It’s my party, I can cry if I want to. And when I cry, I crave exorbitant amounts of carbs. Sadly, carbs can be tough to find for us gluten-free friends. So this week, for your convenience, I took on the task of testing out different Rochester restaurants where gluten-free people can join the party.
To start out, I returned to a local favorite of mine right over in College Town: Grappa.
Grappa offers a classy atmosphere for honoring the blessing that is good pasta. Plus, they have gluten-free bread in stock for when they bring out the bread baskets, which I appreciate — it’s not nearly as common as it should be.
At Grappa, all but one of the pasta options can be prepared gluten-free, which makes for a pretty nice selection. I decided on what our waitress said was their most popular pasta: the orecchiette bolognese－ prepared dairy-free because I am a mess. The texture of the pasta was perfect. It was nicely al dente and I couldn’t tell that it was gluten-free.
The bolognese was sensational. The meat was tender and moist, and the sauce was richly seasoned and had a bright freshness. It was creamy and I loved the generous sauce-to-pasta ratio.
Although I left Grappa with high hopes for Rochester’s future gluten-free pasta options, I was doubtful that Grappa’s orecchiette bolognese could be beat.
Next up was a dish that I had ordered before and could not wait to dig into once more: The Red Fern’s baked mac ‘n’ cheese.
Much like everything else at The Red Fern, this dish is entirely vegan. The cashew cheese and “cheddar” sauce was really delicious. It was marvelously seasoned — which can sometimes be overlooked with mac ‘n’ cheese. The flavor balance with this dish was wonderful, and the vegan cashew-cheddar cheese combo could pass for real cheese, as well. I always find their brown rice pasta to have a great texture because of its structural integrity across many dishes.
I will say that I wish the cheese sauce were a little looser. While it’s very creamy, the sauce is so thick that it dries a bit, turning the dish into a clump. In comparison to how much I love this dish overall, this is a minor setback but, it factors into my final pasta party rankings.
For my third and final gluten-free pasta dish, I visited Benucci’s, a classy and comfortable modern Italian joint where everything’s made to order. This means you can request things to be prepared gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. on the spot.
I ordered the pesce diavolo, which did not disappoint in the slightest.
The white wine tomato sauce was not like you’d expect from a diavolo, but it was so delicious that I didn’t care. It was aromatic with tons of herbs, bold flavor, and an acidity from the white wine that complimented the seafood spectacularly.
Speaking of which, all of the seafood was prepared very well — the scallops, shrimp, and mussels, were all tender and delectable and served in generous portions.
The texture of the gluten-free pasta was also wonderful and not mushy or grainy, as gluten-free pastas can be. To top it all off, literally, the abundant julienned herbs garnishing this dish added the freshness, elevating this meal that much more. The overall balance of flavors in this dish is stunning.
Though all of these dishes may have been gluten-free impastas, they are the real deal. The only complaint that I had about any of these was that I wished The Red Fern’s cheese sauce was looser and more moist. Sadly, this puts that baked mac ‘n’ cheese in third place in the rankings of this pasta party, which says a lot because I’d order it yet again in a heartbeat.
And by the tiniest hair, I have to follow my heart and my happy gluten-free gut and say that Grappa’s orecchiette bolognese ever so slightly surpasses Bennucci’s pesce diavolo, putting it in first place for this first ever CT Eats gluten-free pasta party!
As much as I adored the pesce diavolo, I had a near-spiritual experience eating Grappa’s bolognese and nothing afterwards could quell the flames of this burning passion.