Monday, October 29, 2012

The BEST Gluten Free Meal–and a Surprise!

This past Saturday I had the absolute pleasure of helping quite possibly the sweetest Mom and Dad surprise their equally sweet daughter, Thierry, for her birthday.

Thierry and her Mom read the blog and so her Mom asked if I could join them for supper in Raleigh as a surprise to Thierry. I said absolutely and that I knew EXACTLY where we should go!

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Bella Monica Cucina Vino in Raleigh

You may recognize Bella Monica from their yummy Gluten Free Frozen Pizzas, but you may not have realized that they actually have a restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I hadn’t had the pleasure of eating there yet, but I knew a few other bloggers who had dined there and loved it. I thought it would be the perfect spot for a fellow gluten free-er to celebrate her birthday.

So Thierry’s Mom Bonnie and her Dad Thom:

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photo credit: Bonnie Mabry

and Thierry and I:

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photo credit: Bonnie Mabry

let our extremely knowledgeable server guide us through the BEST dining experience I have had – EVER – hands down.

They started by differentiating the gluten free diners, Bonnie, Thierry, and me, with different colored appetizer plates. Thom had white but the three ladies had salmon plates, making it very easy for any server who came to our table to know that we were gluten free.

The table ordered a few appetizers and we started with a fresh bruschetta:

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Amazing. Perfectly ripened tomatoes with fresh seasonings served on hearty gluten free focaccia that would knock your pants off.

Speaking of that focaccia…

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it WILL knock your pants off. Remember Pizza Hut deep dish pizza? This has that same flavor BUT ten times better. It’s baked fresh, so it’s warm and soft but the edges are crisp and buttery.

Seriously. I could have eaten all four of those slabs BUT by the time I made it halfway through, our next appetizer arrived!

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Eggplant Rollitini

This could have been my meal. Thinly sliced eggplant in an eggwash and light batter baked crisp and stuffed with an assortment of Italian cheeses. Topped with fresh mozzarella and the Bella Monica “gravy” (which is the most amazing tomato sauce ever!!) served with fresh basil.

Ummm…

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words fail me. The eggplant was so thin and crispy, you would have had no idea it was eggplant and the cheese inside was salty, creamy, and CHEEEESY. And the “gravy”…yeah, you’re going to want to lick the plate. And honestly, if you do, I won’t judge you. Promise.

After the parade of delicious appetizers I was stuffed. Which is ironic because so was my entrée:

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you like what I did there? Stuffed and Stuffed?! Food puns Winking smile

Back to the pasta.

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Like every other dish we enjoyed, we all agreed that you would NEVER know that these shells were gluten free!! And that gravy. Again, I wouldn’t judge you if you licked your plate.

I had plenty left over for lunch on Sunday and it was even better the next day. I LOVE good left overs.

In addition to the food, I was so impressed by how attentive and kind the wait staff were. At most restaurants I feel like a bother. At Bella Monica, I felt like one of the family.

Best. Restaurant. Ever.

I had such a great time getting to know Thierry and her family.

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I love getting to make new gluten free friends!! Especially when they’re quite possibly the sweetest family in the world!

Thank you Mabrys for letting me share in your Birthday Supper

and

Thank you SO MUCH to Bella Monica for such an incredible dining experience. I can’t wait to dine there again soon! Seriously. I’m already planning my next meal there…I’ll start with a few pieces of the focaccia.