Experience Tesca’s Wine Grotto & Gluten Free Menu Options

Recently BEELINE held a contest and I won the grand prize—an exclusive dinner at Tresca’s romantic Wine Grotto. WOW is right!Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 5.56.24 PM

This was much different than your typical night out. It was an experience like no other. Jeremy and I were treated to a 4-course meal seated at one of the most exclusive and romantic tables in Boston. Tresca, located in the North End, has one private table in its Wine Grotto, secluded from the rest of the restaurant and other diners. We felt like we were dining in our own private restaurant.IMG_6035

The Sommelier was incredibly helpful in helping us pick the perfect wine to pair with our meal. He was incredibly knowledgeable about Italian wines and after discussing our likes and dislikes (honestly, I don’t really dislike anything about wine, except Chardonnay), he chose the perfect bottle for us.IMG_6036

Our server was very professional and friendly. He and the chef put together a wonderful tasting menu for us. They were spot on with our likes; seafood for me, meat for Jeremy. With so many delicious sounding menu choices, we were glad to be getting the tasting menu. This meant we didn’t need to choose between the Osso Bucco Veal Shank or Surf & Turf with aged black angus tenderloin and Maine lobster tail scampi. Quite frankly I don’t know how I would have picked just one.

Tresca labels their gluten free (GF) and dairy free (DF) options right on the menu. They are also willing to make substitutions and accommodations as necessary.

Capesante Veneziane ~ Pan seared Diver Scallops served over a warm salad of roasted corn, fresh peas and apple wood smoked bacon.IMG_6047 IMG_6049Steak – 10 oz marinated hanger steak, with a rosemary demi glaze with arugula salad.IMG_6044

Bucatini Bolognese ~ Traditional northern style veal & pork ragout enriched with pancetta & tomatoes, served with gluten free penne. IMG_6051
Costata di Vitello ~ Veal Chop Naturally raised milk-fed veal chop, served with glazed baby carrots, garlic mashed potato and salsa cruda.IMG_6052
Pesce Della Sera (Fish of the day) ~ The chef’s hand selected fish special, oven roasted salmon with herb roasted potatoes, and pear salad with baby arugula Barlett pear, pine nuts tossed with lemon thyme vinaigrette.IMG_6056
Unfortunately, for dessert, there wasn’t anything available that gluten free. The chef brought out a cannolis sampler for Jeremy and of course I had to try a bite of the fillings! Each one was decadent, rich, and very sinful. Usually, Tresca offers gelato and a gluten free chocolate cake, which I would have loved to try!

Every dish was delicious and full of flavor. The main course portions were very generous, and the wine list was intense, filled with an array of classic and more unique Italian wines.

We loved being able to take our time, not be rushed, and enjoy our night together.  We were treated like VIP throughout the night and impressed with the quality of the food and the excellent service. IMG_6038

This was such a wonderful experience and we would like to thank Tresca and BEELINE for such a magnificent and unforgettable evening!

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Product Review: Nantucket Pasta Goddess Gluten Free

Pasta is a staple food of most Americans’ diets and one of the hardest losses felt by celiacs and people with gluten intolerances. You know the feeling.Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 6.52.51 PM

Since starting my gluten free diet in 2009, there has been a huge increase in the amount— and variety— of gluten free pastas now available. Although we can now find every type of pasta from brown rice, corn, quinoa and legumes, in every shape and style— penne, rotini, angel hair spaghetti, fettuccini, elbows, farfalle, rigatoni, etc.—it is still extremely rare to find homemade pasta and ravioli that is both fresh and flavorful.

Now, that is where I want to introduce you to the Nantucket Pasta Goddess.

Seeing the need for a better gluten free pasta that didn’t skimp on taste or texture, Liliana began experimenting and working on recipes. After many attempts, she finally found a recipe that works really well, and the taste is pretty amazing.IMG_6332

Liliana introduced her pasta to the world in 2010, and it is now available in over 250 retail and restaurant locations in New England – , and can be found as far west as California and as far south as Florida. For a complete list of retail and restaurant locations, click here.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Liliana to talk about her company and what makes her products so different from the rest of the gluten free pastas we see at the supermarket. Liliana’s pastas are fresh, not dried. Fresh pasta is often locally made and uses, well, fresh ingredients, while dried pasta comes in a box, is shipped over long distances, and has been sitting on shelves for an unknown period of time. Fresh pasta contains egg, and therefore texture of fresh pasta is more delicate than dried pasta.

