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How declassé would it be to bring my own gluten free pasta to the restaurant and ask them to cook it?

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I have survived in Italy before on risottos and the places that carry gluten free pasta. I am going to be staying in Sorrento for about 5 days starting this Saturday, traveling to Naples, Amalfi, etc.

Has anyone brought their own pasta to the restaurant and asked them to cook it? There is a brand that I am sure I have had in the restaurants that comes in 6 curled up sections of fettucine per 250 gm. I could bring it with me from Germany or buy it there.

Anyone done this before?

  1. I think it would be ok. I would first ask if they have it and then ask if they can cook yours if the answer is negative. But, wouldn't the water they cook the pasta in be a problem for you?

    1 Reply
    1. re: vinoroma

      This would be the biggest problem...there's always the chance they'd throw it in a pot of water that had already been used for wheat pasta.

    2. Trés gauche, I would say. I can't imagine any restaurant would agree to prepare someone else's ingedients for them, at any price.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        I really don't think I would trust that it hadn't been tossed into the 'pasta water' which had boiled wheat pasta...although I'm sure your experience will vary depending on the type of restaurant you are in, how busy they are, how effective the communication between you/the server/the kitchen is. If I did it, I'd be tipping the heck out of everybody involved, including the kitchen staff. Had you thought about carrying a ziploc of pre-cooked pasta of your choice and just asking for a serving of the sauce in which to dump your own pasta (although...now that I'm thinking of it, lots of places thin sauce with pasta-boiling water, which could be scary for you). This sounds kind of fraught with danger...how intolerant are you?

        1. re: tonifi

          I'm sure you meant to reply to the original poster, but you make a good point here. If a dietary restriction is due to an actual allergy, should one trust an unfamiliar restaurant even if it appears to be accommodating a special request?

      2. Always the chance they will say "Sure, no problem," then throw your pasta in the trash and give you a plate of their pasta.

        1. Not sure how they would handle this in Italy, but might the kitchen be suspect of bringing outside products into their kitchen not knowing where it came from? The types of restaurants I've been to in Italy are very proud of the strict control they have over their kitchen and everything that goes into their dishes. Plus, is it practical for any restaurant to prepare food from an unknown source in their kitchen given the legal responsibility they have to their customer? I know this example is stretching it, but what if there was a foreign object in that box of pasta and you ate it and choked? Who is responsible for this? How does it play out in a court of law? All things a restaurant owner has to think about in a situation like this. Just "food" for thought.

          8 Replies
          1. re: ttoommyy

            To the OP. As we say here in italy, it takes a great deal of chutzpah to do what you are suggesting. Simply unbelievable.

            Just go to a restaurant and don't have pasta. No big deal.

            1. re: allende

              As the saying goes, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Or Naples, Amalfi or wherever in Italy. I like what you said allende: "Just go to a restaurant and don't have pasta. No big deal." It's really just a matter of the culture; what would be considered OK to do in the States is just not done in Italy. And vice versa.

              1. re: ttoommyy

                Ive never heard of this being done in the States, either... though admittedly I dont have this issue.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  I can't imagine it being done in the states either....or anywhere.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    I was just giving the OP the benefit of the doubt by assuming she may have done this in the States.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      To the OP- I cant believe yoiu would even think of that-
                      jenlkalb- Like you, I dont have this issue- but 5 members of my family have celiac. They would never do this- and have never heard of anyboday doing this.. For Celiacs, cross contamination makes them really ill.My relatives tend to dine at restaurants that have a gluten free menu- or, even better, gluten free restaurants. I host Thanksgiving, and it requires a lot to make sure there is no cross contamination of foods.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        This isn't considered OK to do in the states- not necessarily because it's "declassé" but because it's a serious liability for the restaurant owner to serve food that comes from an unknown source. We prefer to eat humane meat and once asked our friend who owns a restaurant if it would ever be possible for him to cook some of our (outside) meat- and the answer was no way, even after hours- it's against code and any possible contamination could create a huge issue.

