Senza a tasty gluten-free choice

October 19, 2012 8:27:03 PM PDT
The dishes coming out of the new Senza in Lake View, look camera-ready. Everything is handmade, and ingredients are meticulously sourced. But unlike its peers, Senza - which means "without" in Italian - is offering a menu that is 100 percent gluten free.

"The same quality food you'd find at any restaurant in Chicago that serves the style of food we do, which is coffee shop during the day and super high-end food at night," said Chef Noah Sandoval.

And yet there's no flour. Sandoval says it's a challenge for any chef.

"There's a lot of tricky ingredients like soy sauce, that you wouldn't think has gluten, but it does. We just don't let any of that in the building," Sandoval said.

They do manage to create pretty impressive dishes though. Butternut squash soup is embedded with pumpkin seeds and poached lobster, plus pomegranate and pickled pear. Duck is seared and served with a blueberry puree, as well as fried prosciutto, freeze-dried corn and butterscotch popcorn.

But the most impressive efforts are the Italian favorites. Gnocchi consists of potato starch, rice flour and egg yolks.. it's sauteed then coated in sesame, poppyseed and roasted garlic; plated next to fresh ricotta, it's crowned with a perfectly-cooked, 61.8 degree egg, that is quickly covered in dried and smoked shitake mushrooms and micro greens.

Tagliatelle is made from white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca and potato starch, but it's rolled and hand-cranked just like any other pasta. Cut into wide ribbons, it's boiled for about 30 seconds; finally added to a saute pan with cooked artichokes, olives and both chanterelle and beech mushrooms.

"We serve grilled bread with the pasta, so it's kind of like a - here you go - you can't eat this but you can eat it here," said Sandoval.

They also bake their own bread - not an easy task without all-purpose flour.

"The cooling process is very key in gluten-free baking as well. You have to cool things and heat them back up; you can't just pull them out of the oven like you're used to doing," he said.

All of the beers are gluten-free as well, and Sandoval says even if you're not gluten-intolerant, you're going to find something here that tastes good.

"People are pretty happy. Even people who enjoy gluten are very happy," said Sandoval.

Coincidentally, another gluten-free restaurant, called Bountiful Eatery, just opened up about four blocks north of Senza.

Downtown, Sushisamba now offers a complete gluten-free menu.

Senza
2873 N. Broadway
(773) 770-3527
www.senzachicago.com

Also mentioned:
Bountiful Eatery
3312 N Broadway
773-687-9811

Sushisamba
504 N. Wells St.
312-595-2300
http://sushisamba.com/location/chicagorio

Starting the week of November 5th, each Illinois Wildfire location will be hosting a Gluten Free Dinner with optional wine pairings each night of the week.

All dinners begin at 6:30 p.m. and are priced at $55.00 per person without wine pairings or $70.00 per person with wine pairings, plus tax & gratuity. For each reservation, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. The featured menu is as follows for all locations:

    November 5 - Wildfire Oak Brook
    November 6 - Wildfire Chicago
    November 7 - Wildfire Glenview
    November 8 - Wildfire Schaumburg
    November 9 - Wildfire Lincolnshire

To make a reservation for any location's event, call Laura Nessel at (312) 787-9000

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