Reviews Written by Malitzj:  



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Seasons 52
11414 Rockville Pike
North Bethesda, MD 20852


2.5 Palms
2.5 Palms
Bethesda, MD restaurant Not Quite There Yet for Gluten Free Dining

Reviewer: Malitzj from Washington, DC
Reviewed on Jun 01, 2013

Seasons 52, a nationwide chain, bills itself as a fresh grill and wine bar that features many low calorie menu options, http://www.seasons52.com/menu/nutrition.asp. They also have a separate, what they call, a "no gluten" menu. However, the disclaimer for that particular menu is lengthy and contains the following, "The restaurant is not an allergen-free environment...., and we cannot make a guarantee regarding the allergen content of any menu item."

I looked at the kitchen (it is an open-spaced environment and easily visible) and their practices did not fill me with confidence. I took that into consideration when I ordered from the No Gluten menu. I stuck with simple items, organic edamame as an appetizer and grilled Salmon as my entrée. When I explained to the waiter my situation he was a bit confused as to what actually constitutes gluten. I had to give him details about what is and isn't gluten and what practices are not acceptable. I have no problem educating wait staff but as a customer that shouldn't be my job especially if a restaurant provides a No Gluten menu.

When ordering my salmon I made it clear that I wanted no sauce of any kind (I just didn't trust what they were serving) and I substituted other menu options (broccoli, asparagus, fingerling potatoes) for what they presented on the menu. They were very accommodating by providing what I asked for.

All in all, the food was good but the stress level was a bit higher then what I had hoped for. I think they will improve over time especially if their gluten-free customers help them along.

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Nizza
630 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10036


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
A Culinary Oasis for the Gluten Free Traveler in New York City

Reviewer: Malitzj from Washington, DC
Reviewed on May 18, 2013

Simply put, Nizza is a gluten-free culinary oasis among the vastness of eatery choices in NYC. Located on the western edge of NYC's theatre district, it makes for the perfect pre or post-theatre stop and is also well worth its own trip to fuel the discriminating Gluten Free taste palate.

The daughter of Nizza's original chef suffered from Celiac Disease which was the impetus for developing varied and tasty Gluten Free options and the tradition has carried on to today. Nizza works in cooperation with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) as a service to its customers in providing information about their food and their handling of food. The results are fantastic menu options along with the sense of comfort in one's dining experience.

The Gluten-free menu breaks options down into 4 categories: Antipasti, Socca ( a gluten see version of pizza that is described as a "crispy chickpea pancake cooked in a brick oven," Pasta (they serve La Veneziane corn pasta), and Main Dishes. All options have many possibilities (5 pasta, 8 main courses, 10 socca, and 11 antipasti choices) to choose from to make Nizza a go-to candidate for multiple reeturn visits.

I started off by ordering a Margherita Socca for an appetizer. It was chock full of fresh mozzarella which was a welcome relief from the shredded mozzarella that adorns many pizzas. A dining companion ordered the Vegetarian Bianca Socca which was full of fresh spinach, mushrooms, artichokes, peppers and parmesan cheese. We were both extremely happy with our choices. While we were waiting for our second course we were surprised by two separate bread baskets. Yes, without even having to ask we had our own gluten free bread, and this was no lame excuse for bread, it was as good as the non gf bread (or so said other table guests).

For my main course I had Spaghettini with Clams. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the clams were fresh and chopped with white wine, garlic and herbs. Having my own bread allowed me to "fare la scarpetta," mop up the sauce from a plate of food with a piece of bread. The perfect complement to finish up a great plate of food.

We had no time to check out their desert menu but we certainly didn't need any. Besides, I had my own secret dessert planned for the next day. For the train ride back to DC from NYC, I pulled out my leftover Socca and prolonged by a day my visit to Nizza. The perfect end to an NYC visit.

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Level
69 West Street
Annapolis, MD 21401


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
Small plates -- and gluten free - at restaurant in Annapolis

Reviewer: Malitzj from Washington, DC
Reviewed on May 21, 2013

As crowded as Annapolis can be, it is a real find to dine a bit off the worn tourist path at a restaurant that delivers both quality and many items for the gluten free diner. Level, a small plates lounge, features local, sustainable products whenever possible, and they understand the needs of gluten free diners. Their menu, which changes somewhat with the seasons, currently features 13 items that are clearly marked with a big GF to make it as easy as possible when choosing what to order. They are also aware of other GF concerns besides ingredients and are happy to discuss any issues with their customers. They list 15 local farms where they get their ingredients and what food comes from which farm. While nothing more than an interesting tidbit of information to me, I imagine some customers who might be familiar with these farms would find it self-assuring when ordering. For our meal, my wife and I ordered 5 different GF plates: A salad of farm greens with roasted walnuts and slices of granny smith apples; a foraged mushroom risotto with wild mushrooms, parmesan, shallots and garlic; grilled calamari in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, smoked sea salt and capers; pan seared sea scallops with sauteed tomatoes, red onions and tomatillo sauce; and grilled cobia over a butternut squash bisque, brussels sprout slaw, goat cheese and toasted walnuts. We were extremely pleased with all of the dishes, and for small plates, they were surprisingly on the larger end of the small scale. We could have gotten away with sharing 4 plates, but we were taking our time. After our first two, we ordered two more and then we couldn't resist just one more taste. When the sea scallops came, we were glad we did. In addition to some very yummy cocktails, they have a full wine list and and gluten free Omission beer for good measure. We were in Annapolis for a concert at the Rams Head Tavern, which is just a block away from Level, and being able to find an excellent alternative to dining at the Rams Head made for a great start to a fun evening. I have no doubt that we will be returning to Level to check out the other GF small plates they have to offer -- and perhaps another cocktail.

