In the heart of Ottawa’s Little Italy, I found the most amazing gluten free/celiac safe restaurant, La Dolce Vita! I haven’t seen a place with such an extensive Italian GF menu like this since I visited Italy in August of 2016, so this was extremely exciting to me! I did my usual, call during the day (when the restaurants are typically less busy), to ask my classic questions. In this case, the conversation went a little something like this:
Question - Hi there, I’m calling to inquire about your gluten free options. How are they cooked?
Answer - All of our gluten free dishes are made separately, fresh pot of water for pasta, separate area for GF pizza, separate utensils and even separate storing units. Only gluten free items are put in our fryer and we have an extensive gluten free menu that is perfectly celiac safe.
Question - Amazing! And you have a good understanding of celiac disease and cross contamination as this is not a preference for me.
Answer - Yes. You can actually find us on the Canadian Celiac Association list of recommendations! We have just started the process of becoming the first certified gluten free restaurant in Ottawa and expect to have this completed in the next 6 weeks!
Question - Oh wow!!!! That’s amazing! I’ll make a reservation for tonight at 8!
Jake and I had such an outstanding dinner the first night we visited Ottawa. We were so impressed that the owner and head chef of this beautiful restaurant, took the time to come over and chat with us about how we enjoyed our meals, the research that went into understanding gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease, and a whole lot more. You could feel and taste the love and passion of Nelio’s outstanding work, and so we decided to visit again our second night in Ottawa. This time around we got to sit down and have a lovely dinner, conversation and little question and answer period with the incredible daughter of Nelio, Alexandra.
Here are some of the questions we asked her about La Dolce Vita: When did your family start this restaurant?
We took over La Dolce Vita, November 1, 2016. To own and operate a restaurant has been a life long dream for my parents. The previous owner had gluten free options on her menu and was a pioneer in the industry when awareness of gluten sensitivity began. She created many of the pasta recipes and even developed her own pizza crust, however, when we took over, we quickly realized that although the restaurant may have once been on top of their game, the industry had come a long way. We saw opportunities for improvement to product innovation and to the standards in place to avoid any risk of cross contamination. From the moment we took over we have made it our mission to provide people with Celiac disease a delicious and safe place to dine!
How did your family learn about the importance of this diet? And what inspired you to make this a celiac safe environment? I’m so impressed that you have made it your mission for those with gluten allergies and celiac disease to feel comfortable and enjoy so many wonderful options!
Before deciding to take on this responsibility we did, what seem to feel like endless research. It didn’t take long to realize that it was much more serious than just a preference or an aversion. We all agreed that if we we’re going to take this on, we were going to make sure that we could provide safe but satisfying meals for every single guest, every single time. Through conversations with some of our guests it was clear that some of the restaurants that offered gluten free options were not always concerned with, or aware of, the risks associated with cross contamination. We wanted to offer our guests the comfort of knowing we care about their safety and health. Although sometimes challenging, it is the smiles and the sincere gratitude of this genuine community that inspire us and give us the fuel to keep on going.
What made you decide to get celiac certified?
For us, it was the next logical step. We wanted all of our staff to have the most thorough training possible and are thrilled that the training is offered on an ongoing basis. With the high staff turnover in this industry, it is a comfort for us to know that any new staff will receive the same training as the staff before them. It will be part of our onboarding process. We will also now have a direct resource for any questions we may have and we will have access to the newest information available. As well, we want the auditor to visit our kitchen and tell the world that we meet the standards set by the celiac community. We work hard to ensure the safety of our guests and now we want to make it official!
How are foods in your kitchen prepared?
Our gluten free dishes and desserts are prepared separately, on clean and sanitized surfaces and labeled gluten free. Labeling is so important. Everything is stored separately in designated areas. Our cooks wear gloves that are changed before and after handling the gluten free food items. We have separate coloured cooking utensils, and of course separate sauces. Our gluten free pastas are cooked in separate water and pots. We get our pizza crust and baked bread from Finally Gluten Free Foods. Each pizza is placed on a separate metal pan for in the oven for cooking and is thoroughly washed after each use. A little secret about our deep fried food items is that all of our deep fried items are gluten free. We have developed such delicious gluten free fried products that our regular customers don’t know their meals are gluten free! We do not put anything into our fryer that isn’t gluten free. We use the same strategy with our desserts- all but one are gluten free and taste delicious!