Liliana’s line of Nantucket Pasta Goddess gluten free pastas includes: four different types of ravioli, lasagna noodles, gnocchi, goddess waves, and tagliatelle.

All of their products are made in a gluten free facility. Naturally free of wheat, gluten, corn, soy and nuts, all pastas are also non-GMO.

When Liliana asked if I would like to try some of her pastas I said yes and quickly ran home and made ravioli for dinner!Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 6.49.18 PM

Nantucket Pasta Goddess’ signature cut pasta is called Goddess Waves. The long wavy tubular shaped pasta is an “S” shape that holds on to sauces so you get an explosion of flavor with each bite. The pasta is thicker than what I was expecting, and has an incredible fresh and dough-like flavor, unlike any other pasta experience I’ve ever had. IMG_6362

Butternut Squash Ravioli was my favorite. It had great flavor; butternut squash, sage, and freshly ground spices. Some of the raviolis were broken in the bag, and lost their fillings while cooking, therefore the inside was a little watery, but it did not take away from the taste.

The Lemon Ricotta Ravioli is filled with real Ricotta and a little lemon twist. The overwhelming lemon flavor was unexpected. It was a little too much for us. The ravioli, like the butternut squash, also fell apart a bit while it was cooking.IMG_6335

Made from a unique blend of fresh locak ricotta, asiago, mozzarella, parmiggiano, provolone, and fontina cheese, sprinkled with nutmeg, salt, and pepper, the Sei Formag Ravioli is also bursting with flavor. Jeremy loved this cheese ravioli and said, “This shouldn’t only be for people who are gluten free. I would eat this all the time!” The ravioli held together well while cooking and it was delicious paired with a hearty tomato sauce.Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 6.49.24 PM

The Mushroom and Goat Cheese Ravioli is made with oven-roasted mushrooms, shallots, garlic and red wine with, fresh thyme. This ravioli was just bursting with mouth-watering flavors and just the right amount of cheese. This ravioli also held together while cooking; it must have something to do with the cheese…IMG_6422

The Rosemary Lemon Gnocchi had great flavor, the lemon was not nearly as overpowering as the ravioli, and we really enjoyed it. We didn’t have good luck cooking the gnocchi though; it was a bit mushy, but incredibly flavorful and tasty nonetheless.IMG_6608

The lasagna sheets were great for making lasagna and cannelloni. I loved the freshness my lasagna had; not something I’ve experienced in a long time.

FINALLY gluten free ravioli and homemade pasta that I can enjoy at home!! Liliana has found a way to create and package the freshest pastas that are easy to prepare, with all the benefits of a gluten free pasta without sacrificing the flavor and texture of a great pasta.

I highly recommend trying it, it really does speak for itself and you will not be disappointed.

Nantucket Pasta Goddess products can now be found at the Whole Foods in Jamaica Plain, as well as over 250 locations throughout New England, and can also be purchased online. Prices range from $6.75-$10.25.

Disclaimer: I received this product free to sample and review for my blog. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Nebo Restaurant Review – Gluten Free Pizza, Pasta & More

On June 20, 2013, Nebo opened in its new location on Atlantic Avenue, just next door to Trade. The restaurant, owned by sisters Carla and Christine Pallotta, was originally located in the North End before moving to its new location. Their mother and grandmother’s classic Italian recipes inspired them to first open the restaurant in 2005.Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 2.34.42 PM

Last week I was invited to check out Nebo’s gluten free menu with Amelia from Altus Marketing & Management. We had such a great night. I really liked the open layout and the industrial décor. It was a bit noisy, and there were times we had to strain to here each other. Nebo also offers outside seating along Atlantic Ave.

While I was there I met both sisters, who informed me that Nebo has a dedicated gluten-free section of their kitchen, and have made sure that their staff is well-trained.

