Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bertucci’s joins GFRAP! (but beware- they are obviously still learning the GF ropes)

I was excited to try out the new Gluten-Free Menu at Bertucci’s now that they’ve joined the Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP) , but unfortunately this visit was very disappointing. It took over 5 minutes for our server to come over to take our drink order (on a very slow night), and then when I placed my order (GF Balsamic Chx) the chicken came out VERY burnt on the bottom, that I had to cut the bottom part off to eat it. This is not the part that worries me, although it added to my annoyance by the time this next part happened.

My meal came out with asparagus, not green beans as the menu stated. So when I inquired to the waiter, he said that they were out of green beans. So I asked for another GF vegetable instead, which he offered broccoli. When the broccoli came out, I ate a piece, and it tasted and smelled like pasta, so I called the waiter back over, and asked how the broccoli was prepared- if it was steamed or cooked in a water that is also used to cook pasta in. When he told me that it is cooked in pasta water I was extremely upset- because of course that makes the broccoli NO LONGER GLUTEN-FREE! I immediately asked to speak to a manager. When the manager came over, he was hardly apologetic and said "this GF is new to us", not even a "I am sorry that you will become ill from this". I hardly complain at restaurants, and this time was mainly doing so to help EDUCATE the staff about how to properly prepare gluten-free meals- and I do love the fact that Bertucci’s, a chain restaurant, is working with GFRAP and is now offering a GF menu, but felt I had to comment on the lack of response to this from the staff. I have gotten "mistakes" before, but the wait staff/managers ALWAYS are extremely apologetic and try to rectify it immediately, which did not happen at the Westbury Bertucci’s location. (Even when I mentioned that I write a LI blog about GF, as well as am a board member with Suffolk Celiacs!) When leaving the manager said "we'll get it right"- I sure hope so, so that others don't get extremely sick as well. Cross contamination issues with how food is prepared Gluten-Free is JUST as important as the ingredients in each of the items! I do intent do go back to Bertucci's and try it again, but next time will be much more cautious in ordering.

What is worrisome is that even though they are now a member of GFRAP, it appears that they are not fully trained. My main concern was their lack of concern... like when I go to a plcace like Outback, and the rare chance that something goes awry, the manager is there quickly to apologize, make corrections, and offer free dessert. (not that I was looking for a free dessert- ha ha- but he didn't even offer AND left the contaminated broccoli on the table when he walked away!)... then the best part... when the waiter came back, he said "are you still working on those, or do you want me to wrap them?"... DUH!!! did you not just hear what I spoke to you AND your manager about?!

ps- the dessert I did order, the Bomba which is "Vanilla and chocolate gelato wrapped in chocolate with almonds and a red heart of maraschino cherry. Served open with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate sauce"- was the best part of the meal.

1/27/10 UPDATE: I went back last week, and had a GOOD experience! The manager there said they have learned a lot and are making sure to prepare the foods safely GF! I was very excited to see that they are taking this seriously and are making sure to correct any errors that have been made. The more we dine at Bertuccis, the better they will become at knowing how to prepare GF foods, so make sure to visit them and continue to help "train" them. I am very greatful for another big chain to offer us a place to eat! (My husband is thrilled as well!) ;)


Ann Parry NY said...

Though only time will tell if Bertucci's Westbury management is interested in serving gluten-free menus that are actually gluten-free, this is a great cautionary tale that reminds us that we need to ask questions about preparation and ingredients if anything about our food seems suspicious.

Monica said...

Thank you for being the guinea pig! The idea of chain restaurants trying to offer GF is a little scary (especially Italian pasta-and-bread places), but our local LI Outbacks have proven that it can be done.

I can't thank you enough for keeping us all in the loop about the newest GF places to eat, and those that don't quite get it right yet. I'm just sorry that you got sick in the process - I keep dreaming about a time when that won't happen anymore!

Anonymous said...

At GFRAP we always appreciate knowing when their are problems as well as positive comments. We are already addressing this issue with the restarant. Thank you for your review. We hope that soon you will be able to publish a positive review. As you know training is critical and an ongoing process.
C Kupper, RD
Exec Director GIG and GFRAP

Bertucci's said...

We sincerely apologize for your experience. Bertucci's is committed to providing a safe Gluten Free menu and an educated staff to serve you. Just to clarify, our vegetables are not cooked in pasta water and we apologize for the misinformation you were given. Since reading your comments today, we have followed up with several key operations personnel including the head of operations as well as the head of training. Rest assured that we are taking steps internally to ensure that all restaurants are sensitive to Gluten Free issues and well trained on handling all Gluten Free items. Again, we apologize for this encounter and invite you back at your convenience as our honored guest.

David Lloyd
CEO Bertucci's Corporation

Debbie said...

I've eaten at Bertucci's s few times since the inception of the gf menu and have never had a problem. Knowledgeable hosts and servers. Even had a server run back and forth numerous times to double check things, which made service slower but was much appreciated. Have only eaten at Bertucci's in the MA and NH locations. Glad to see Bertucci's responded to your post. Hope you have a postitive experience on your next visit (if you try again, that is!).