Digestive problems lead to gluten-free options

April 17, 2012 9:42:22 AM PDT
Gluten-free isn't a diet fad, but rather a choice many people are making due to digestive problems with regular flour and options have typically been limited if you wanted to eat out.

More and more businesses are offering gluten-free items on their menus these days.

According to the University of Chicago, celiac disease affects about one percent of the US population.

But new research suggests it may be as much as two percent. That means between three and five million Americans have trouble digesting food with regular flour. This weekend, a gluten-free expo is going on in Lombard. Meanwhile, plenty of gluten-free options are now available in our area.

Luciano Libreri makes the dough for his homemade lasagna just about every day. But this is no ordinary dough. Unlike nearly every Italian restaurant in Chicago, his version doesn't contain gluten, but rather, a mixture of other flours. Ever since he opened Da Luciano's in River Grove six years ago, he's offered a large selection of gluten-free items, primarily because several of his children are gluten-intolerant.

"Some of the mixtures are like tapioca flour, potato flour, corn flour - and just the mixture to what comes out the best for the actual product that we're making," said Ignazio Libreri, part of the family that owns the restaurant.

From the flour that the chicken parmigiana must be dredged in, to the delicate lady fingers, sandwiched between mascarpone and cream in their tiramisu, the family has successfully removed gluten from most of their menu. Even bread - that Italian icon - is made without regular flour.

And bread, it seems, is the biggest hurdle for celiacs. But at places like Rose's Wheat Free Bakery in Evanston, the entire business is built around gluten free items, and selections seem almost endless.

"We are starting to do a wholesale business to other restaurants, especially to folks who are vegan or who are catering to the gluten free populations," said Rosemarie O'Carroll, one of the owners.

In Hyde Park, The Sit Down Cafe & Sushi Bar has also expanded its gluten-free options. The bread is all from Rose's in Evanston, but the soup bases are made here, as is the pizza dough. Celiacs can also enjoy dipping their homemade sushi into tamari, as opposed to soy sauce.

And the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center is holding a big fundraiser next Friday night at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers downtown, to continue their efforts at screening and diagnosis.

The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo
The Westin Lombard
70 Yorktown Center
Lombard, Illinois 60148
April 14th & 15th -- 10:00 am - 4:00 pm Daily

Univ. of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center Fundraiser:
April 20th
Sheraton Hotel & Towers

Restaurants with gluten free options:

The Sit Down Cafe & Sushi Bar
1312 E. 53rd St.

Da Luciano
8343 W. Grand Ave., River Grove

Rose's Wheat Free Bakery and Cafe
2901 Central St., Evanston

Golden Chef
600 S. Milwaukee Ave. Wheeling

Sweet Ali's Gluten Free Bakery
13 W. 1st St., Hinsdale

2652 N. Halsted St.

Convito Café
1515 Sheridan Rd., Wilmette

OMG It's Gluten Free
19810 S. Harlem Ave., Frankfort
(815) 469-4900

11255 W. 143rd St., Orland Park

P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Locations in Chicago:

530 N. Wabash Ave.

2361 Fountain Square Dr., Lombard

14135 LaGrange Rd., Orland Park

1819 Lake Cook Rd. Northbrook

5 Woodfield Mall Space D313