Nebo offers an extensive gluten free menu, complete with appetizers, pasta dishes, entrees, and pizzas. Although I do commend them for having so many gluten free options (including fried calamari), I am still put-off by the $3 surcharge for gluten-free pasta and $4 surcharge for the pizza.IMG_5222

We shared the gluten-free lardo pizza as an appetizer. Made with lardo (a type of Italian charcuterie—think gourmet salami), wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, sage, and mozzarella, it was absolutely delicious! The crust had a great texture and taste. The crust was crunchy and not gooey in the middle, which happens a lot with gluten free pizza. Their trick is that they cook the dough first, without anything on it, then add the toppings and finish it in the oven. I will have to remember this when I make pizza at home! If you are willing to spend the money ($19-22) then I highly recommend ordering one of their 8 gluten free pizzas.IMG_5226

For my entrée, I ordered the pasta Bolognese, made with slow braised meat ragu, tomato sauce and pecorino cheese. I really liked the type of pasta they use (I don’t know what brand it is); it had a great taste and great texture, and was cooked perfectly. The Bolognese was pretty good as well, but I wasn’t blow away by any means, and I still couldn’t get over the fact that this dish was $26 if ordered gluten free.IMG_5227

For dessert I tried the flourless chocolate torte. It was incredibly rich and dense. I could only eat half and saved the rest for the next night at home. I would order this again, without a doubt!IMG_5230

Overall I did enjoy my experience at Nebo. I loved the all-around friendly-vibe of the restaurant and its staff, and the bar area seems like a great place to grab drinks with friends or coworkers after work. The one thing I do not like is when restaurants charge so much extra for gluten free options. A $1 or $2 up-charge is understandable, but anything more than that is hard to justify in my mind; it feels like they are taking advantage, rather than off-setting the cost of the ingredients. There are plenty of suitable gluten-free pizza and pastas available on the market, so it is not difficult to find one that is not so costly. So would I go back? Yes, I would go back for a drink and appetizer or to share a pizza, but it would have to be a special occasion for me to spend $20 on a pizza.


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Product Review: Barilla Introduces a line of Gluten Free Pasta

Starting this fall, Barilla is introducing a line of gluten free pasta to help anyone living a gluten free lifestyle enjoy pasta once again. Barilla’s gluten-free line launched in select U.S. grocery stores in September, with national availability starting in early 2014.Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 7.05.30 PM

For over 100 years, Barilla has prided itself on making authentic, high-quality pastas, and continues to be committed to making pasta accessible for everyone to enjoy. The new certified gluten free pasta lives up to the quality standards that pasta lovers have come to expect from Barilla. Barilla’s gluten free pasta is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility in Italy and is made from a combination of non-GMO corn and rice. The four varieties—spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, and elbow macaroni—have the same color, texture, and taste as other Barilla pastas.  barilla3

Jeremy said, “This is the best gluten free pasta I’ve tried. It’s the closest to the real thing. I would eat this all the time. “  It did have a great texture and flavor, and was not grainy or mushy. We loved it and finished all 3 boxes in one week!

Gluten Free American Chop Suey
Gluten Free Barilla Elbows – American Chop Suey

The gluten free line offers convenient, versatile, and tasty solutions for anyone living a gluten-free lifestyle. With a suggested retail price of $2.39 for a 12 oz. box, Barilla will be one of the more affordable gluten free pastas on the market.

Based on a 2 oz. serving, calories and total fat are the same for both the gluten free and traditional products. Unfortunately there is less protein and iron in the gluten free version*. To make up for the shortfall, we added protein-rich chicken and iron-rich vegetables to our dish.

gluten free rotini nutritional info *Regular Barilla rotini pasta has 7 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 10% DV of iron.

Barilla does not add gluten to the raw materials used to make their sauces. At the present time, however, they cannot guarantee that their sauces are absolutely gluten free.

Disclaimer: I received these products for free to sample and review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.



Gluten Free Italian at Ristorante Olivio in Arlington

Open in Arlington for eleven years now, Ristorante Olivio is a hidden gem offering authentic Italian cuisine. Chef Angelo came to America from Italy, bringing with him home-style cooking and traditional recipes from his native country. (click here to save 50% off)

Sitting at a dark wooden table in a simple dining room with white walls and Italian décor, I felt like I was back in Europe again. One of the walla displays vases filled with wine corks, another displays traditional serving dishes and pieces from Italy.IMG_4408

The open kitchen can be seen from the main dining room and invites guests to get a sneak peak at their dishes being prepared.

