Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Restaurant Review: Don Antonio's by Starita

Warning: This review might become the most honest post I've ever written. I first went to Don Antonio's by Starita with a friend after work for dinner and drinks. She had researched her neighborhood and knew this had plenty of gluten free options for me. It sounded like the perfect place or both of us.

In addition to our cocktails we started with burrata mozzarella.  I was offered gluten free bread to go along with it. The bread was awful. Like, so bad you'd rather chomp on tree bark over this stuff. It was so dense and flavorless. I hated it and didn't take another bite. I still cringe thinking about it. Yuck.

When the burrata came my mind was blown (in a really great way!) It was the largest ball of mozzarella I have ever seen! And when we cut that baby open, tons of gooey mozzarella goodness came poring out. I was in cheese heaven! (What other kind of heaven is there anyway?) They paired it with wonderful prosciutto, balsamic glaze, olive oil and two small tomatoes. It was very delicious.

Next, we placed our order off of their gluten free pizza portion of the menu. I asked a few questions to ensure proper food handling as well. We settled on the Margherita with Salami Gluten Free Pizza. While ordering, the women next to us over heard and when they placed their order they decided to try the gluten free pie as well (not for allergy issues.)

Our pie came out first and looked amazing. You would have no idea it was gluten free. The crust was thin, bubbly and tasted perfect. My friend and I literally kept talking about it... Until the pizza came to the table next to us. And looked like a cracker!!!!!!!! I was poisoned!! I immediately freaked out. I definitely frightened the people next to me by interrogating them to ensure they too ordered g-free. I called my server and the owner over. Boy was that fun. They too were scared. The owner literally stood in the corner listening not saying a word while the server (who was most likely straight off the boat from Italy) tried to talk to me in broken English. He swore we received a gluten free pie. I literally had argue and show him that our pizza looked entirely different than the one next to us. End result: he went to ask the chef. Downfall for the server: the kitchen was three feet from our table and we could see the entire conversation play out. The two chefs, server and owner looked like they were huddling before going to war. Whispering, peering over their shoulders, looking at our tables - the whole nine.

My friend and I saw the entire thing unfold. We both assumed they'd come over and lie but to my surprise (and not a happy surprise) they admitted their mistake and apologized. Great. Satisfaction of being right didn't really make me excited on this one. Within about thirty seconds the owner walked over to also apologize, comped our entire bill and provided me with a $50 to return another time so they could get it right.

I was skeptical but also impressed. The most I expected was to receive a comp for the pizza, not the entire bill. I thanked the owner, left a tip (we really didn't know the protocol for something like this) and left. I grabbed the first cab I could find and hightailed it home. It didn't make much difference because I started feeling sick along the way. Lovely. The following two days were even more painful.

I waited a few months before returning. On my second visit we ate the bar. We ordered drinks and burrata. Yet again, they served me the same crappy gluten free bread. When ordering our gluten free pizza we were very clear that I had an allergy and even pointed to the gluten free section of the menu.

The pie came out and looked exactly the same as the table next to us on our previous trip. Great news! The crust was super thin and crispy and to our surprise tasted pretty good. We opted for the regular Margherita - covered in tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella pecorino romano, basil and olive oil. It tasted amazing!

I have to say, I was hesitant to return after my previous experience but let's be honest, this is New York City. If someone gives you $50 to eat at their restaurants that doesn't look like a dump, you take it! I'm glad I did. I was pretty angry after my first visit to Don Antonio's. After my second visit I know I will return. I know most people with Celiac would have completely boycotted any restaurant that made them sick - sure, my judgement could have failed me but thankfully it didn't. The burrata is so amazing, how could I have to pass that up. ;)

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