Del Posto is about to make a very passionate and particular group of diners very happy. Not only because the high-end restaurant just won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Service, but because nearly every pasta dish on the menu is now available gluten-free. That’s a huge deal in fine dining.
Food options for gluten-free eaters have been expanding with the rise of Celiac disease and gluten-intolerance diagnoses—and with more and more wellness advocates advocating ditching modern wheat for better health. But most gluten-free breads and pastas out there are served at tiny, niche restaurants and health food stores. A Michelin-starred Italian restaurant owned by Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich coming to the table seriously ups the ante.
“There’s this huge shift and a lot of momentum with diets going in that direction, so we’re just trying to respond to the market,” explains executive chef Mark Ladner. Ladner has been offering a few gluten-free pasta dishes for some time, but because of the increased demand from diners, he decided to go full-scale.
The introduction of a new flour developed by Lena Kwak in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry kitchen, Cup 4 Cup, was part of what made the menu expansion possible. “This flour came along, and we started experimenting with it, and it behaved really, really well—much better than we expected,” he says.
For example, it doesn’t cake or result in the gummy or pasty textures that are common. That’s not to say it doesn’t require extra work and creativity—figuring out how to “stretch” the orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) was one big challenge, now overcome.
During a taste test of the gluten-free Luna Piena, the texture was just slightly more dense and chewy than its wheaty counterpart. And while the flavor was just slightly different, it’s not a difference you would detect outside of a “test” environment (partially thanks to the mind-blowing white truffle butter it’s bathed in). It was easily the best gluten-free pasta I’ve ever had.
While Ladner and general manager Jeff Katz could hang a flag to attract the hordes of gluten-free foodies (both afflicted and trend-loving) roaming the city, that’s not Del Posto’s style. Instead, servers will continue to ask about dietary restrictions at the start of every meal, and they’ll reveal the gluten-free options as necessary.
And if you’re shy about your eschewing of gluten, you can whisper it to the waiter in confidence, since your dish will look virtually identical to the traditional. “Part of our goal is to create a seamless experience for the guest who may be gluten-free,” Ladner says. “No one else at the table even has to know.” —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information, visit www.delposto.com
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