nice, slightly upscale place to have dinner, perhaps with some candlelight and offers a view of the street outside as well as pleasant outdoor seating, if you are so inclined. When we requested gluten free menus, we were delighted when they brought us gluten free crostini in a sweet basket, just like everyone else except gluten free. The crostini itself struck me as being made from something like an Ener-g foods gluten free bread, but seasoned tastily with italian seasonings and perhaps some garlic powder. It was very crunchy and light, and DH and I munched on it while mulling over the extensive Gluten Free menu.
Because we were celebrating our wedding anniversary, we decided to go all out and order appetizers and dessert as well. So, we went with the “HOT ARTICHOKE DIP with GF crackers”, “FORMAGGIO FRESCO pizza with Mozzarella Fresca, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Marinara,” Tinkyada Penne Pasta with Pesto Cream sauce, and for dessert, the “FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE FANTASY Semi-Sweet Belgian Chocolate, Chocolate Ganache and whipped cream.” As you can see, we selected very rich dishes. I was rather surprised that there wasn’t a single seafood item on the menu, and wondered if perhaps someone had a seafood allergy. I don’t eat beef or chicken, so my main course options were limited to pasta and pizza- not that I’m complaining! The artichoke dip arrived with more of the same GF crostini, and a variety of gluten free crackers- I think I saw Edward and Sons crackers, mixed with a very few flax crackers. The variety was nice and I loved having something “bready” to go with the dip. It occurred to me while eating this that one thing distinguishing restaurant food and home cooked food is that restaurants use richer ingredients than I allow myself in my own kitchen. I could make this kind of dip- but I probably wouldn’t, because it is so decadent and calorific. But, we definitely enjoyed it at the restaurant. First they brought out the wonderful, huge pizza. Amazingly, it was the SMALL size! The crust is homemade and seems to be based on a white rice, potato starch etc. crust without the higher protein flours, but it was a nice thin crust with a faintly sweet flavor. It also had nice crunch. Our pizza was topped just with cheese, and then sprinkled with marinara on top. It was simple, but yummy. Next, they brought out the pasta. I can safely say I have never had italian pasta at a restaurant, so this was a thrilling first for me. Being Tinkyada, it was excellent, as always, and the pesto cream sauce was creamy and yummy. The peas as the vegetable side dish were somewhat disappointing. I don’t care for peas to begin with, and these peas had bacon bits in them. I donated them to DH, who seemed to enjoy them, but the peas were a bit of a letdown. I would have liked something with a bit more vegetable personality requiring a bit more care for preparation, like perfectly steamed or blanched broccoli in a light sauce. The carrots paired with the pasta were a delightful, buttery surprise- they were slightly crunchy, but somehow buttery, and were tied together in an adorable bundle. Who knew cooked carrots could be so good? By the way, the portions were simply huge, and they very graciously separated our pasta order into two serving dishes that made complete meals. We didn’t realize it would be quite that bountiful or might have just ordered one thing for both of us. Luckily, we didn’t know so got lots of yummy leftovers to take home- or to our hotel room, as the case was. (And having leftover cold pizza and Ace Hard cider in the hotel room later was way fun- highly recommended!) Finally it was time for dessert. Even though we’d left a good half portion of our pasta to take with us and half of the pizza, we were pretty full when it came time for dessert. Nevertheless we still ordered the brownie- for empirical research, you understand. One thing I realized just now is that there was no whipped cream on the brownie even though the menu description mentions it. We both tried it and thought it was nice, but neither of us are that wild about flourless chocolate cake. Of all the gluten free desserts I’ve tried in restaurants, I think Outback’s chocolate thunder from down under is still my favorite. The one thing I think that Mangiamo really has great control over is their cross contamination issues. Even though they also prepare gluten foods, they seem really well informed about CC as it is a family issue, and I felt great after eating there. The experience was absolutely wonderful and it’s such a thrill to actually eat Italian food at a lovely restaurant without fear of gluten monster goblins. If you’re in the Napa/Sonoma area, definitely give it a try. View map