I may still be in shock over our recent stellar, gluten-free experience at Paisano’s Italian Restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After spending years picking croutons off of salads, ordering burgers without buns, dodging toast and biscuits, eating the icing off of cakes, spooning the fruit fillings from pies, and scraping the toppings off of pizza I was hardened to the realities of dealing with my baked-goods averse digestive system.
It has been more than three years since I realized the problem was gluten and began the much more complicated business of avoiding gluten wherever it might be hidden. I have developed such low expectations over the years that I use my well-honed adaptive skills to find the least likely-to-contain-gluten item on the menu.
Now that restaurants are advertising ‘gluten-free’ it is even more complicated. They think they know about gluten but have no idea how complex it can be. One server brought a package of noodles in question from the kitchen for me to check the label; it was written in Chinese but only one ingredient, so not a problem. Another wanted to help; his sister was dealing with the same issues. Lunch was tasty and appeared safe but oh my, not really, the fallout was miserable. You still have to defend your health while trying to appreciate the effort.
We arrived at our motel in Albuquerque in the Old Town neighborhood that we planned to explore the next morning. Don was checking the phone book for nearby restaurants when he spotted the ad for Paisano’s. I was skeptical. So he booted up the computer, logged on to the internet, and downloaded the PDF file of their menu. It was not like any menu I have ever seen before. Almost everything could be served gluten-free! So we drove across town to try it out.
Our server was Carl, a tall cheerful man with the entire menu and all variations memorized and ready to discuss in as much detail as you wished. He took care of each diner with efficiency and seemed to know what you might need just the moment after you thought of it.
Don had the gluten-free lasagna. About three years ago when my GF journey began he refused to consider ever eating gluten-free – like it was punishment. Now he ORDERED it.
I had this savory, stuffed Portabella mushroom cap (saving room for dessert).
We ordered the Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Gelato and waited patiently for the kitchen to make it. It was the most wonderful dessert I have ever had served to me – that is the only way to describe it. We savored it slowly, talking about the meal, and how we might re-create it at home. When we left I felt like I had been to the Disneyland of restaurants where all your dreams come true.
Really sappy, yeah, I know. But after a lifetime of stomach aches and disappointment it was like a dream. Don commented that he thought ‘it should always be like this’; maybe one day it will.
On our first grocery shopping trip back at home we bought a box of Tinkyada gluten–free lasagna noodles. Don is quite pleased with our gluten-free Shrimp Alfredo adaptation and now it looks like Lasagna is back on our home menu.