In a prior column, I wrote about giving restaurants with gluten-free menus a rating, based upon their ability to accommodate the diet. One such restaurant that earns the highest score, ten, in my rating scale is Traverso's Restaurant in Naperville, Illinois. Recently, I spoke with Jason, the restaurant's manager, about their gluten-free menu:
How long has the gluten-free menu been in place?
About two years now.
What led to the development of the gluten-free menu?
The menu was developed based on requests from customers. For a while, we kept a few gluten-free pastas in the kitchen to better serve our customers. When we discovered that my son needed a gluten and dairy-free diet, I became more aware of the issues and difficulties with dining out and also more exposed to the products available to serve.
How has the menu been received?
The menu has been huge and been received really well. It has, without a doubt, brought in new customers. We know because people call in advance asking about the menu and they say they have not been to the restaurant before. We sell a lot of the gluten-free pizza.
How has the menu impacted the restaurant financially?
Since it has brought in new customers, it has been very positive. There is no other upside to it, in that we don't make more money on the gluten-free menu than our regular menu.
Were there any challenges in implementing the gluten-free menu?
We did need to make adjustments in the kitchen to assure we did not have cross-contamination. We trained the kitchen staff and brought in a separate fryer for fried items.
You mentioned you may expand the gluten-free menu in the future. What are your plans?
We do hope to enhance the menu in the future. We would love to also offer gluten-free soups, as those are a large part of our regular menu, and gluten-free desserts. Additionally, we hope to offer more gluten-free sauces.
We noticed in the local newspaper that your restaurant had a kitchen fire a few weeks ago, and you were still able to open for business the next night. How is recovery from the fire progressing?
We put the fire out ourselves within the first few minutes, but when the Fire Department came, they wanted to inspect inside the walls and ceiling to be sure the fire was completely out. We are still repairing walls and ceiling but we received the go-ahead from the Health Department to open the next night. (Interviewer note: We ate at Traverso's two days after the kitchen fire and noticed nothing out of the ordinary in look, service or taste. Amazing, as always!!)