You wouldn’t know from their website, but Olivio’s offers a gluten free menu complete with two types of gluten free pasta: capellini and linguine.IMG_4407

Not only does Olivio’s offer a gluten free menu but they also have gluten free bread. This was one of the best, if not the best, breads I have tried.  Our waitress told me the brand is called Heartland, and it was purchased at Whole Foods. I am still trying to figure this out, because I cannot find that company online. If you see it at Whole Foods, but it— it’s that good.IMG_4409

We started with two appetizers: prosciutto and melon with olives and fresh cracked pepper, and the asparagus salad with mozzarella and sundried tomato vinaigrette. The menu description also included string beans, which were missing from our salad. I really liked the puréed sundried tomato dressing; it was thick and flavorful.IMG_4416

The prosciutto and melon was also tasty but there was too much melon. I must say the portion sizes were generous.IMG_4413

For my entrée I ordered the shrimp and calamari fra diavolo with capellini pasta. The sauce was slightly spicy, but not too spicy, and I really enjoyed that. There were four big shrimp, plenty of calamari rings, and yet only one full squid with tentacles. The tentacles are my favorite part so I wish there were more, however the four shrimp and rings were plenty filling. The basil sprinkled on top was incredibly fresh— it tasted like it was just picked out of the garden— and added a nice herbaceous flavor to the dish.IMG_4417

Katie ordered the balsamic glazed roasted salmon with spinach risotto. The salmon was cooked perfectly, slightly pink and soft on the inside, just the way we like it. The risotto was rich and creamy; too much cheese for my liking, but Katie really enjoyed it. Both entrées were big and we couldn’t finish either dish.IMG_4419

For dessert we ordered the Chocolate panna cotta. Neither of us really knew what panna cotta was. We learned that it is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing it with gelatin (in this case chocolate), and letting it cool until it sets. It was then topped with fresh whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate. We absolutely loved the creamy, silky texture and chocolate flavor. It was the prefect way to end out meal.IMG_4423 IMG_4424

The service was incredibly friendly and we really enjoyed our evening at Ristorante Olivio. If you are looking for authentic an authentic Italian restaurant, with great food, and a warm and welcoming environment, without the high prices and congestion of North End restaurants, then I would recommend Ristorante Olivio’s in a heartbeat.

Save 50% off with the livingsocial deal. (Purchase until February 21, 2014. Valid until June 2014)

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Updated 2/4/14


Gluten Free Restaurant Week – Lucca Back Bay

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 2.07.27 PMLucca is an Italian restaurant in the North End that opened a second location in the Back Bay in 2010 (where I ate). Pasta dishes range from $23-$36 and main courses or “secondi” range from $28-$38. However, a bar menu is offered, which is slightly different from the main dinning room, but is less expensive, with prices ranging from $11-$20.

My girlfriends and I decided to eat here during Restaurant Week. While we waited for our table to be ready we had a drink at the bar. The martini’s were strong, and the margaritas were sour. We were at an Italian restaurant, we should have known better then to order margaritas.  The wine list offers a nice selection of not only Italian wines, but wines from South America and the West Coast. Glasses are priced $7-$14.

Unlike many restaurants, Lucca offered the entire menu during restaurant week. But here’s the catch – many items had an additional charge of $2- $12. We all decided to stick to the options included in the $38.13 restaurant week price. Luckily, there were 4 – 5 appetizer and entrée choices without an up-charge.

Lucca does not have gluten free bread, and I wish I had known to bring my own. All my friends raved about the white bean and garlic dip that was served with the it. Don’t make the same mistake I did, BYOB – Bring Your Own Bread.

For my meal, I started with the Calamari con caponata. The Point Judith calamari were sautéed with eggplant, peppers, olives, tomato, red onion, oregano and balsamic vinegar. This was one of the best calamari dishes I think I’ve had anywhere. The calamari was plentiful and cooked perfectly. The sauce had a slight spiciness to it. This dish was fantastic, I highly recommend ordering it. Not only that, but sauteing is much healthier than frying, and it is gluten free!

