You’d think I wouldn’t have a lot to say about noodz, what with me being celiac (read: grudgingly gluten-free) and all. Yet it turns out I do.
Giving up cakes, bread and doughnuts took some adjusting, but where it really hurt me? Macaroni. Pasta. Noodles. The Salustris are a starch-based people, and telling one of us you can’t have your dietary mainstay anymore... well, you may as well have told me I couldn’t eat cheese.
I officially swore off gluten at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2017. When I woke up later that day, the search for a decent GF pasta began. Fortunately, those of us with celiac, Hashimoto’s, gluten intolerance and wheat allergies live in an age where it’s trendy to be gluten-free. That means we get to choose from more than one restaurant when we go out to eat.
A note to those of you who still eat gluten: Before my diagnosis, I’d taste GF foods when people promised me, “This tastes just like it has gluten in it!” and think, Wow, no. Clearly, not eating gluten has shredded your taste buds. Now that I must eat gluten-free, I’ve realized how much truth there was in that statement: I no longer remember what gluten-containing foods taste like, so when I chow down on something gluten-free (that normally contains gluten) and enjoy it, I assume it tastes “just like it has gluten in it.”
I’m not promising you the following restaurants have GF noodles or pasta that taste “just like” the kind with gluten, but I can promise they taste amazing. Here’s how I do pasta and noodz — gluten-free-style.
Italian Two places featured in our main Food Issue spread, Pia’s Trattoria and Johnny’s Italian Restaurant, are my go-tos. Johnny’s has a decent selection of gluten-free items, and the pasta’s pretty good. I wish I could tell you how it reheats (reheating certain types of gluten-free pasta results in a gloppy mess), but I’ve yet to save enough for leftovers. As for Pia’s, the GF macaroni isn’t made in-house, but the pasta is tasty enough that it’s rumored to stand in for the eating house’s gluten-containing pasta when the fresh stuff runs out.
Asian This is where noodz get easy — well, sort of. Shirataki, rice and glass (or cellophane) noodles are each made without gluten, whether or not you’re living la vida gluten-free. Locally, Alesia’s food makes my mouth happy. Bamboozle Cafe is also a fantastic choice. Remember, though, if you’re eating GF because of a medical condition, don’t assume a dish is GF because of its noodles. Soy sauce — unless it’s specifically GF, such as tamari — has wheat in it.
The Chains As much as it pains me to say this, restaurant chains — specifically, P.F. Chang’s — do gluten-free really, really well. It’s all about protocol, and corporate eateries get down with it. Sure, you can make a pot of GF noodles, but guess what happens to many celiacs if you stir a pot of wheat-based noodz, then use the same spoon to stir a pot of gluten-free ones? Yep, those gluten-free ones aren’t gluten-free anymore. At P.F. Chang’s, the GF noodz come on a different style dish (as do the chain’s other GF items). It’s a minor reassurance, and yes, those noodles taste pretty good, too.
I’ve tried every gluten-free pasta or noodle I can find (except black bean pasta, because, um, no). Hands down, the best one I’ve found is Barilla’s corn and rice pasta. The worldwide brand produces this GF pasta in a dedicated facility, and it holds up well to mac and cheese, baked pasta dishes, cold pasta salads, reheated plates and anything else I use it in. And yes, Virginia, it does taste the same. You don’t even have to close your eyes.