August 8, 2011

Carluccio’s: A Dairy, Tomato & Onion Free Dish Found amid Italian Emotions with a Dedicated Gluten Free Menu

After walking into town and hunting down a photography exhibition only to find that it was temporarily closed to the public for a workshop I found myself a wee bit wobbly and in need of some affordable allergy-friendly sustenance, pronto. F suggested Carluccio’s on Dawson Street (Dublin 2) and considering that I couldn’t come up with anything faster or closer I linked his arm and let him lead the way. As we approached I thought of how difficult this was going to be: trying to find something Tomato Free, Onion Free AND Dairy Free in an ITALIAN café but I was sooo hungry I convinced myself with every step that where there is a will there is a way and surely they will have something to tame this savage beast!

We were seated quickly and upon opening the menu I was reminded of how easily I had previously worked around dairy in the past but how increasingly difficult today’s lunch was going to be with my new ailments of tomato, onion, corn and the all the rest. In moments such as this I divide up my intolerances and allergies, put them in order of importance and separate them from my self-afflicted restrictions such as eggs, meat and sugar.

The best news of the day for food allergies is that Carluccio’s have an entire menu dedicated to Gluten Free diets. On the GF menu are Starters, Soup and Mains, Pasta and even a selection of Desserts. Unfortunately for people with corn allergies, the Gluten free pasta is a Corn based pasta but it is still a great alternative if corn does not ail you and a wonderful opportunity to dine in an Italian restaurant which can often be off limits to gluten free diets.

After a while I sorted out a few alternatives to ask about but our very Italian and ‘vocal’ waiter laughed exasperatingly before I barely started - not rudely, just in a fully animated, continental way - and suggested that I eat a plate of air while his arms flew upwards - harhar... This type of behaviour always embarrasses me slightly because I want so much to be a trouble-free customer but I know it was not intended negatively, it is just a cultural and personal difference. He continued on to say: ‘How could you live without butter?!’, ‘My condolences!’, as some of the neighbouring tables began to glance over (eek!).

Despite all of this he actually turned out to be somewhat helpful. He suggested the ‘Pasta con Funghi’ (fresh pappardelle pasta with a mix of mushrooms) which I had missed on the menu and offered a selection of different pastas too. I accepted the suggestion with the original pasta. Although he did take care to tell me that it would not taste as nice without butter, just to rub the salt into the wound before running off to confirm with the chef if this dish could indeed be made without butter or any other form of dairy (I know that he asked the right questions because I could hear him on the phone to the kitchen - lol!) and so my order was made.

In all the ‘vocal’ confusion I forgot to ask for dried pasta which would perhaps be free from egg too but since this is only a food-choice as opposed to an allergy/intolerance I let it slide.

To my surprise, and relief, my Pasta con Funghi was quite tasty, even without the butter! I of course piled on the salt and the pepper as usual while F gently suggested that I get my blood pressure checked. All was well, I was thoroughly nourished, and our waiter checked in to make sure everything was good, which it was. I couldn’t help note that the Gluten Free menu had some wonderful, naturally Gluten free items for dessert such as Panna Cotta (which is a cream and gelatin based dessert, see here, Affogato ( coffee with ice cream or gelato, see here, Frutta de Stagione (seasonal fruit) and Gelati (a type of Ice Cream). But do not completely despair regarding dessert if you are Dairy Free and unimpressed with seasonal fruit because I think that I spied either an orange or lemon flavoured Dairy free sorbet for sale in the freezer in the deli. Also, there were some beautiful meringues on display which are usually a naturally Dairy free option as well as sometimes having luscious looking nougat (ask about allergens)...although I will say that Egg free, Dairy free and Gluten free desserts all in one seemed to be a bit more difficult! (note: the picture below is definitely not all allergen free, but is a representation of the changing high quality selection of desserts on offer in the deli - very droolsome).

F and I passed on dessert so we paid the bill and headed back to the gallery to see if the photography workshop was finished only to find that the they had closed early! ...sigh... I guess you can’t win them all.

Note on location: Despite there only being one Carluccio's in Ireland, located in Dublin, if you are in or travelling to the UK you will happy to know that the Carluccio's chain is very healthy with branches in Berkshire (2), Birmingham, Bristol (2), Cambridge, Chester, East Sussex, Exeter, Hertfordshire, Kent (3), Leicestershire, London Central (10), London greater (15 - with one even in Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5!), Manchester (2), Milton Keynes, Norwich, Nottingham, Suffolk, Surrey (5), Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wales and West Yorkshire
as well as 3 branches in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 1 branch in Qatar and 1 in Kuwait.

Carluccio’s Restaurant
52 Dawson Street
Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 633 3957
Opening Times: Mon-Fri 07:30 - 22:30; Sat 08:00 - 22:30; Sun 09:00 - 22:00

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