For my entrée I had gluten free penne pasta tossed with a Bolognese sauce of ground beef, veal and pork with mascarpone and Parmesan. I forgot, don’t ask me how, to ask for it without the cheese. This new dairy free diet is hard to remember! Luckily, there was not a lot of cheese in the dish. I enjoyed my meal, but I expected more. For $38, a bigger portion and more flavorful would have been nice. I might be being too critical, but when I am spending that much on a meal I expect to be blown me away. It was a solid dish and I am not complaining, I just think I had higher expectations, especially after my appetizer. Many, but not all, of the pasta dishes can be substituted with gluten free pasta.

My friend Kristen ordered the Pollo saltimbocca; a Roasted Statler chicken with prosciutto di Parma and sage, Marsala sauce, caramelized onion, spinach and potato hash. The chicken was moist and nicely seasoned. There wasn’t that much sauce, which I like personally, and Kristen didn’t seem to care about.  The portion size, and that of my friend Katie’s salmon, were on the smaller side. 

For dessert there were only two options – Panna cotta and Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was to die for. The espresso pastry cream and whipped mascarpone had a light airy texture, which didn’t make it feel as rich as it was. I couldn’t put my spoon down, it was that mouth watering good. I did not try the ladyfingers but I could not stop eating the creamy goodness! I ordered the vanilla flavored panna cotta, which is served with an orange marmalade and mint. I liked the vanilla flavor, but it was incredibly rich I could only eat a few bites. If you are a fan of creamy desserts try this one. If you prefer chocolate, like me, get the tiramisu.

We had a great server. She was sweet, patient, and incredibly knowledgeable about the menu. She was able to answer all our questions, and explain the dishes to us. The entire wait staff was professional and outstanding. After paying the bill we stayed and chatted, got another round of drinks, all the while not realizing the time until someone looked around and noticed we were the only ones there! Even though we were the last table to leave at 11:30pm, we did not feel rushed or pressured at all.

$38.13 is not so bad for a 3 course meal here, but for a 20-something year old it’s not something I do all the time, and I just wish the portion sizes had been bigger. But, we did enjoy our meals. we left nothing on the table except empty plates and napkins.

The menu is pricey, but the bar menu offers smaller portions at reasonable prices with the same great flavors. A dollar snack menu is available in the lounge from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. And Wednesday night is dollar oyster night, but the Oysters sell out often so come early. Eating at the bar sounds like the prefect way to sample a delicious, high quality menu without having to pay the high prices.

Location: 116 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA.

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Salvatore’s Gluten Free Review

Screen shot 2013-08-02 at 9.22.25 AMLooking for great Italian food but don’t want to go to the North End?

Salvatore’s is a great choice for high quality, authentic cuisine at reasonable prices. Salvatore’s opened about 5 years ago by Sal Lupoli, famously known for his approximately 30 pizza restaurants around New England called Lupoli Companies.

Salvatore’s offers a gluten free menu with many options to choose from. I was very impressed with this menu, which offers seven appetizers, two salads, seven pasta dishes, and nine entrees. This is bigger than most gluten free menus in Boston.

The appetizer menu includes both fried calamari and breaded chicken tenders, a rarity in the gluten free restaurant scene. It’s not that often I find these dishes on gluten free menus, and if I hadn’t had calamari the night before it would have been difficult to choose between the chicken tenders and the calamari. We opted for the house made chicken tenders finished with buffalo sauce. The chicken tenders are made with a rice based batter and gluten free Italian breadcrumbs. The buffalo sauce was not too spicy— thank goodness. This was my favorite part of the meal. I loved them so much I asked Jeremy to learn how to make them for me at home! I would come back again just to order these along with a glass of wine at the bar, or one of the outside tables.IMG_4057

We also shared the Scallops Limoncello appetizer—3 pan seared Day Boat scallops with a Limoncello cream sauce that we asked for on the side. It was fabulous. The scallops were delicious, and perfectly cooked.IMG_4056

