When the Italian restaurant doesn’t have g-free pasta…

It’s bound to happen. Even in a city as large and diverse as Toronto, you’ll find Italian restaurants that don’t offer gluten free pasta options. And if they don’t have g-free pasta, then chances are they won’t have g-free pizza or g-free breadcrumbs for veal parmigiana. So what to do? Well, you pray they have a wide assortment of tantalizing salads…or a mozzarella bar. Lucky for me, they did.

My review of Obika

Who the hell needs bread when you have this mouth-watering appetizer spread?! (Photo courtesy of Angela Casullo)

Who the hell needs bread when you have this mouth-watering appetizer spread?! (Photo courtesy of Angela Casullo)

A few weeks ago, I attended a duo-birthday celebration for my cousin (and lifelong best friend and maid of honour) and her boyfriend. Dinner reservations were made at Obika, an Italian ‘Mozzarella bar’ located in downtown Toronto. I walked past this place a number of times and had actually wanted to check it out for quite some time, so I was excited about the plans.

I called ahead of time to see if an ‘official’ gluten free menu existed and unfortunately it did not. Right after hanging up the phone, I scanned the online menu and was happy to discover I had a wide range of salads to choose from. Thankfully this would not be a case of ‘Mixed greens or Caesar’ — the latter of which I usually can’t have anyway because the Caesar dressing contains gluten!

But Obika’s menu displayed salads with smoked wild salmon, oven cooked ham, artichokes, cape berries, and, of course, mozzarella di bufala campana (or buffalo mozzarella, which I love).

When we got to the restaurant the servers started sending out overflowing platters of differently prepared buffalo mozzarella balls, cured meats, cheeses, and grilled veggies. Sure, there were bread slices, too, but I avoided that. It’s cases such as this where I’m grateful gluten makes my stomach wretch in pain; not filling up on bread meant I could eat more of everything else. And I did. There was no holding me back.

The appetizer platters were impressive, to say the least. We, an Italian and Portuguese party of 12-15 people with the same appetite for plentiful, hearty meals,  would have been happy just dining on the first course; it was that filling. But with great company and ever-topped-up wine glasses, we ordered main courses anyway. My pre-restaurant research had me all fired up to order their smoked wild salmon and avocado salad, but one of the servers suggested the Parmigiana di Melanzane (grilled eggplants with buffalo mozzarella and organic tomato sauce) and assured me it was gluten free.

G-free eaters, if you're at Obika and still hungry after appetizers, I recommend you order their delicious Parmigiana di Melanzane for another course (Photo courtesy of Angela Casullo)

G-free eaters, if you’re at Obika and still hungry after appetizers, I recommend you order their delicious Parmigiana di Melanzane for another course (Photo courtesy of Angela Casullo)

Other people in our party ordered pastas and pizzas, and truth be told, if I could have eaten those dishes I might have ordered them too. Grilled eggplants is something I’d never typically order, but in the end I was really glad I did.

A quick note for budget-conscious readers: Obika is a tad on the pricey side, but the quality is there, so it’s worth it. Would I go there again? Definitely.

The birthday girl and I posing for a picture in between courses at Obika.

The birthday girl and I posing for a picture in between courses at Obika.

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2 Comments

Filed under Food critic's corner

2 responses to “When the Italian restaurant doesn’t have g-free pasta…

  1. Just before I read your blog I read this: http://blog.freepeople.com/2013/05/restricted-diets-advice-dining/. Thought I would share! Although it looks like you do everything to plan ahead…smart thinking 🙂

    • Thanks! Yes, I try to be as pro-active as possible before eating out so I’m not left sipping on water during the meal! 🙂 Thanks for the link, too!

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