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Sorriso Ristorante
3518 Connecticut Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20008


4.5 Palms
4.5 Palms
An Old Gluten Free Favorite in Washington DC Becomes a New Favorite

Reviewer: Malitzj from Washington, DC
Reviewed on Feb 03, 2013

Add gluten-free options to an old favorite that hasn't been visited in several years and what do you get? A new favorite that I can't wait to get back to.

As is often our custom we like to have dinner while sitting at the bar. It often makes for an interesting meal by adding elements that you don't find while dining at a table. For example, interesting stool neighbors, larger pours of wine from your new friend the bartender, being able to more closely watch the cooking process at some places, and finally the fortuitous conversation with the owner of the restaurant.

Sorriso typically includes all four of the above and on this night speaking with the owner, Pietro Polles, proved to be an excellent stroke of luck. I didn't need to wait long for an opening so when I was asked how come it had been so long since we were there I was ready with my stock celiac answer and the lack of gluten-free options that Sorriso had for me in the past. It seems I struck a personal nerve once I said that as Pietro explained to me that a bit over three years ago his wife was diagnosed with celiac disease. Not that I ever wish that on anybody but it sure changed Sorriso's understanding of the problem and how they would address it.

During our conversation Pietro disappeared for a minute and when he reappeared he was armed with several bags and boxes of pasta. These were all brands that I never heard of before that all came directly from Italy. What's more, before I could even begin discussing issues of cross-contamination he beat me to the punch by telling me the same thing and how they deal with it. He talked about cooking tools, pots, water for pasta, all the things that I was ready to talk about. Since none of the GF options were on the menu, it is essential to ask your server, but with all that said I was thrilled, hungrier than ever and ready to start ordering.

My wife and I started off with some zuppa di cozze - sautéed mussels in white wine garlic sauce. It did not disappoint. The mussels were excellent, and of course the extra treat of a spoon to be able to treat the white wine garlic sauce like a bowl of great tasting soup. After seeing all of those new pastas I knew I had to get a pasta dish so I followed up the mussels with linguine con coda di rospo e Diavola -- linguine with monkfish in a spicy sauce. Pietro said he would cook it for me personally so I got to watch from my bar location the care he took in its preparation. The pasta he chose for me was Molino di Ferro Corn Spaghetti Le Veneziane. It was cooked to perfection, nice and al dente, and it was great with the monkfish and diavola sauce. It was a truly fun eating experience.

They do not yet have gluten-free pizza but it is something Pietro is thinking about adding in the future. Of course it will be a homemade crust so I will have to tell him that he can count on me to be a very willing guinea pig. At this time they also do not have any gluten-free bread but at their sister restaurant, Café Sorriso e Gelateria which is located in the Woodley Park DC neighborhood, they do serve sandwiches on gluten-free bread so I expect it is only a matter of time before that situation changes.

Like I started off saying, I can't wait to get back to Sorriso to try some of their other pasta dishes, Pietro even hinted that he has some excellent gluten-free flour to make gnocchi with. Well, if that is the case not only will I will be back soon, but it might be often as well.

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Estadio
1520 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005


5.0 Palms
5.0 Palms
For the Tops in Tapas -- with a Gluten Free Menu -- in Washington DC

Reviewer: Malitzj from Washington, DC
Reviewed on Jan 14, 2013

Some of the things I don't eat include beef, lamb, veal, pork, eggs, anything creamy (picky not allergies), and that's all a holdover from before I learned I had Celiac disease 5 years ago. So when I go to a restaurant and enjoy my meal from a food perspective as well as from a gluten-free standpoint you know it's a keeper. Well Estadio (1520 14th Street NW, Washington, DC), in DC's Logan Circle neighborhood has become my go to place for the best in Spanish cuisine. In an area that has several other options when it comes to tapas you will not find a greater range of choices for the gluten-free customer (ask for their special Gluten Free menu).

I stick solely to vegetarian type dishes and to seafood but that doesn't mean there are not other options aplenty. Three of the verduras (vegetables) dishes I enjoy the most are Blistered Shishito Peppers & Sea Salt, Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Parsley, Garlic, and Sautéed Pea Shoots, Olive Oil, Sea Salt. As I am typically dining with my wife and others and they are all sharing their dishes it is all I can do to keep them from elbowing in on my delicacies.

I have spoken with the manager and chef on several occasions and they are all aware of the needs of those who are gluten-free, as is the rest of the staff. If you attempt to order an item that you might think is gluten-free but is not on the Gluten Free menu you will be cautioned by the wait staff as to why it is not on the Gluten Free menu. Those are all very reassuring traits to me.

When I venture to the pescados & mariscos (fish & shellfish) section of the menu I often get Sauteed Shrimp, Garlic, Parsley & Lemon, and Rhode Island Squid a la Plancha, Salsa Verde. These two dishes never fail to generate joy in my taste-buds and they have been consistent in their preparation on my many visits.

Let others at my table enjoy the bread and the non gluten-free menu options. I have my excellent Gluten Free alternatives, a fine wine menu to select from, and even an occasional glimpse at the few TV's hanging over the bar which constantly show old classic fútbol games (estadio means stadium) to enjoy.

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