For my entrée I ordered the Veal Piccata —veal medallions sautéed with capers, lemon and white wine, served with green beans and potatoes. This dish was beautifully presented and very good, with two large pieces of tender veal, but way too many capers. The saltiness from the capers was a bit overpowering for me, but once I scrapped those off I enjoyed my meal.IMG_4058

Jeremy ordered the Scallop and Shrimp Fra Diavolo with garlic, spicy pomodorini (cherry tomatoes) and white wine over gluten free penne. The spicy tomato sauce was great; not too spicy, but with a kick every bite or two. We were impressed with the number of scallops and shrimp in the dish. The pasta was cooked perfectly. Although it was pretty mushy by the time we got to the bottom of the dish, that is how you know you are eating gluten free pasta—it will eventually get mushy the longer in sits in sauce.IMG_4060

The food was very flavorful, the chef knows what he is doing, and the portion sizes were generous.

For dessert we had the choice of Gealati or sorbet, but we decided to pass because we were just too full.

The wine list is mostly Italian and Californian, with some French bottles.

Our only compliant was how tight the dining room was. The room itself was small and the tables were very close together; we could hear the conversations at both tables next to us and I did not feel like we had any privacy.  Our server was just ok, nothing great, and forgot to tell us the daily risotto special.

Salvatore’s does have outside dinning for nice evenings, and I wish it had been just a little warmer because, I would have loved to have sat outside.

Salvatore’s has 5 locations in and around Boston, including one in Andover, Lawrence, Medford Square and the Theater District.

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Gluten Free Vegetable Lasagna

This delicious Gluten Free Vegetable Lasagna can also be made dairy free by omitting the cheese.IMG_2758

Recipe by Katelyn Dennis


1 Box GF Lasagna Noodles (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Lasagna)
8 small mushrooms
1 box frozen chopped spinach
1 egg
1 16 oz container of fat free ricotta cheese
Half of one white onion
1 garlic clove
1 zucchini
1 jar gluten free pasta sauce
Shredded Italian cheeses (mozzarella, Parmesan)image-1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles so they are just under al dente (about half way cooked). When done, drain the noodles and set aside.

Chop up the onions, mushrooms, and zucchini.  Sautee onion and garlic for 3 minutes then add in mushrooms and zucchini and cook for about 5 more minutes so the vegetables are about half way cooked.image-2

Mix together egg, ricotta cheese, spinach, salt & pepper in a small bowl. *if not using cheese, add spinach to other vegetablesimage-3

Layer in a baking dish the tomato sauce, noodles, spinach & ricotta filling, tomato sauce, ½ of the vegetables, noodles, spinach & ricotta filling, the rest of the vegetables, noodles, tomato sauce and top with shredded Italian cheeses.image-5image-4

Cook for 40-45 minutes.


Gluten Free Pizza & Pasta at Beneventos, North End Boston (Restaurant Review)

In the past year numerous restaurants in the North End have begun to offer gluten free menus. Diners with gluten sensitivities or celiac – and those who are dating us – should definitely make their way to the North End, a neighborhood many of us thought we would never be able to dine in again. Many restaurants are now offering gluten free pasta and pizza, and are becoming more aware of food allergies and how to cater to this group of diners.

Beneventos on Salem St is just one of the many Italian restaurants I’ve dined at in the past year that offers gluten free pizza and a variety of pasta. The first thing you notice as you walk into the narrow restaurant (there is a basement with additional seating) is the wood-fired oven, right next to the bar, open for everyone to see. It was quite fun to watch the pizzas being tosses and stretched.

There is a $2.50 upcharge for gluten free pizza and pasta. Charging extra for gluten free is something that really bothers me. If you are going to offer it, please don’t make us pay extra. $1 or $2 I understand, as gluten free dough and pasta is more expensive, but when we are charged over $3 (Nebo and Flatbread) I think that is outrageous. But, Beneventos, offers a variety of specialty gluten free pasta options, not just penne like most restaurants. So for this I will not hold the extra charge against them.

