This post about testing Maggiano’s gluten-free menu for hidden gluten is sponsored by Nima Sensor and contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosures.
I have loved Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant for so long, eating there often and celebrating many happy occasions within the walls of that restaurant.
Maggiano’s is an American casual dining restaurant chain with 52 locations throughout 22 states and the District of Columbia. The food is classic Italian and almost the entire menu is served family style.
I feel a special personal connection to Maggiano’s. It was founded in 1991 in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, and I lived in Chicago from 1999-2007. We’d go there when we wanted to be fancy.
I got engaged to my husband the summer after I graduated from college. Guess where he proposed? Yep, over dinner at Maggiano’s! It’s embarressing to admit this now, but back in 1999, when we were 22 year-old unemployed college graduates and low on cash, Maggiano’s was a pretty swanky place to get engaged. Plus, over-the-top proposals were not a thing like they are today. 😊
I wasn’t gluten-free back then, but since implementing a gluten-free diet due to a celiac disease diagnosis, I learned that I can still get a gluten-free meal at Maggiano’s.
I usually feel okay after eating gluten-free at Maggiano’s, but on occasion I have experienced some indigestion. I’ve always wondered if hidden gluten could be lurking in the pasta or sauce. I’ve never tested it for gluten before … until now.
I decided to take my trusty Nima Sensor to Maggiano’s to test the restaurant’s gluten-free menu for hidden gluten. You will not believe what I found…
What’s a Nima Sensor?
Before I share the results of my hidden gluten tests with you, I’d like to first share a bit more about the Nima Sensor.
A Nima Sensor is a portable gluten detecting device that tests a piece of your food for gluten. You put a small portion of your food inside the single-use test capsule and in about two minutes, you’ll find out if the dish contains gluten or not.
Related Reading: Nima Sensor Testing the Gluten-Free Menu at Cheesecake Factory
Exploring Maggiano’s Gluten-Free Menu
The Maggiano’s gluten-free menu isn’t a gluten-free menu per se; rather, when you ask the hostess for a gluten-free menu at the restaurant, he or she will tell you they have gluten-free pasta, all their sauces and salad dresses are gluten-free, and they can make most dishes gluten-free by request (except for things like lasagna and ravioli). They just don’t have a gluten-free menu to show you.
When I told my server I needed a gluten-free meal, he said he would bring the chef out to meet with me.
I explained to the chef that I was serious about eating gluten-free and that I’d be testing my food for hidden gluten. The chef was confident I’d get a gluten-free meal, and she said the two dishes I wanted to order, the Chicken Picatta and the Mediterranean Spaghetti, could both be made gluten-free. The spaghetti would be swapped for gluten-free penne, and the chicken would be grilled vs. breaded and fried. Sounded good to me!
I learned that Maggiano’s uses Barilla gluten-free pasta, so I know it’s gluten-free and good.
In addition to being able to make almost everything on the menu gluten-free, Maggiano’s staff gave me a ton of assurance that they would take my food allergy seriously. I experienced truly amazing service at the restaurant. Not only did I speak with the server, but also I spoke with the chef and was able to ask questions about how everything was cooked. The chef was knowledgeable and confident, my two favorite qualities in a person preparing my food!
Maggiano’s is committed to creating food for everyone. It even says on its menu, “Our chefs are happy to accommodate your allergies, dietary needs and preferences.” They are HAPPY to accommodate me – wow!
Now for the Nima Sensor Test
While I felt well cared for at Maggiano’s, it didn’t mean the food came out gluten-free. In fact, both dishes I ordered came back with the “Gluten Found” message when put to the Nima Sensor test. Ug!
When I showed the results to my server, he was shocked and immediately offered to make me something new. First, however, he wanted to bring out the chef for a chat.
Before I knew it, the executive sous chef was standing at my table. He could not have been nicer and more concerned about me, yet he was stumped as to what went awry.
After a long discussion, he offered to personally make my dishes with fresh ingredients. I agreed to give it another shot.
On the second try, the Mediterranean pasta came back free from gluten. Woohoo! He said he used fresh ingredients, and that seems to have done the trick because Nima was all smiles.
However, the second test of the chicken piccata came back with the same “Gluten Found” message. Bummer.
The chef was still stumped and concerned to why this kept happening. We discussed all the ingredients and everything was either naturally gluten-free or labeled gluten-free. He told me he cooked the chicken on the grill, which is ONLY used for gluten-free items (no gluten is on the grill, he says).
I tested the chicken piccata a third time, just to make sure the Nima Sensor didn’t make an error, and it still came back with a “Gluten Found” message again. Bummer.
But Here’s the Best Part
Rather than throw his hands up in the air, the chef continued to apologize to me and still offered to make me something new (I declined). He said he would be doing more research to see what might have went awry. I gave him my card and said I’d come back anytime to do a re-test. He gave me his card too.
On top of it all, my server didn’t charge me for anything! I felt horrible because they went out of their way to make me a safe meal. They made me feel so special. I’m really bummed things turned out this way, but I’m forever grateful to the Nima Sensor for saving me from eating gluten.
Related Reading: What’s Gluten-Free at the Olive Garden
You can watch me test the dishes with my Nima Sensor live on Facebook in this video:
Get a Nima Sensor
I learned some valuable lessons from this test of Maggiano’s gluten-free menu. I learned that you MUST test every time you eat at a restaurant. Just because one time one dish is fine doesn’t mean it will be fine the next time you go back.
I also learned that great customer service, like the service at Maggiano’s, can make what could have been a bitter experience a positive experience instead.
The restaurant’s chef assured me he would be investigating this further (he said he’d never seen a Nima Sensor before), and that they were going to figure out what happened and make some changes.
I hope I am helping make this world better for the next gluten-free diner, paving the way for better dining out experiences for all. I had an amazing experience eating gluten-free at Maggiano’s even if I couldn’t eat everything I wanted.
Are you surprised by the results of my Nima Sensor tests of Maggiano’s gluten-free menu? What have your experiences eating gluten-free at Maggiano’s been like?