Carluccio’s! I adore you! Thanks to your wonderful chef and manager we ate out as a family for the first time ever! Yes, my husband, 3 year old boy and I, sat down for a meal that someone else had cooked and it was in a restaurant! And I could really trust that it was safe. Until last week, my boy didn’t even know what a restaurant was! Its funny how important it seems that we have finally eaten out together. It was such a momentous feeling, over something that, in the great scheme of things isn’t even that important. But to us, on Sunday, it was profound.
We decided to head down to Cabot Circus (the fancy mall in Bristol city centre) on Sunday to get a new bag for me and to have a lemonade and coffee at Carluccio’s. We’ve always had a soft spot for Carluccio’s wherever we’ve been (we’ve been in their branches in London, Brighton and Bristol) as it’s got lovely food, is reasonably priced and has a really unfussy decor. The clientele is pleasant too (which makes a difference!). We decided to sit outside and luckily it was a warm day. Inside I figured there were too many food fumes to risk triggering Adam’s asthma or hives. As we came into the outdoor area we passed a ‘Gluten Free’ menu. I didn’t pay attention to it and we sat down and my husband ordered his food (I find it impossible to eat or drink food that Adam can’t have in front of him but my hubbie is untroubled by this). We spent a little while wiping down the table and Adam’s chair with Dettol wipes and then put down a napkin to serve as Adam’s ‘table cloth’ to make sure everything was as clean as possible.
It suddenly occurred to me that if there was a whole dedicated ‘Gluten Free’ menu then maybe the chef might know a thing or two about cooking for allergies (unlike the staff at our local Boston Tea Party that managed to serve a nut in my nut-allergic friend’s sweet potato wrap!). When the waiter came over he said we could discuss our boy’s allergies with another waiter but I asked to speak to the chef directly as I’d read on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network facebook page that other parents had recommended discussing things directly with the person cooking the food.
In Carluccio’s their policy is such that any discussions between the chef and a customer about allergies must be overseen by the manager. When I began speaking to them I fully expected they’d say they wouldn’t be able to cook anything at all that would be safe for Adam. When the chef said she could guarantee no cross-contamination and that in fact she would cook a fresh tomato and basil sauce for Adam to ensure it would be safe I started tearing up. Man, did I want to hug her! I blubbed about how hard it is to live with so many allergies and how I was so grateful that Adam might be about to eat his first ever meal out.
Needless to say, when the bowl of beautiful rice and corn penne with tomato and basil sauce arrived at our table and Adam took his first, unprompted mouthful, I cried again. Adam finished the bowl off himself and even ate the last blobs of pasta sauce that were left behind. We couldn’t believe it!
I was so amazed at how professional Carluccio’s where about serving a customer with multiple food allergies. I felt that Adam would be safe in their hands, and thank God, he was. I’m so grateful that he isn’t allergic to corn (and so could have the rice and corn penne) nor to tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil. Luckily Carluccio’s has branches all of the place and are soon opening a new one in the incredibly beautiful and atmospheric city of Bath.
The Bristol manager assured me that all their chefs across all branches are trained to the same very high level. So if you’ve been very worried about taking your child out for a meal, then find a Carluccio’s with an outdoor seating area and have a chat with the chef. Hopefully you’ll have a wonderful meal out too! (Plus kids get a cute little ‘menu pack’ with a puzzle and colouring pencils).