Buca di Beppo

My friend (The Gatherer) and I went to Buca di Beppo on a sorority retreat. Under any other circumstance, we wouldn’t have set foot in that restaurant. Italian food is very dangerous for the both of us. Pizza, spaghetti, and bread crumbles are poison to me. The tomatoes and meat are practically a death sentence for her. As we were in a very large group, we had a set menu: bread, Caesar salad with croutons, chicken slathered in tomato sauce with bread crumbles on top, and then pasta with tomato sauce. AKA Wheat, Meat, and tomatoes.

The Gatherer and I’d had very little to eat that day, so we were very hungry. The Gatherer was able to eat the bread, but that is hardly filling. Neither of us could have the salad — I couldn’t have the croutons, and picking them off wasn’t an option because they had contaminated everything else in the salad; the Gatherer couldn’t have the dressing (most have soy in them). The next course was chicken parmigiana. Not only was the meat covered in tomato sauce, but the restaurant decided to sprinkle wheat on top of it all. The Gatherer isn’t as restrained (or as sensitive to contamination as I am, allergy-wise) as I am, and so she picked the cheese off the chicken, scraped the tomatoes off, and ate that. I sat there, and drank gallons of diet coke.

The waiter noticed my lack of food, and started trying to find something, anything I could eat. My options boiled down to plain chicken (ewww), plain steak (too expensive), or a walnut and apple salad with olive oil for the dressing. I had the salad, but without the walnuts, as I am allergic to those too. So I ate my apple salad with olive oil, and I learned that there is only so much lettuce you can eat with oil before you realize how boring it is, and just can’t eat any more, no matter how hungry you are.

While I tried to figure out what else I could eat, the third course was brought out: spaghetti with red sauce. As the Gatherer likes to say “eating that would be like drinking Draino.” Five glasses of diet coke and 500 longing glances at the real food later, it was time to head back to the hotel.

Once we were back, I had my real food, aka Cheetos from the lobby vending machine. I went hungry for a bit, but otherwise, no harm done. The Gatherer, on the other hand, did not make it through the other side of dinner unscathed. Now the thing to understand about the Gatherer is that her allergies aren’t the usual sort, you know, the kind that make you swell up or break out in hives. Instead, hers wreak havoc on her emotions. Now, we still have no clue what exactly tomatoes do to her, but soy makes her paranoid, depressed, or just plain crazy. That night, she got a bit of soy, and a bit of tomato — tomato from the chicken parmigiana cheese (cross contamination), and soy from the butter in the bread. In the end, the Gatherer ended up lying on the bed, paranoid that no one in the sorority trusted or liked her. This worry was totally unfounded as we had instigated a wildly popular dance party invasion just hours before.

But back to the point, Buca di Beppo tried very hard to accommodate us, but they just weren’t properly prepared for people with food allergies.


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P F Changs

You would think Asian food would be perfect for people, like me, who cannot eat wheat because the main ingredients in Asian recipes are rice and soy. Many people do not know, however, that the second ingredient in soy sauce is wheat. Luckily for me, P F Changs Chinese Bistro has an extensive gluten-free menu. It is actually the biggest gluten-free menu I have seen at any restaurant. No problem for me to eat there. My friend, the Gatherer, is a whole different story; with her rice and soy allergy, anyone would say that there is nothing at an Asian restaurant she can eat. We were in an adventurous mood, and decided that we would find a way for her to eat there too, as it is my favorite restaurant, and she wanted to be able to eat out with me. So we went to P F Changs.

The hostess sat us, and got us our drinks, and then our waitress came over to take our orders. Instead of requests for food however, she got a long list of questions about the ingredients in half the menu. The waitress did not panic, as we had half expected, but rather went to the back, and printed up a list of everything without soy. She then proceeded to cross off anything with rice in it. My friend and I were able to eat delicious worry-free food that day. I think we just found our New Favorite Restaurant!

And now, due to popular request: What We Ordered!

Me (The Hunter): Gluten Free Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Steamed rice on the side

Friend (The Gatherer): Steamed Spinach with garlic dipped in egg roll sauce. (And a bit of stolen lettuce from my pile).

And yes, we gave that waitress a HUGE tip!

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