What is your favourite gluten free meal at your La Dolce Vita?
Mine is the Di Funghi salad (mixed blend of deep fried mushrooms + asiago + spicy parm aioli + arugula, in a vinaigrette), the Toscana Pizza (artichoke + heart of palm + kalamata olives + feta), as well as the Five Cheese Pizza (asiago + fontina + mezzetta + parm + tomato + red onion on a hazelnut pesto base), and of course the Gluten Free Tiramisu.
The Di Funghi salad and Tiramisu are some of my favourites as well but honestly my absolute favourite is our new lunch menu hit, the beef carpaccio with crispy potatoes drizzled with our spicy aioli. I could literally eat it every day!
Thank you for dining with us and sharing your experience it was a pleasure meeting you! I’m so glad you came back the second night and that I had the chance to sit down with you and Jake. Good meals are those shared with friends, great meals are those which turn strangers into friends! Until your next visit....cheers!
Love to all xo,
It is finally May, which marks the month known as Celiac Awareness Month. It is really important to help communicate the message about creating awareness through brands that have dedicated their time to those with this disease. Special for Celiac Awareness Month, let’s take some time to learn about Schär, an amazing gluten-free brand.
Schär has mastered the perfect bread. Their baker’s use only selected natural ingredients from products including rice, corn, and buckwheat. These ingredients come from strictly controlled crops, which are entirely gluten-free.
Schär is a global brand that was founded in 1922 as a joint project by Dr A. Schär and Bozen-based entrepreneur Untertrifaller. When Schär began, they focused on providing young children with nutritional and healthy food, and later developed gluten-free products for children with gastrointestinal symptoms. In 1981, Schär worked closely with doctors and Celiac support groups to launch the first gluten-free product line! Under new leadership, Schär was able to become Italy’s gluten-free market leader, and continue to be a global brand that helps many individuals and their families worldwide.
Schär is a brand that you’ll forever be able to trust! They are passionate about this community, and they are constantly advancing their technologies, improving their product innovations and the quality of their products. They are reliable in terms of their security and sustainability, which is guaranteed by their involvement in cultivation. Not only are all Schär products gluten-free, Schär also goes above and beyond to ensure that their products do not contain any chemical sweetening, flavour enhancements, colourants, and GMOs.
Since the 1980’s, when Schär began their first gluten-free product line, they have grown to become a global manufacturer of gluten-free foods. They’re also a proud sponsor of the Celiac Disease Foundation, which is the nation’s leading disease advocacy organization for Celiac Disease and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. They work to understand Celiac Disease, improve diagnosis and treatment, as well as collaborate with researchers, clinicians, and industry leaders to better understand, and hopefully one day cure Celiac Disease.
Now, in 2018, Schär is the exclusive food sponsor of the Celiac Disease Symptoms and Conditions Checklist, available on the Celiac Disease Foundation's website, celiac.org. The Checklist documents for a physician the common symptoms and conditions of Celiac Disease to help determine whether Celiac Disease testing is necessary. Those who complete the Symptoms Checklist will receive a coupon for Schär gluten-free products that they can enjoy! A complete list of Schär products, as well as delicious gluten-free recipes made with Schär products, are available on celiac.org.
I hope that some of this information made you love Schär even more than you already do. Schär is truly an inspirational brand that loves, cares, and supports the Celiac community 100%. Special for Celiac awareness month, I will be hosting a takeover on their Instagram page, www.instagram.com/scharglutenfree. Please watch out for more interesting Schär facts, incredible products, and an awesome giveaway coming your way! Let’s get ready for Celiac Awareness Month together!
To learn more about Schär, or to see all of their products, visit: https://www.schaer.com/en-u.
Love to all xo,
I have collaborated with The Skin Skope team and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit down with the founders to learn more about their brand! Check out my interview below!