                    2. re: allende

                      + 1, go to the restaurant and don't have pasta, simple solution

                  2. I found these further infos for you. The first one is a very famous american glutenfree food blogger:
                    http://glutenfreegirl.com/eating-glut...
                    the second a friend of mine:
                    http://www.msadventuresinitaly.com/bl... who has put together a guide.

                    1. I have celiac and have done this, as have others, and we've been fine. We were just there two weeks ago, in fact. Italians have a FAR greater awareness of celiac than we do. They know enough not to use the same pots/water. I'm sure some do, though. But some restaurants in Italy have GF pasta, anyway. It does not hurt to ask.

                      This past trip I found a couple of gelaterias with gluten in their gelato and refused to serve me. Watch out for this, too.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: chefathome

                        just to clarify, you have provided your own pasta to restaurants in Italy? Its true that thre is more celiac consciousness there, but I never would have thought about taking my own ingredients into a restaurant (except maybe a fish, in areas where fisherman do this sort of thing, I guess) Interesting.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Yes, on recommendation from a few other celiacs who travel regularly to Italy. Normally I would not consider taking in my own ingredients (it would not have even crossed my mind) but I actually found a website of a restaurant that encouraged it! I will see if I can find it and post it. I was shocked.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            I read about it on a few celiac blogs and at first shunned the idea. Then I contacted one of the restaurants I had heard someone else have success with taking GF pasta and given notice, they are happy to accommodate. Sure, I have other options that are gluten free, but I go to Italy regularly and sometimes crave a great pasta dish. It can get difficult when traveling in any country to find gluten-free options so we do not get seriously ill.

                            http://www.dafiore.net/

                            1. re: chefathome

                              yes this makes a lot of sense on an arrange-ahead basis.

                        2. I have found that restaurants in Italy had a very good understanding of gf and was surprised by how much I could get there that was gluten free. Take your pasta and see what happens.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Schreckengoost

                            "I have a very nice chunk of organic pork; since I only eat organic would you cook this for me??"

                            Wow!!!!

                            1. re: ospreycove

                              Maybe take a grass-fed steak to Outback and ask them to cook it up for you.

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                ...but "I only eat organic" is just a little bit different than "I have a medical condition which, if aggravated, leaves me miserable for days at best"

                            2. I'm with the group that thinks this is taking self-entitlement to a new level.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: whs

                                This is not self entitlement. I certainly would never, ever expect this. If I had not heard that this place did it, there is no way it would have even dawned on me to ask. If they had said no I would have been completely fine with it. I know the owner of a restaurant in Croatia who is more than willing to offer this to those with celiac as a family member has celiac so she understands. (I have never asked her to do this myself.)

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  This was in reply to the OP.

                                  1. re: whs

                                    Oops-a-daisy.

                                2. re: whs

                                  If you were celiac, I'm sure you'd understand perfectly.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    "If you were celiac, I'm sure you'd understand perfectly."

                                    I had diverticulitis for almost two years and could barely eat out at a restaurant for fear some high fiber item(s) would mysteriously be contained in a dish. Should I have brought my own ingredients to a restaurant and asked them to cook it for me? Of course not. Many of us have medical conditions that put us on strict diets but we do not expect restaurants to cater to our needs. A restaurant that offers to do this is one thing (as chefathome cited); but asking a restaurant to cook something you brought with you is taking it a bit too far in my opinion.

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      why is it wrong to ask them if it's possible?

                                      I don't know that I'd do it -- but I'm not celiac, either, so I can't say what I'd do.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        "why is it wrong to ask them if it's possible?

                                        I don't know that I'd do it -- but I'm not celiac, either, so I can't say what I'd do."

                                        My point is that celiac disease is not the only medical condition out there that warrants a special diet. Could you imagine if everyone on a special diet tied to a medical condition asked a restaurant to prepare something they brought from home?

                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          sorry -- I wasn't talking about showing up on their doorstep with a bag of pasta in my hand -- I was talking about calling ahead and asking if it were possible.

                                          There's no penalty and no hard feelings for anyone if you call ahead and ask...and if they say yes -- everybody wins.

                                3. I think it would be rude and insulting.
                                  Rent an apartment with a kitchen and there should be no problem for you.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: steve h.

