Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Some gluten-free menus miss the mark

Anyone who has ever worked in food service - particularly in the "front of the house" in a restaurant knows you're to push appetizers and desserts to every customer. Selections in those two categories of the menu tend to  offer the highest margins.  So selling apps and desserts increases the tips for servers and the restaurant increases their take for the shift as well.

Have you ever looked - really looked carefully - at a gluten-free menu?  If the answer is yes, then you know the two menu categories that either have little or no gluten-free options are the appetizers and the desserts.  This completely baffles me.  If places don't want to offer a gluten-free menu to people who are trendy - or to those that have medical conditions that require a gluten-free diet - fine.  But why go to the trouble of figuring out gluten-free options for salads and main courses while skipping the two most profitable categories on the menu?  It makes absolutely no sense!

When I find an interesting appetizer on a menu that I can order, it's very hard to pass up the chance to try it.  Even if I'm not in the mood for an app and an entree, I'll likely order both and take most of my main meal home.  I want to let restaurants know that I very much appreciate being able to order an appetizer so they'll keep offering those items!

Nothing drives me up the wall when dining out more than not being offered dessert. Even if they only have ice cream which I've never ordered when dining out and probably never will - I would like to know if I can have a sweet treat to complete my meal or not.  We were recently at a pizza place that has a ricotta cheesecake for dessert. It's always been gluten-free since it's crustless and I insisted we order it just because I could have it.  It arrived and I took maybe two bites and let my husband have the rest. I don't like any cheesecake except the Godiva option at Cheesecake Factory, but I could not pass up dessert when our server was so excited to let me know I could have it.

Every restaurant is not going to offer gluten-free pizza, bread, pasta or pancakes.  And some places that offer those things now won't when patron requests for them decrease. But for the places that do offer gluten-free menus, you have to wonder why so many of them haven't figured out they can make much more money on us if they figured out an app that everyone loved that happens to be gluten-free.  And how about putting some key lime pie filling in a ramekin (it's common to have leftover filling in non-chain places) and see if your gluten-free guests want to buy it.  I can tell you right now, I'd be the first to do so and if it's any good, I'd take another to-go!

And don't even get me started on gluten-free menus that list just the names of dishes - no description - no price - no's ridonculous!     

Monday, May 18, 2015

Don Antonio bites the dust in the ATL

Just over a year after the Atlanta location of Don Antonio opened, it closed.  While this is really sad news for those of us that enjoyed the amazing food there, it's not even slightly surprising to hear of its closing.

For our first visit there, the owner and manager rolled out the red carpet so needless to say, the service was exceptional.  During every other visit there, the service was friendly enough, but it was always slow.  Slow service when a place is slammed is understandable, but when there are four to six tables in the place total, it's really not understandable at all.  Buckhead is not Italy and people that dine out in that area are not going to return to places that have the type of service that is common in Italy - outside of Italy.  Often called "relaxed service" over there, for the most part, we call it slow and unacceptable over here.

On top of the slow service, it seemed that asking for extra cheese on your pizza (gluten-free or not)  was deeply offensive and while we always got extra cheese after asking, it was never an easy get and it was never done with a smile from the servers.  So, many people never went back whether they can eat gluten or not.  It was very out of the way for us to get to often, but I would put up with the service due to the incredible FRESH pizza crust (made with Italian soy flour) they made in house.  I was probably in a small group of diners that would suffer sub par service in exchange for fabulous pizza.              
We are trying a new place (for us - not new to the ATL) later this week.  It's another Neapolitan pizza place that also makes gluten-free crust in house.  Hopefully it won't be an issue to get extra cheese if we want it ;)   

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