Carmine's Delivers Glutten Free Italian Delights from DC-NYC
by Laura Powell (Daily Suitcase), CITYPEEK Guest Blogger
I was gluten-free before gluten-free was cool. The intolerance to the gluey protein started stalking me in the 1990s, before most people knew the difference between celiac and celery.
During these pioneer days, eating out was a challenge. Waiters responded with blank stares when I mentioned my condition, while dining companions thought I was just being finicky. In order to work my way around such issues, I proactively avoided eateries posing the greatest challenges to my digestive system. Those included McDonald’s and its fast-food cousins, and pizzerias or anything else vaguely Italian.
Around 2008, as gluten intolerance became more famous, and even trendy, I noticed DC restaurants were starting, in baby steps, to recognize celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Waiters no longer seemed to be offering dazed gazes upon the special request, and increasingly, menus were asterisked for gluten-free meals. Gluten-free menus started arriving on the scene in bulk around 2010.
Still, Italian was a verboten dining out option in DC, until Carmine’s that is. When Carmine’s opened in Penn Quarter last year, it re-introduced Italian to a GF’s list of dining-out options. (The eatery also serves up garlic-free, dairy-free and vegetarian/vegan menus). Now, I will admit, the first time I sampled Carmine’s gluten-free pasta, made from a corn base, my dish tasted a bit salty. I believe the culprit may have been the white clam sauce. Still, the appetizers and salads sampled on that first go-round, including grill Portobello mushrooms and zuppa de mussels, left me feeling content.
When I revisited Carmine’s and its gluten-free menu last week, I must say that the broccoli and sausage white sauce that topped my corn pasta was seasoned to perfection. Even the gluten eaters at the table gave it high marks, in some cases preferring it over the gluten-filled pasta topped with giandiniera sauce that was our group’s accompanying order. In all, Carmine’s offers more than 15 gluten-free sauces, including pesto, pomodoro, and the aforementioned giandiniera.
While I haven’t tried them, Carmine’s also offers several gluten-free entrees, including Porterhouse steaks, Chicken Contadina, and Lobster or Shrimp Fra Diavolo. It’s just too bad they haven’t figured out a way to make a GF-version of the garlic bread, which looked scrumptious.
Because of its wide variety of special diet menus, even a coterie of consumers with a diversity of allergies can easily share a wide variety of dishes.
Speaking of sharing, the prospect of doing dessert with others usually leaves me with a sinking feeling. But Carmine’s Titanic is a dandy. The giant banana split features, wait for it, flourless (and gluten-free) chocolate cake below deck. Best yet, it can be shared by those who are gluten-free, garlic-free, and vegetarian. Insider tip: If you have fewer than eight diners in your party, order a Tugboat, which is a chip off the old Titanic iceberg, so to speak.