I’ve had my fair share of gluten free pizza, at restaurants, frozen, and made from mixes. Nebo, was incredibly doughy and soggy in the middle, Jimmy’s has the best crunchy thin crust, but with a little too much oil. Schars (frozen crust) was hard as a rock and tasteless. Beneventos was not soggy, was not oily and was not tasteless, nor did it taste like a cardboard box (you’ve all had that experience too, more often than desired.) Cooked and served in the same aluminum ‘box’, it never touches a pizza dish that gluten pizza has touched. I love the measures they take to prevent cross contamination. Nicely done. This gets an A in my book. The one downside is the size; the gluten free pizza is a bit smaller than the regular sized pizza.

Prices are very reasonable. The pasta tasted “normal” according to my sister who chose to also order gluten free penne with her meal. I liked it a lot. It had a good texture as well. The sure fire way to tell if the pasta is truly gluten free: gluten free pasta in the bottom of the plate, which is soaking in sauce, becomes much mushier than regular pasta. I always wondered why that was. Now I don’t care so much, I’m just happy to have this reassurance when dining out.

I had the Primavera with Chicken, in a white win garlic sauce. The sauce was light and flavorful and the dish was loaded with vegetables.

My sister had the shrimp and scallop pasta special, which was also delicious.

Our waitress was ok, to put it nicely. The rest of the staff were excellent. The buss boys were super friendly and our water glasses were never more than half empty. We were taken care of and tended to throughout the entire meal. Good thing the waitress had her trusty sidekicks to pick up her slack.

I would suggest making a reservation and come hungry.

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Gluten Free Pasta at Nico Ristorante North End Boston

We had a great dining experience at Nico last night. Our waiter was terrific. Not only was he professional, friendly, and welcoming (I felt like I was a dinner guest in his home), but he was also extremely knowledgeable about the menu. He was able to accommodate almost anything for us.

Nico is part of the Varano Group, which owns Strega and Strega Waterfront. Both have gluten free pasta everyday. Nico, you must call a few days in advance, let them know you are coming, and voilà, they will have gluten free pasta ready for you! There’s a great groupon deal available! Get it here. You can choose tow options $30 for $60 or $35 for $80. Go for the $80, you will want it, especially if you have 3 or more people.

We started with complimentary olives and the Capesante al pesto appetizer. In English – Pan Seared Deep Sea Scallops served over grilled baby eggplant and garnished with pine nuts and a pesto sauce. OMG. To die for!! The scallops were huge and I just loved everything about this dish; there was such great flavor not only from the pesto but pan searing. To make this gluten free the chef did not dust the scallops in flour. But really, who needs flour anyways?

The risotto is gluten free and I almost ordered it. I was torn between the risotto with shrimp and mushrooms or the sautéed shrimp and scallops with porcini mushrooms and peas in a black truffle cream sauce served over gluten free pasta. I don’t think I’ve ever had black truffle anything before, so I went with this dish. I loved the flavors and there was more seafood than I expected! Both the scallops and shrimp were ginormous and cooked to perfection. Again, the chef just left out the flour when sautéing the seafood to make this gluten free. The sauce was too heavy. I am not used to eating cream sauces, ever, and it was too rich but tasted so good. I was able to whip some of it off using a side plate, which made it much more enjoyable for me to eat.

My sister ordered the Fusilli with sautéed Jumbo Shrimp, Zucchini and Fresh Ricotta cheese in a pink sauce. She ordered gluten free penne instead of fusilli, and boy am I glad she did! Her dish was delicious! The flavors just exploded in my mouth. The shrimp – and scallops – were so fresh. The zucchini was either grilled or sautéed and oozed flavor as well.  A generous dollop or ricotta was served on the corner of the dish, so you had the choice of adding as much or as little as you’d like. I kept taking bites off her plate and using her sauce. And lucky for me, she let me take home her leftovers. Which, I devoured the next day.

I would go back in a heartbeat. Not only was the food delicious, but the staff was friendly and very attentive. Everyone seemed to work together, as team players. We never had an empty water glass. This seems to be a theme in the North End, one that I love. Now, if only every other restaurant in town could learn from them, I would be a happy camper!

The interior is not your typical North End style eatery. It is modern, black and white, and a bit art deco – bold, strong colors, geometric – I guess I would say. This might turn someone away or give the misconception that the food was not traditional Italian. But that is not the case at all.

Valet available at Strega for $20.

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