The soft soothing sounds of Italian opera filled the air, while a light crowd lingered over lunch. The man standing before me gazed deeply into my eyes, and I anxiously awaited the words he surely wanted to say. As we perused the menu together at Romano's Macaroni Grill, I finally could stand the silence no more and gave voice to the man's thoughts with the assertion that I really wasn't crazy. Even though I had just confessed that I could not eat pasta, or anything else made with wheat, barley, rye, or oats, in this Italian-style restaurant, I insisted there were many other foods I could eat. And I implored him, the chef, to help me make a few selections from the menu.
Eating out can be tough, especially at chain restaurants such as Romano's Macaroni Grill that are not known for being celiac friendly. In fact, my first inquiry with Macaroni Grill's corporate office about gluten-free menu items produced the standard reply of, "We sympathize with your situation…our restaurants stock many items that contain ingredients excluded from your diet…we cannot recommend menu items that are gluten free…." The reply did suggest, however, speaking with the manager or the head chef of a local establishment to see if they could suggest and prepare a meal to meet my dietary requirements. I took them up on the suggestion.
The foregoing was excerpted from a review by Melanie Psaltakis in June, 2003.
I am happy to report that as of September 2010, the situation has become much improved. The Macaroni Grill website shows an allergen menu where there is a full page disclosing choices for each of the eight allergens as required by the FDA. Wheat/Gluten is page 8, and indicates which salads, antipasta and entrees can be ordered GF. The choices are still limited, but it is very clear which items on the GF menu are available to us. For instance, under Handcrafted Pasta you can order the Shrimp Portofina, but it warns you to order it "without pasta and without panko breadcrumbs." It is the same for the Sausage Salentino. You can order the sausage, but no pasta comes with it. Romano's Macaroni Grill offers pan-seared salmon, and other entree choices from the grill, including several beef, lamb and sausage dishes. Each of the menu listings tells you which vegetables or sides are to be avoided. Grilled asparagus, grilled broccoli and spinanch with garlic are the three sides that are GF.
If you have had a difficult time dining at Romano's Macaroni Grill in the past, I think you will have a more enjoyable experience now and in the future.
This addendum to the original review written by Melanie Psaltakis in June, 2003, was written by Anne Barfield in September, 2010.