                                    That is what we normally do. Out of the 20 some times I have been to Italy I have done this twice and both times by the prompting of someone else with us who had celiac as well. One of those two times the chef, who we had met on a previous trip and who also owns the apartment we stayed at, offered to do it for me and I had never even asked. The only reason he knew I had celiac is that I notified them of dietary restrictions on their registration form (for breakfast).

                                  2. The question interests me because I have been, since birth, unable to digest milk (whey) products. An when I smell milk, cream, sour cream, etc., I find myself nauseated. So given that you have had this genetic type illness, I am puzzled that you crave spaghetti (or bread, rolls, pizza, etc.). What happened when you were a child?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: junescook

                                      Good question. I believe in part it is because now my gut is healing and I have less problems with malnutrition and malabsorption. Plus my symptoms have not been the typical GI symptoms but rather things such as muscle weakness and pain, miscarriages, bumping into walls and severe brain fog. And because whenever we ingest even a crumb of gluten (research shows that all it takes is 1/70th of one peanut) it can cause damage to our villi in our gut. Not only that but gluten can trigger all sorts of other autoimmune responses.

                                      When I was a chid I was very healthy. In fact, though I have likely had celiac forever, I felt I as asymptomatic until I had my miscarriages. I knew there was something wrong but no one knew what. Then I attributed my neuro symptoms to muscle relaxants that I was taking for the fibro. A crazy cycle.

                                    2. I once made some reservations for a group of friends that included one gluten-free person, and they asked me to tell the restaurants. Some said of course, we will provide gluten-free pasta. Others seemed a bit clueless and suggested risotto when the time came. My advice would be to give it your best shot over the phone or by email when you make your reservation, but do not surprise a restaurant with whatever is the opposite of a doggy bag. It would be a major imposition in a busy kitchen with systems in place for handling pasta, and you could never be sure of getting what you bargained on. Awareness of GF is definitely high, but that doesn't necessarily translate into special privileges. Based on my friends' experience, I would also suggest a follow-up reminder to those restaurants that promised to provide.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mbfant

                                        I agree. I would never, ever show up with pasta in hand unannounced. I would rather not eat at all than do that. Celiac is a dreadful disease and it would be extremely horrible to "use" it. I have seen people do this and it infuriates me.

                                      2. hey folks,

                                        My sister has an incurable disease that a great many people are ignorant about, and some things a lot of people take for granted as being normal life are actually life-threatening to her. She has to ask many favors of strangers, including about food, just to get by safely when out in public. She wants to live independently, and as fully as she can, and not be a shut-in.

                                        She has encountered a lot of sarcasm -- "Well! Aren't you the self-centered one!" -- and "helpful" advice like "Just ask for everything boiled" and she had friends drop her after she became ill because they were so embarrassed to be with her when she asked for food not on the menu in restaurants. But she has also found a surprising number of service providers who are completely understanding and non-judgmental of people with digestive problems and have no trouble accommodating them.

                                        walldorf,

                                        I go with the advice to call ahead to restaurants and see what they say -- and good advice to follow up with a reminder just before arriving. It really doesn't hurt to ask.

                                        And Chowhounders: Count your blessings you can eat with abandon but realize a great many others can't. It's a different world, one only a few people enter, but there are people in that world willing to help and be kind, so don't discourage people from asking for help.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: barberinibee

                                          Thank you, thank you, thank you. Folks cannot even fathom the difficulties that go along with eating out with these illnesses and diseases. Until it happened to me, I had no clue myself. Eating gluten free at home is one thing but eating out, always afraid of getting ill especially whilst on vacation AND doing serious internal damage, can be downright horrifying. All we want is to be "normal" and eat "normal" food and that includes eating out occasionally. It is surprising how many people are cruel and sarcastic, yet also surprising how many who are so kind and would do anything just so you can eat safely.

                                          I really feel for your sister in her desperate situation. Kudos to her for wanting to be independent. Many illnesses make it difficult to eat in any social setting. Weddings, potlucks, etc. NIGHTMARE.