Tell me about yourselves:
We are the creators of The Skin Skope (TSS), a natural beauty and wellness website that wants to support you through your beauty journey. Our goal is to create a community that empowers people with sensitive skin to live healthy lifestyles so they can glow from the inside out and be proud to go au naturale! We believe in looking good and feeling good. We want you to feel confident and own your naturally beautiful self so we’ve done the work for you and Skoped out the best ways to help soothe your unique skin type through recipes, treatments, DIYs, motivation and lifestyle tips. We also collaborate with local brands and people like you to share their stories through our two series You Are Not Alone and The Locals.
What lead you to starting your business?
It all started after we both spent many years suffering from acne and eczema with doctors subscribing us drugs that could hurt our health in the long term. We quickly grew tired of the countless promises made to us by doctors and box store beauty experts who only gave us short-term solutions. We knew we didn’t need a band-aid, we needed a natural solution and that’s when we started started swapping natural remedy ideas and talking through our discomforts to help one another. There was comfort connecting with others who understood your struggle and the emotional impact it can have on your self-esteem. That’s when we realized that there needs to be a space for people looking for a long-term solution, a lifestyle that will help them feel confident and heal their skin. We created The Skin Skope shortly after and it’s become our passion to help and connect with others who share the same love for green beauty and wellness.
What is your skin condition?
Alex: I have acne prone, sensitive skin. I used to suffer from cystic acne.
Mala: I have very sensitive skin and eczema.
When did your skin condition begin?
Alex: Growing up I had clear beautiful skin with barely any blemishes until I reached the age of 18-19 and adult acne started to show. It didn’t help that I was in my first year of college eating from the cafeteria every day. My skin went from breakouts to cystic acne. I didn’t start to see results until I became vegan and started switching my products to more natural ones. Throughout my skin journey I have learned to be very careful with what I eat every day and what products I put on my skin. That is why green beauty products are so important to me because they aren’t full of chemicals and toxins that can cause my skin to be irritated.
Mala: I’ve always suffered from eczema since I was a kid. I would have small patches on the insides of my elbows and knees but nothing too serious until the year of 2015 when I had an eczema outbreak that covered my entire body. I knew that it was an issue that was enteral and I wanted to get to the root cause of it. There and then was when I decided to go on this holistic journey in discovering my body and healing my eczema.
Does it continue to affect your life?
Alex: My skin issues has affected my life every day because I have to always be mindful that what I put in my body can show up on my skin. This mindfulness has taught me a lot about health and wellness and what my body really needs to be healthy and happy!
Mala: Now after I did my research and know my body a bit better, I am more at ease as to why I have these eczema breakouts. Don’t get me wrong, it is a bit frustrating at times when I do get those breakouts but now I know what triggered it.
What do you recommend others who are going through similar situations to you do to overcome their conditions?
Alex: Get back to the basics and start within. Drink lots of water, get enough sleep each night, exercise and have a killer beauty routine that you like and stick to. On top of that, start being mindful of what you are eating each day. You can do that by writing in a food journal then you can see which foods are causing irritation. A good resource for how to do this is the Skin Cleanse by Adina Grigore. Once you get into the swing of your new routine you’ll start to notice that your skin is glowing and your body is happy!
Mala: Don’t give up, be strong and keep at it. Healing your body naturally can take awhile and you might not get the results as fast as you wish, but it will eventually heal. To me it was well worth it and what motivated and inspired me the most was having the support system, through friends, family and connecting with those who have the same issues.
What does the saying "true beauty is skin deep" mean to you?
Your external beauty does not make who you are, it’s what’s inside that counts. We believe that every natural beauty is someone who allows their inner confidence to glow and shine through, that is someone who is truly beautiful.
Can you share your daily skincare routine?
Alex: Every morning I wake up and wash my face with warm water and Wyld Skincare’s Bamboo Charcoal Konjac Sponge then I spray on Wildcraft Care’s Bergamot Rose Toner followed by applying Smith Farms Marshmallow Face Cream and Indie Lee’s Squalane Facial Oil. I have been adding my oil blend of jojoba, rosehip, almond oil to my face cream to give my skin some extra hydration during Canada’s dry winters. At night I wash my face with the oil blend I just mentioned, spray on my bergamot rose toner and apply the Squalane Facial Oil. Two to three times a week I use basd body care’s indulgent crème brûlée coffee scrub to exfoliate my skin and then I apply a mask. Lately, I’ve been digging Province Apothecary’s Detoxifying and Clarifying Clay Mask. Pro tip: don’t let the clay mask dry completely, as soon as you notice the mask starting to dry spritz your face with your fav toner to keep your skin hydrated!
