Amazingly Easy Food Allergy Dining Experience in NYC!
AllergyEats’ Marketing Manager, Jesse Pezzullo, whose daughter has a dairy allergy, is the author of today’s blog.
Bistango uses “an easy-to-modify” approach to its menu, lending itself well to accommodating food allergies.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with the Head Chef, Humberto Corona, at Bistango at the Kimberly Hotel in New York City.
Researching a Trip to NYC with Food Allergies
After looking at ratings and comments on AllergyEats for New York City restaurants before my trip, I checked out a few menus online and decided to dine out at Bistango at the Kimberly Hotel. Bistango’s sister restaurant (and the first Bistango location) is the one of the highest-rated restaurants in New York City on AllergyEats (with a 4.6 out of 5 overall allergy-friendliness rating, just behind top-rated Blue Smoke with a 4.80 rating). While the Kimberly Hotel location only had one rating, it was quite high and in my desired location in the city, so I decided that the two locations must be fairly comparable. After speaking with the manager at the Kimberly Hotel location about a visit with a dairy-allergic child, I was reassured that our food allergy needs would be accommodated by Bistango.
Bistango’s Food Allergy Kitchen Protocol
The restaurant is relatively small, and Chef Corona said that he is there every night and handles all food allergy orders personally from start to finish. During the lunch period, his Sous Chef is on duty and handles food allergy orders in the same manner. When a food allergy order comes into the kitchen, the wait staff relays the allergy to Corona or the Sous Chef. If a customer prefers, the chefs are happy to come out and talk with diners directly about their dietary restrictions. That said, Corona is confident in the wait staff because he trains all new hires on the kitchen’s food allergy process. Corona said that he really “just wants to make customers feel as comfortable as possible.” After reviewing an individual’s food allergies and menu options, Corona gets fresh utensils and pans and wipes down any surface areas where he will be preparing the dish. Corona did point out that there is only one fryer, and while only gluten-free items go in the fryer, there could be cross-contamination concerns for other allergies (dairy, soy, egg, etc.)
Gluten-free and More
Bistango has a reputation as being one of the best restaurants for the gluten-free community (scoring a perfect 5.0 on AllergyEats from the gluten-free community to date!). I asked Chef Corona about this reputation – was the concept intentional or did this evolve based on feedback from diners – and how food allergies fit into the concept. Corona said that he had worked in many kitchens over the years, and when they were opening up this location two and a half years ago, he felt it was important to consider the gluten-free community and treat the menu as a gluten-free concept as he had not yet seen this in a restaurant.
Unlike other restaurants where there are often 2 menus (main menu and gluten-free, and on occasion, an allergy-menu), Bistango offers one menu that they will happily review with you and point out customizable dishes, based on your preferences.
In fact, many items are already gluten-free, just by virtue of how they are made. Given this approach, Chef Humberto told me that it was very easy to add things in and take things out, as most dishes are made-to-order. By way of example, my daughter liked the spaghetti offered with the lobster and shrimp pasta dish, but really wanted the sausage that was being offered with cavatelli pasta. She also did not want the kale from the sausage dish, and couldn’t have the accompanying cheese, so the waiter just asked her to tell him EXACTLY what she did want to eat. Even better, the entire conversation was casual, yet confidently managed, so we felt very comfortable speaking with the waiter. It really was a pleasant, welcoming experience – one of the best we have had as a food allergy family!
Food Allergies and Bistango’s Menu
Corona estimates that 40% to 50% of daily diners are gluten-free, but that they also serve a variety of food allergies, most notably nut, egg and dairy. To accommodate these needs, Corona stocks dried pasta that is egg-free, but also creates two types of pasta in house (both contain eggs): a gluten-free pasta and a traditional, wheat-based pasta.
For those that are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, he noted that only two menu items contain nuts, making it easy to keep the nut-containing items away from other foods. One pesto contains hazelnuts and the other is made with pine nuts. Bistango also offers a nut-free pesto that is simply made from olive oil and fresh herbs.
While most desserts were gluten-free and nut-free, there were not any that were dairy-or-egg-free. Corona is currently exploring the idea of offering sorbet as an option to accommodate more allergies.
One Final Tip!
As an aside, we realize those in our community are often looking for hotels with the option to dine-in, even if just for breakfast. According to the hotel website, most rooms include a small fridge, microwave, and sink – an allergy-friendly restaurant on site AND a room with fridge for “safe” treats from home is a perfect scenario for food allergy families!
As always, we welcome questions and comments on all of our blogs. If you have dined out at Bistango – or anywhere else for that matter – please add your own rating on AllergyEats to share your experiences with our entire community.