I love eating at Maggiano’s, but I wanted to first make sure the restaurant’s gluten-free menu didn’t contain any hidden gluten. I brought my trust Nima Sensor to help me. Read this post to see how Maggiano’s fared. This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosures.
Maggiano’s Little Italy is an American casual dining restaurant chain with 52 locations in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The food is classic Italian and almost the entire menu is served family style.
I’ve always loved Maggiano’s and have celebrated many special occasions within the restaurant’s walls.
In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I got engaged at Maggiano’s. My husband and I were 22-year-old recent college graduates and Maggiano’s was a pretty swanky place for us at the time.
I wasn’t gluten free back in 1999, so gluten wasn’t even a thought in my mind; however, after my celiac disease diagnosis in 2012, I went gluten free and wondered if I could still eat at my favorite restaurants, including Maggiano’s.
The good news is that Maggiano’s takes gluten-free diets very seriously. I have always admired the restaurant for its allergy protocols.
Of course, I decided to put the restaurant to the test with my trusty Nima Sensor in hand.
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.
I’ll share the results of my tests below, but first, here’s a bit about Maggiano’s gluten-free menu and allergy-friendly policies.
What’s on Maggiano’s Gluten-Free Menu?
Maggiano’s doesn’t have an official gluten-free menu per se. Rather, it offers many gluten-free options. You just have to talk to your server.
Your server will tell you they have gluten-free pasta, all their sauces and salad dressings are gluten free, and they can make most dishes gluten free by request, except for items such as lasagna and ravioli.
When I told my server I needed a gluten-free meal because I have celiac disease, he said the chef would come out to meet me and discuss my meal. This is standard policy at Maggiano’s and I love it!
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.
She said the spaghetti would be swapped for gluten-free penne, and the chicken would be grilled vs. breaded and fried. She told me she uses Barilla gluten-free pasta as the gluten-free pasta option.
In addition to being able to make almost everything on the menu gluten free, Maggiano’s staff provide ample 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, who took my request seriously, but also I spoke with the chef and was able to ask questions about how everything would be prepared. The chef was knowledgeable and confident, two qualities I look for in a person preparing my food!
Maggiano’s says it’s committed to creating food for everyone. It even says on its menu, “Our chefs are happy to accommodate your allergies, dietary needs and preferences.” This is a refreshing and reassuring message to read.
Nima Sensor Test Results
While I felt well cared for at Maggiano’s, this didn’t translate to a fully safe, gluten-free experience, and, unfortunately, both dishes I ordered came out with a “Gluten Found” message on the Nima Sensor.
When I showed the results to my server, he was visibly shocked and immediately offered to make me something new.
First, however, he wanted to bring out the chef to address my concerns.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free ebook
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. 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.
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.
Here’s the Best Part
Rather than throw his hands up in the air, the chef continued to apologize 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 business 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.
You can watch me test the dishes with my Nima Sensor in this video:
Lessons from Maggiano’s
I learned some valuable lessons from my experience testing Maggiano’s gluten-free menu.
First, I learned that you must test your food 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.
Second, I learned that great customer service, like the service at Maggiano’s, can make what could have been a bitter experience a positive experience instead.
Beyond that, the restaurant’s chef assured me he would be investigating this further and that they were going to figure out what happened and make some changes.
I hope I’m 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.
I definitely plan on going back and giving it another try. I left feeling like Maggiano’s chef really wants to make this better, and I do believe he will.
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?