Chef Fortunato Nicotra of New York City’s Felidia is making a committed push to serve the gluten-free community by offering not only the regular gluten-free menu items, but also exclusive gluten-free tasting dinners with wine pairings for the hungry and adventurous gluten-free food lover.
The restaurant hosted its most recent foray into the world of gluten-free cooking at the end of June. The eight-course meal was accompanied by wines paired by the restaurant’s sommelier, showcasing the Bastianich Vineyards and different varietals, including the Bastianich Vespa Bianco, and Bastianich Friulano, and I Perazzi, Morellino di Scansano.
The meal began on a light note with the tuna carpaccio with shaved spring vegetables, panna acida, and crispy rice. The guests, who were chatting away with one another, discussing their own stories and how they became gluten-free, suddenly, hushed, as each diner feasted on the first course. The tuna was so lightly shaved that one forkful of that with another of the crispy rice was the perfect complementary bite. Not to mention the dish was full of vibrant colors, a true sight to behold.
One of my personal favorites during this incredible meal was the chef’s ravioli with pear and pecorino. The light and delicious ravioli is a menu item that most gluten-free folks haven’t experienced in some time. This dish showcases the freshness of the pear juxtaposed with the saltiness of the pecorino, a very well-balanced bite.
The chef also prepared two additional pasta courses: a saffron pappardelle with zucchini and shrimp and a tajarin with bison Bolognese. The pappardelle was a very simple dish with very little sauce, allowing the pasta itself to stand out, said the chef. The tajarin was certainly a bit bolder with a delicious, rich bison Bolognese.
The final savory dish of the evening was chef Nicotra’s take on steak, two ways. The dish showcased a braised beef flat iron and a piece of Steak tagliata, paired with grilled green vegetable "quinotto." I was a bit partial to the braised beef myself and found the vegetables to be vibrant, a perfect complement to our steak course.
The evening wouldn’t be complete without something on the sweet side, believes the chef (which I wholeheartedly agree with). The group sampled a homemade blueberry frangipane tarte with blueberry ice cream. I picked up my fork to take my first bite and didn’t put it down until the plate was completely cleared. The tarte itself was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted since being gluten-free for the last four years and the blueberry ice cream was luscious and quite spectacular.
Nicotra addressed the small group who were waiting with anticipation to ask him questions regarding how things were prepared in the kitchen. He spoke about the gluten-free mixture he uses for his bread, which is a mixture of several different gluten-free flours, including rice, corn, soy flours, and xanthan gum. The pasta is comprised of quinoa, tapioca, corn, and rice flours, along with some milk powder, and xanthan gum.
While guests were ready to depart for the night, completely satisfied with their soup-to-nuts gluten-free experience, many were continuing to share stories about their hardships in finding a truly well-crafted meal that is completely gluten-free. The night not only became about breaking (gluten-free) bread but also sharing something much more than that. Even though diners had a dietary restriction, the fabulous freshly prepared food and the enjoyable textures, techniques, and presentation of the plates, and of course the friendly ambience, brought people together, all of whom, treasure the joy of indulging in a spectacular meal.