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All Our Best: Gluten-Free

February 10, 2015 -

Maria Caranfa is a registered, licensed dietitian and a certified health and fitness specialist by the American College of Sports Medicine.  For more than a decade, she has helped restaurant and retail companies develop better-for-you products and menu items.  Maria is currently the lead Dietitian for Carrabba’s Italian Grill and other Bloomin’ Brands restaurant concepts. She oversees healthful menu development, nutrition regulatory affairs, nutrition analysis and nutrition communication. Maria was recently named one of Today’s Dietitian Magazine’s “TD10: Ten Exceptional RDs Who are Making a Difference.”

Interest in gluten-free menu options is growing rapidly, and our team at Carrabba’s has taken special notice. To provide more delicious options for customers interested in eating “GF,” we are excited to share our latest and greatest Gluten-Free Menu. Our exciting new changes means there are more gluten-free options than ever at Carrabba’s including our signature grill-baste used to enhance the smoky flavor of our wood-fire grill and a new dessert, creamy vanilla bean Panna Cotta. But before we dive into how we go about providing delicious gluten-free options to our customers, let’s first take a quick look at the history of the gluten-free diet.

Gluten-free was once a little known diet prescribed by doctors and dietitians to treat a very small percentage of the U.S. population with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that doesn’t tolerate the consumption of gluten. Gluten-free foods were once hard to find and those that you did find didn’t exactly satisfy your taste buds. Today’s gluten-free environment is considerably different.  One in seven Americans claim to eat gluten-free foods, and one in 133 Americans is affected with Celiac Disease. The surge in gluten-free necessity and interest paved the way for a multi-billion dollar gluten-free industry to be born and with it came flavorful foods.

The surge in gluten-free popularity is three-fold. First is medical necessity such as the treatment of Celiac Disease, gluten-intolerance and non-Celiac gluten-sensitivity. Second is to address a variety of health complications, such as inflammation, digestive ills, skin and mental ailments, and also to improve one’s sense of well-being. And third, it has also become a popular way for many Americans to manage their carbohydrate intake. The best gluten-free diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, beans, and nutrient rich gluten-free grains, which are necessary components to meet nutritional goals.

But even with a growing gluten–free community, some are still asking the question, “what exactly is gluten?” Gluten is a combination of proteins found in common grains, such as wheat, rye and barley that can be found in foods, such as bread, crackers and pasta. There are less obvious foods that also contain gluten like malt vinegar made from barley.

The recent vast interest in gluten-free foods triggered many restaurants to develop gluten-free menus. However, Carrabba’s has been committed to offering flavorful gluten-free menu options to its guests since 2008. Our Gluten-Free Menu though isn’t just about lean protein and fresh produce – it’s so much more than that. We take the best of gluten-free to create our signature Gluten-Free Menu: Marsala wine, Italian cheeses, prosciutto, imported olive oil, fresh herbs, and of course, our wood-fire grill. In fact, most of our gluten-free menu items are naturally gluten-free, meaning that they are the exact same delicious items offered on our main menu with the addition of important steps to ensure we reduce the risk of cross-contact with gluten-containing ingredients while cooking and providing service. And, we also make sure to include dessert!

Carrabba’s culinary team and registered dietitians, including myself, carefully examine each ingredient and ingredients of those ingredients to make sure items on the Gluten-Free Menu do not contain any gluten. We also review storage of ingredients and recipe preparation to avoid cross-contact with gluten-containing foods. Then we train each employee on the necessary components to deliver gluten-free menu items. And most importantly, we make sure that each gluten-free recipe is as delicious as any other recipe Carrabba’s would serve.

Here are a few examples:

1. Tomatoes Caprese: Fresh milk mozzarella with sliced tomatoes, red onions, fresh basil and a balsamic reductionTomatoes Caprese Gluten Free

2. Johnny Rocco Salad: Wood-grilled shrimp, scallops, roasted red peppers, olives, ricotta salata, romaine lettuce and mixed greens in our Italian vinaigrette
Johnny Rocco Salad Gluten Free

3. Sirloin, Pork Chop, or Chicken Marsala: Wood-grilled and topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Lombardo Marsala wine sauceChicken Marsala Gluten Free

4. Wood-Grilled Salmon: Topped with tomato basil vinaigrette
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5. Panna Cotta: Housemade Madagascar vanilla bean custard with fresh raspberries
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For our full Gluten-Free Menu, click here .

With the guidance of registered dietitians, we have prepared this menu based on the most current information available from our suppliers and their stated absence of gluten within these items. Please be aware that because our dishes are prepared-to-order, during normal kitchen operations, individual foods may come into contact with one another due to shared cooking and preparation areas. Thus we cannot guarantee that cross-contact with foods containing gluten will not occur. We encourage you to carefully consider your dining choices and your individual dietary needs when dining with us. When placing your order, please let your server know that you are ordering a gluten-free menu item.