Refuting concerns about Bertucci’s
Never doubt that the AllergyEats community is a great one! Whether rating dining experiences on our core website or sharing experiences on our Facebook page, our community is truly one of compassionate people coming together to help one another address a common cause. As part of that, I often receive private emails or messages alerting me to concerning restaurant practices (which I strongly encourage). Often, these are specific to an individual restaurant and really belong in the comments section of an AllergyEats rating. Every now and then, however, the concern seems more significant, particularly if it involves a change in practices for an entire chain of restaurants. These concerns don’t always prove accurate, of course, but they’re worth a few phone calls.
Such was the case recently with a favorite of mine, Bertucci’s Brick Oven Pizzeria. (They are apparently a favorite of many of you too, as they sport an excellent AllergyEats allergy-friendliness rating of 4.3 out of 5!) Months ago, I received two separate messages from concerned members of the AllergyEats community, each sharing a fear of new potential cross-contamination possibilities. Given the details of the two scenarios, I clearly saw the cause for concern and decided to follow-up with Bertucci’s.
In the first email, I was alerted to the introduction of a Chocolate Hazelnut Crostata on the dessert menu of Bertucci’s. Given that this item is prepared in the same brick oven as all the pizzas and many other dishes, the concern was that those with a peanut allergy would suddenly have to sacrifice so many of their favorite foods at Bertucci’s… or sacrifice dining at Bertucci’s altogether.
In the second message, I was warned of the cross-contamination effects from the addition of whole wheat pasta to the Bertucci’s menu. The writer informed me that Bertucci’s uses a single pot for all their pasta and, given that whole wheat pasta is actually a combination of whole wheat and various legume flours, all Bertucci’s pasta would now not be safe for those with a peanut allergy (peanut, of course, being a legume). I must admit that I was confused by the connection between whole wheat, legumes, and peanut allergies – particularly since my peanut allergic sons consume whole wheat all the time – but one can’t be too careful, so I decided to check that out too.
To look into these concerns, I went directly to the source – Bertucci’s. Actually, it was my talented associate, Sharon, who called the managers at four geographically dispersed Bertucci’s. She made each call at roughly 11AM in order to have as much of their attention as possible. The answers to Sharon’s questions were consistent across the four respondents.
So, can those with a peanut allergy still comfortably dine at Bertucci’s??? The answer, in my opinion, is yes. While proper precautions always need to be heeded, I don’t believe that your comfort level in dining at Bertucci’s should be any different than before. Here’s why.
Regarding issue #1 – the Chocolate Hazelnut Crostata issue – each manager stated that the dessert was prepared in a separate part of the kitchen, then cooked on a small pie tray or pan, thus never coming into direct contact with the ovens and not leaving any residue that could cause a cross-contamination problem.
Regarding issue #2 – the whole wheat pasta issue – none of the managers disputed that the whole wheat pasta and the regular pasta are cooked in shared equipment and water, but one said that the whole wheat pasta is the LAST batch they prepare in the morning (thus it can’t contaminate the regular pasta) and the others said that they could boil new water and cook the pasta in a separate pot if requested. The whole issue may be moot however. In my research about the connection between whole wheat and peanut allergies, just about everything I found suggested that those with a peanut allergy do not need to avoid other legumes (unless they have a SEPARATE allergy to other legumes as well as peanut). I think the answer was best explained in the Food Allergies section of About.com. If you click here, you will see a Q&A titled “I Have a Peanut Allergy. Do I Need to Avoid Legumes Like Soy, Beans and Peas?” Rather than reprint the whole story here, I would encourage you to read it yourself if you have concerns, or ask your doctor. The conclusion of the article again being that peanut allergies are generally specific to peanuts only and not other legumes.
So with these concerns refuted, I invite the legions of food-allergic Bertucci’s fans to continue enjoying the mighty brick oven once again.
Have you dined at Bertucci’s? How have you found their attentiveness to your food allergies? Do the practices addressed here concern you? Do the responses satisfy you? Please share your thoughts and opinions by click on Comments or Reply below.
And as always, please continue to rate all your restaurant experiences on the core AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com) or on our new AllergyEats mobile app for iPhone and Android. Each new rating you add makes AllergyEats a more powerful tool to help all of us in the food allergy and intolerance community. Please share AllergyEats with your food allergic friends and support groups as well.