                                          1. re: chefathome

                                            "Folks cannot even fathom the difficulties that go along with eating out with these illnesses and diseases. "

                                            As I said in a previous post, I suffered with diverticulitis for almost 2 years. At one point I wound up in the hospital for 5 days on intravenous antibiotics with no food or water to pass through my lips. Twice I wound up in the ER because the pain felt like an alien was trying to escape from my bowels through my abdomen. So I know about difficult. While I suffered with this condition for those 2 years I never once thought of asking a restaurant to prepare a special meal for me. I truly am an empathetic person (though it may not show from my responses) but I do not think having an illness or condition allows one to make demands on an unsuspecting restaurant. Calling or e-mailing in advance is another story.

                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                              I agree that having an illness does NOT allow one to make demands on an unsuspecting restaurant. All I am saying is that it does not hurt to ask in advance as such accommodation is not unheard ot.

                                            2. re: chefathome

                                              Sure, chefathome. I had a moment's hesitation invoking my sister, but I think even she would say it has been a tremendous learning process and eye-opener to be on the other side of the divide.

                                              What people don't get is that the risk is not just feeling lousy, but -- as you point out -- real damage. And yet at the same time, a person can really extend their life by refusing to let the limitations dominate and finding ways to remain in the flow of society. Such people do us all a favor by stretching the boundaries, because all of us, if we live long enough, will end up needing that flexibility in public accommodation.

                                              Thanks for your kind wishes for my sister, who a isn't feeling too desperate today. I just tried to call her, and she asked me to call her back because she's just about at the head of the line at a bbq take-out joint in Southern California, and doesn't want to miss her turn. One of the most difficult things for my sister has been that there are only SOME things that are terrible for her body -- so when people see her having a glass of wine or eating bbq, they accuse her of faking needing special treatment when it comes to certain additives or even natural things (like citric acids, which can almost kill her).

                                              To me, the great thing about living in Italy is that people take the stomach so seriously.

                                              1. re: barberinibee

                                                Your point about stretching boundaries is an excellent one, and I agree wholeheartedly. Before my diagnosis I really had no real immediate need to consider my health in this way but now that it has happened, I see things completely differently. One never knows when s/he will be diagnosed with something that requires drastic changes. I am not one to sit idly by hoping for something better but rather go about changing the things that I am able to. For those things I cannot change I try to change my attitude and outlook.

                                                Thank you again for your thoughtful, clear and wise posts. Your non-judgemental insights certainly are refreshing. That Italy takes these issues seriously is also refreshing. It is such a pleasure to visit for so many reasons.

                                                It was delightful to hear that your sister was enjoying bbq take out. Hopefully it was successful!

                                                1. re: chefathome

                                                  Likewise. Hope you have a chance to enjoy Italy soon. Weather just turned fabulous.

                                                  Sister reported back bbq-joint was out of nearly everything she ordered, but managed to get successful substitutes. (Funny but true: I can't stand bbq, she can't stand pasta, so we used to fight to the point of tears as kids when my parents wanted a family dinner out about who got to pick the restaurant. I've only recently gotten more tolerant of her eating choices!)

                                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                                    We get to Italy each May and October so we were just there recently. We own a house in Croatia and therefore spend a bit of time in Italy before returning to Canada.

                                                    Funny story about your sister fights. My three siblings and I never fought as kids. Ever. :-D

                                          2. http://www.gfguideny.com/homegfguidei...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ferret

                                              This is one of the first bits of info on GF in Italy I saw and it gave me hope. Thanks for posting this. It is very helpful.

                                            2. I admire your chutzpah.

                                              The rest of us would just not order a pasta course.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Dave_in_PA

                                                I think the initial question was a bit misleading and led to an image of someone entering a restaurant , pulling out a pack of pasta and seeking to make an arrangement with the waiter on the spot.. But some sort of pre-arranged use of a special product seems totally appropriate.for people with any kind of significant dietary concerns.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  The original post does give the impression of springing this idea on them on the spot. It seems to me that a restaurateur who was inclined to accomodate people who must avoid gluten would have gluten-free options available. One was not so inclined should not be trusted to do it properly on the spot for a single party, so the idea does not make sense. Better just to do some research to find restaurants which have a suitable menu.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    @GH1618

                                                    You're absolutely right.