Mala: I wash my face with Wildcraft Camomile Honey Makeup Remover and wipe it off with a warm wet face towel. I also use Wyld Skincare’s Bamboo Charcoal Konjac Sponge to give my face a light exfoliation and to get any extra dry skin and dirt off. Then I give myself a little spritz of Wildcraft Bergamot Rose Toner, I absolutely love the smell of it! To give me the extra hydrating boost I need because my skin tends to get dry in the winter I use Province Apothecary Rejuvenating and Hydrating Face Serum, followed by Josie Maran Whipped Argan Face Butter.
Iberostar Paraiso Beach resort in Playa Del Carmen was an absolute pleasure, and I highly recommend this resort to anyone with allergies, specifically Celiac Disease. Over a 10-day period during the holidays and new year, I wasn't sick at all!
Prior to leaving for my trip, I had been in contact with Iberostar's Public Relations department, who ensured me that I was in good hands. Of course, as a Celiac, you can never be too sure, and I brought my own bread and protein bars, just to be safe!
Upon arrival, I was given a celiac notice in Spanish that stated that I required entirely gluten-free meals and snacks, which needed to be made in a clean and celiac safe environment. I was also introduced to the head chefs at Iberostar, Alexis and Markus. They were both an absolute pleasure to deal with. They both went above and beyond to put a smile on my face.
Every morning I was provided with gluten-free pancakes, I was even shown the packaging of the pancake mix! Alexis always brought me my favourite natural gluten-free syrup, poured separately for me, that wouldn't have touched any other guests' breakfast. I seriously felt like I was given the queens treatment, which was beyond incredible!
At every meal I was shown what I could and couldn't have, and always offered to make anything my heart desired! One day it was tuna steak, another day, pasta, sushi, you name it, I was completely taken care of. Not to mention, at every meal there were nachos and guacamole... which were all entirely gluten free! The chefs would even open a brand new bag of nachos, and make me my own fresh guacamole. It was honestly a dream come true!
Iberostar - thank you so much for making sure that your chefs are well-versed on all sorts of allergies and having the knowledge on what type of food guests can and cannot have! You have no idea how thankful I am! Alexis and Markus, thank you so much for putting a smile on my face and answering all of my questions about how foods were prepared. You both are outstanding! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I'll definitely be visiting again.
So, if you've been longing for a relaxing, celiac safe resort, look no further! Iberostar Paraiso Beach resort has you covered. Please make sure you go through the appropriate measures, and ensure that you feel comfortable with all of the meals you're offered.
Sending love and only the best for 2018!
As we bring in the New Year, it's time for me to reflect back on the year. It's been a crazy journey, beginning my career, growing this awesome community, meeting many of you, traveling lots, getting engaged, planning a wedding and a whole lot more, I couldn't be more excited!
Thank you all so much for following My Celiac Life journey over 2017, your encouragement, messages, kindness, support, knowledge and a whole lot more, never goes unnoticed. Truly, you're all the real MVP's of 2017. I couldn't do any of this without your love!
2018 is going to be a year to remember, and there are so many awesome projects in the pipeline. The genuine truth behind celiac disease and daily struggles are so real! We all have our medical and daily struggles, and this year is about YOU! Together we can get through anything. If there's one thing I learned in 2017, it's so important to listen to your inner voice. If your body is telling you to stop something, don't push your body over the edge. Focus on your own health, find your favourite hobbies, and just learn to be you and enjoy YOU time!
So without further ado, happy 2018! I am truly blessed to have such an outstanding community out there that really care, love and respect one another. As I always say, Celiac Life ain't easy, let's get through this the only way we know how!
Happy New Year to you all! I love you so much!
Welcome to MCL World
I am currently in my 20's, working a full-time job in downtown Toronto, and enjoying the foods I have always dreamed of. I absolutely love to travel, and I am always excited to explore new gluten-free restaurants that I can feel comfortable at in a new city or country!