This past Saturday I attended the bachelor party for my buddy, Sam, who in June is marrying my good friend, Sara. (In fact, I'll be officiating the wedding!) It was one of the more organized bachelor parties I've been to, in the sense that I received an itinerary via email ahead of the event, so I knew what we'd be up to hour by hour.
3:00pm - Watch the Denver Nuggets at Lodo's, a sports bar in downtown Denver
5:45pm - Dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy
8:00pm - See the new Star Trek movie
Late into the night - party like rock stars
When it came to dinner at Maggiano's, I did my research ahead of time so I knew what I'd be getting into in terms of eating gluten-free. I extensively browsed the website, but couldn't find any statements about gluten or gluten-free menu options (save for one small comment about GF pasta option prepared upon request buried in a far corner of the website). A section about Maggiano's philosophy - and in particular its chefs and scratch kitchens - sounded promising, though: "since every dish is made from scratch, it's prepared exactly how you like it." I was liking the sound of that, but we were talking Italian food. Could they really prepare it how I liked it, and how I needed it? Or would I end up ordering a massive bowl of salad? Thanks to other GF bloggers who have also reviewed Maggiano's (there are restaurants in more than 20 states across the U.S.), I knew that Maggiano's offered a wide array of gluten-free options.
Arriving at the restaurant, however, I discovered a possible wrench in the works. Because we were a party of 12, Maggiano's defaulted us into the family-style dining. (Coincidentally, my bachelor party - in Manhattan in 2003 - also included dinner at an Italian restaurant served family-style.) Large platters of food shared by the whole table. Yikes. Not exactly conducive to ordering a specialty meal. I called the waiter over and explained my needs (and that my buddy, Andrew, who sat across from me at the table, would also be eating gluten-free). The waiter sent the executive chef out to speak to me directly.
The chef was friendly and knowledgeable. He guided me through which appetizers were and weren't gluten-free. Ditto for the salads (all the Maggiano dressings are gluten-free). Ditto again for the pastas (any tossed pasta - spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine - can be substituted with corn or rice pasta). What's more, he told me that he would personally prepare the gluten-free dishes, and would make small family-style portions for Andrew and me, even though the table was ordering a variety of other family-style dishes that weren't gluten-free. In all, Maggiano's was very accomodating.
Andrew and I settled on mussels diavolo and sausage and peppers for our appetizers, and a Caesar salad without croutons for the salad. For dinner, we had GF spaghetti with meat sauce, and GF linguine with clams in a white sauce. Not only did the chef personally prepare the dishes as per our GF needs. He also brought them out to the table himself. I was impressed.
The food was delicious all around, and I'd rate Maggiano's one of the better gluten-free dining experiences I've had. I'm the kind of guy that can be fiercely loyal to or completely turned off by a restaurant, depending on the quality of the food, the nature of the dining experience, the service and how I've been treated. By all those measures, Maggiano's has earned my business. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Maggiano's to others...whether you're gluten-free or not. Mangia, I say!