                                                    Clearly, most people posting have never been in a busy restaurant kitchen in Italy.
                                                    Depending on the restaurant, the kitchens are small in size, lacking huge numbers of burners and almost always low on the number of cooks relative to a similar kitchen in France or The States. Cooks work extremely hard, doing many varied tasks, including cooking the pasta.

                                                    Unless a restaurateur made it a general point of accommodating customers with particular needs (one of the needs, but not the only one, being gluten free), even if the restaurateur had a good heart, I can assure you it will be hit or miss as far as the water used to cook the gluten free pasta. During service, most restaurants cannot provide special cooking water to cook gluten free pasta. There is simply no room on the burners, nor cooks to handle it properly.

                                                    If it were truly a situation of my getting a severe reaction, once again from what I know about Italian restaurant kitchens (which is a lot), I would never subject myself to trusting a kitchen staff, no matter what is said, to having a special pot of water at the height of a meal service.

                                              2. The original post says:

                                                "Has anyone brought their own pasta to the restaurant and asked them to cook it?"

                                                That means she is asking whether she can yank out the bag of pasta at the restaurant and ask them then and there to cook it. If she had called ahead and arranged for them to cook it, then there would be no need to ask them again at the restaurant, they have already agreed to cook it.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: redfish62

                                                  This comes up a lot on message boards. People doing a very narrow reading of an original post and reacting to that. Even if you do the narrow reading, it does seem possible to me to cut the OP some slack, or ask: "Did you mean......---? Maybe it would be better if you ....."

                                                  Another general problem is people putting pressure on non-Italians visiting Italy to conform to supposed Italian "norms" -- and please note those quote marks. I live in Italy, and not only do I find it a more flexible culture than I see portrayed on message boards and in the popular press, to the extent I find Italian culture "exasperating" it is usually because italians (in my limited experience) tend NOT to think of the future, and they do most things on an "as needed" basis, or at the last minute.

                                                  Therefore, while I do recommend scouting out the possibilities with restaurants, I also endoresed mbfant's advice of a follow-up phone call closer to arrival. In my experience in Italy, the Italians can more easily handle a "then and there" request than they can handle a request for something in the future.

                                                  While it is true that many customers do not appreciate the realities of a busy kitchen, it is equally true that most people really have never walked in the shoes of someone with an unusual need, and really have no experience of what is available and what is not. So not only is it dubious they should be offering commentary, sarcastic commentary is truly off the mark.

                                                2. Looks like all of the bickering here may have scared off the OP, as there has been no response. I hope not.

                                                  1. May i point out that OP has not written: i went to restaurant xy and asked them to cook my gf pasta, they didn't, what a terrible restaurant. He is asking us if anyone has done it and if it is acceptable. This is exactly why this board exists, so stop accusing/attacking him.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: vinoroma

                                                      Yes -- exactly. It also didn't seem to occur to anyone that perhaps the OP was traveling with a group and didn't want to deprive others of a chance to eat at recommended wish-list restaurants, , and came here to ask advice about a possible solution --- instead of making companions dine only at gluten-free restos. (The opposite of being self-centered.)

                                                    2. WOW, I can't believe this is such a polarizing issue.

                                                      Of course I usually don't go to restaurants and bring my own food. It is not like I am trying to insult anyone by saying their pasta is not good enough. I would be with my teenage son who would eat off the menu.

                                                      I don't have celiac disease, just an intolerance so I don't worry so much about cross contamination.

                                                      It is not about being a prima donna and the culturally entitled ugly foreigner, and I am sorry that some responses seem to suppose that. Yes I understand that I have no right to ask for special treatment and understand the confines of a busy restaurant.

                                                      I will be there for six days ( I said 5 but it is 6) and it just gets old to go to Italy and skip the pizza and pasta and bread and pastries unless I hike sometimes across town to the few restaurants I can find that serve gluten free pasta, and to keep going to the same ones which never seem to be the ones on various favorites list.

                                                      Thanks for your thoughts.

                                                      1. Folks, since this thread has been contentious and sometimes mean-spirited, and the original posters seems to have gotten what she can out of it, we're going to lock it now.