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,
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!