Sometimes when eating out, it’s easy to forget it’s not all about gluten free dining. While I was pregnant I arranged to meet 5 of my friends for lunch who between them have 4 babies, all aged under 6 months. This turned into a tricky mission and for once I was glad it wasn’t me who’d been charged with organising the location. The first place (a gastro pub) had balked at the idea of 4 babies and had refused to allow us a table there. The next option was an Italian restaurant chain who said we weren’t welcome there either because “business meetings” take place in that particular branch at lunchtimes (really??). Barred twice aged under 6 months, impressive!
And so it was that we ended up at ASK Italian, an Italian chain I’d not visited before. After a little research I discovered ASK have plenty of gluten free options, including pizza and pasta dishes. They’ve also worked with Coeliac UK in developing their practices to cater for gluten free guests.
Although when researching on the internet I’d found this dedicated gluten free menu, when I was in the restaurant I was provided the regular menu with the gluten free options clearly marked. I was impressed with the number of gluten free options on the menu and the fact an additional cost wasn’t being charged for ordering gluten free pasta or pizza.
Being the pizza fiend I am, I was keen to try the ASK gluten free pizza. I spoke to the restaurant manager about their gluten free pizzas and preventing cross contamination. Having worked together for the last year, Ask have been awarded the NGCI (No Gluten Containing Ingredients) accreditation by Coeliac UK. This means that not only do they offer a gluten free menu but they also have appropriate controls in place to avoid contamination. The restaurant manager explained the measures they take to prevent cross contamination. These included:
– The pizza bases arrive frozen, wrapped and are stored separately in the kitchen from gluten containing items
– Separate utensils to prepare the pizza which are stored in a box labelled “gluten free”
– The pizzas are cooked on a metal base to protect them from any contamination in the oven (I’ve had lots of gluten free pizzas cooked in Italy like this)
Satisfied, I went for the pollo piccante con pancetta.
I was worried on a large table of diners how I’d be sure it was really my pizza. I needn’t have worried. The gluten free pizzas are round whereas my gluten eating friends’ pizzas were rectangular. The base was clearly very different.
How did it taste? I was really impressed with the toppings on this pizza. They were both tasty and sufficient. The base was also thin and crispy which is exactly how I like it. However, the base on my pizza was overly crispy and I had to use a pizza cutter to get through it, my knife couldn’t slice it.
The food was good but the service we received from the restaurant manager and wait staff was fantastic. I appreciate that a table including 4 small babies is not every restaurant manager – or fellow diners’ – ideal set of guests but the babies were impeccably behaved throughout. The ASK restaurant staff made us feel really welcome, something I think we’d all feared given the other two restaurants who had refused our custom.
But it did make me think. Two restaurants turned away the business of 6 people because we were also accompanied by 4 babies. Imagine if diners with allergies and intolerances were refused tables in the same way….So a big thumbs up to ASK for being accommodating to both little people learning to eat and big people learning to live without eating certain ingredients.
Would I go back? Definitely although I might order the gluten free pasta next time.
Cost: Pizzas priced between £7.25 and £11.95. No surcharge for the gluten free option.