Friday, August 16, 2013

New York, New York

My two elder children live in New York, Bryson in East Village in Lower Manhattan and Emily near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. They are both students at NYU’s Tisch School for the Performing Arts. Bryson is in his final year of an MFA program in Scenic Design, and Emily is in her first year of an MFA program in Musical Theater Writing. They hope one day to work together in show business, a plan that has me shaking my head in wonder. Are these the same two children who used to duke it out over what games to play, what movies to watch, whose turn it was to sit in the front seat of the car?

Anyway, now I spend much of my time shuttling back and forth from Springfield (MO) to New York to visit them. They are always happy to accompany me to theater performances, movies, standup comedy shows, parks, beaches, and museums--and they never balk at the chance to explore New York’s many, many gluten-free restaurants and bakeries.

In the nearly three years since I’ve been traveling there regularly, I’ve racked up quite a collection of great restaurants with gluten-free specialties. Here are a few of my favorites, if you happen to be visiting the city. (Even if you aren’t eating gluten-free, my family members would highly recommend these restaurants.)

Shrimp, mozzarella & tomato risotto at Risotteria.
Risotteria (270 Bleecker St.): This totally gluten-free restaurant is my all-time favorite.  It’s very tiny and always packed out, but it’s worth the wait—even if you don’t have to eat gluten-free. They start by bringing out the best crispy, flakey GF breadsticks I’ve ever eaten. We almost always order a cheese plate appetizer to go with them. Of course, the creamy risotto is the main event, with many, many different choices of ingredients. They also have a wonderful wine selection. Just thinking about this place makes my mouth water!

Risotteria Melotti (309 E. 5th St, between 1st Ave. & 2nd Ave.):  I confess that I haven’t yet experienced this completely gluten-free restaurant, yet, but my husband Doug is insisting that I include it on my NYC list. He recently discovered this place with my son, who is also gluten-free. Doug said it is just as good as Risotteria (no business relationship), and he raved—really—about their GF rice bread, which he swears has the taste and texture of “real” Italian bread. I will take a cab directly to this restaurant from the airport next time I visit NYC!

Rubirosa Ristorante (235 Mulberry Street, between Prince and Spring): This is another restaurant that I try to visit every time I’m in NY. Their GF pizza and pasta is outstanding, and the atmosphere is charming. It’s always crowded, so make a reservation.

Emporio's pleasant setting.
Emporio (231 Mott St.): We found this Italian restaurant in the Nolita area one night after we couldn’t get into Rubirosa (above).  We were seated in a window that opened right onto the sidewalk and ate some of the best GF pizza I’ve ever had—Speck & Mushroom, with stracchino cheese, fior di latte mozzarella, and truffle. They also had GF pasta. We will definitely return.

S’Mac (345 E. 12th St.): If you crave macaroni and cheese, this is the place. It’s a very un-fancy hole-in-the-wall--crowded, noisy, no atmosphere. But--oh, my—the mac and cheese, which they serve in little individual skillets with whatever ingredients you desire, is decadent and delicious. I’ve eaten here many times, and I’ve also ordered it delivered to my son’s apartment. The buffalo chicken wing macaroni and cheese is our favorite.

Pala Pizza (198 Allen St.): Love the food (GF pizza, pasta, salads). Love the atmosphere. In the summer and fall, they raise the garage-door-like front of the restaurant and you dine outside.

Nizza (630 9th Ave.): This lovely restaurant is just a short walk from the Broadway Theater District. It’s one of our go-to places when we’re on our way to a show.  On my last visit I had delicious Gnocchi Al Forno—yum-yum!—before waddling to the Music Box Theatre for a production of Pippin. Nizza also has great GF bread.

BareBurger (535 LaGuardia Pl., just off Washington Square): I’ve eaten at several BareBurger restaurants. Their menu features burgers in a multitude of choices in meats, such as beef, turkey, chicken, wild boar, elk, bison, and ostrich, as well as vegetarian options, such as farmers quinoa burgers, mushroom burgers, black bean burgers. To gluten-free eaters, they offer a decent tapioca rice bun and great fresh cut French fries with several GF sauces. It’s a good place if you need a burger.

Zengo (622 Third Avenue, Midtown): We discovered this beautifully appointed Latin-Asian Fusion restaurant during NYC’s Restaurant Week. They have lovely little GF & Vegetarian menu with such offerings as ceviche, sushi rolls, lettuce wraps, crispy tofu, and achiote roasted salmon. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience.

Mozzarelli’s (38 E. 23rd St. #3): If you’re messing around in the Flatiron area and need a quick little lunch, you can get good GF pizza and desserts at this little restaurant. They also sell GF breadcrumbs and cookies to take home.

Hu Kitchen (78 5th Ave, near Union Square): If you’re ready to move beyond meat and potatoes, you should check out this entirely gluten-free restaurant. When Bryson and I ate there, I had Organic Rotisserie Chicken with Assorted Market Vegetables (something green), and he ate the Grandmaster Veg (a grain/dairy-free lasagna dish). The sides included things like Rustic Root Vegetable Mash and Caramelized Pineapple and Cashew Cream. The food is fun and healthy in a modern, cafeteria-style setting.

BabyCakes (248 Broome Street, between Orchard and Ludlow): This teeny-tiny bakery sells some of the best sweet treats I’ve had since going gluten-free. Their sweet cornbread and pumpkin loaves are to die for—and their cake-style donuts frequently inhabit my food fantasies. They aren’t open until 10 a.m., so you can’t have an early morning donut with your coffee, but if you’re willing to wait for a little while, you won’t be disappointed.

Bistango (415 Third Avenue at East 29th St.) Another brilliant Italian restaurant with a certified gluten-free menu. They serve GF pastas, stuffed pastas, pizza, bread, desserts and beer. This is another GF restaurant that was especially high on Doug’s

Bogota Latin Bistro (141 5th Ave, Brooklyn): Make a special trip to Brooklyn to enjoy this authentic Colombian restaurant.  Located only a few blocks from the Barclay Center, this restaurant has a huge GF menu, a festive atmosphere, great drinks, and wonderful service. I love their Arroz con Pollo, cornmeal empanadas,  and fried plantains.

Cochinita (922 Fulton St., Brooklyn): Also in Brooklyn, this is the perfect place for lunch. They have a great GF menu. Last time I was there, I ate pork tacos and beans and rice. Delicious. We took our lunch out to a little patio in the back and had a delightful little picnic.

I haven’t even touched on the many, many Asian and Indian restaurants where I’ve spent many a pleasant evening dining with my family. In general, I’ve found that most restaurants are understanding of celiac disease and most can accommodate the gluten-free diner. If you find a place that won’t play nicely, walk away. There are probably ten more places to eat safely within easy walking distance! Pull out your Yelp or your Find Me Gluten Free app and let them direct you to a great experience.