I don’t often go to large chain restaurants, like the Olive Garden, because I get nervous about how much attention they pay to my special order. however, I ended up there last week, and since it was late at night and there were hardly any customers, I thought it would be a good time to try their gluten-free menu. I was really pleased with how it turned out.
first of all, the famous Olive Garden salad…. it’s gluten-free if you order it without the croutons. if you’re allergic to dairy as well, it’s a bit tougher. not only do you have to skip the parmesan, but also the salad dressing. you’ll need to use olive oil and balsamic, which is far less exciting. the caesar salad (without croutons) is also gluten-free.
as for the pasta, they have pennine rigata with marinara. I’m usually skeptical of marinara sauces without any sort of dairy in them, as this one was (they can get too acidic and tangy). but this was really tasty! I wasn’t even that hungry, but I finished the whole thing! I was a big fan, and became an even bigger fan when I found out that it cost me just under $10 for a gluten-free pasta dish!
**note that I of course double-checked with the waitress that they use new, clean pots of water for gluten-free orders (I had a friend get contaminated water for their pasta at an Italian restaurant once, and I’ve always double-checked since then, in case it somehow slips their minds). my waitress was very knowledgeable, but there are tons of locations~ which means the wait staff will be of all levels of experience and knowledge. so keep that in mind.
they had a handful of other dinner options as well, which I have not tried. they were mostly meat options: steak, salmon, chicken, and steak/ chicken skewers.
I know that all celiacs have different levels of comfort at restaurants. some will go anywhere that can throw a gluten-free dish together. I prefer to go to restaurants with at least a special gluten-free menu or proven experience at handling gluten-free orders well, as that generally comes with greater knowledge. and others are even more cautious and only go to a handful of restaurants they trust.
to me, big chain restaurants are a little more risky than I generally prefer. however, I think it’s great that such a big company with so many locations nation-wide is catering to the gluten-free and educating their staff about it. I really appreciate that they make an effort to accommodate, as they’re a mainstream restaurant that’s widely available to many people, and generally less pricey than gluten-free meals can often be.