Friday, September 4, 2009

Niccolini's - Courtenay Place, Wellington

We often ate at Niccolini's before I went gluten-free. I simply assumed that, being an Italian restaurant I'd be out of luck for eating there gluten-free. I did read somewhere that they did gluten-free dishes, and again assumed that this would be the non-pasta dishes like steak or fish - as the only two vegetarian dishes they offer are pasta.

Then, I read somewhere, that Niccolinis offer gluten-free pasta! But don't expect to just turn up and have it, like I did! If you wish to come for gluten-free pasta, order it the day before.

They do have other gluten-free offerings on the menu. When I mentioned that I was also vegetarian, the waiter went to see what the chef could do, and came back offering a mushroom risotto. They do a risotto special, but that wouldn't usually be vegetarian.

Neil ordered garlic bread, and remembered when it arrived that it was four pieces, usually plenty even shared between two. That's one thing I miss, their crispy buttery garlic bread. Oh well! I lived! And Neil managed to eat it all!

The risotto was good, tasty, but very creamy. Creamy as in with lots of cream. I don't really do well with creamy things, especially creamy pasta or risotto. I really struggled, especially near the end. In fact, I didn't finish it - by the end I was picking out the mushroom and trying to get the 'dryest' bits of rice out. While we had considered going out to a show afterwards, I just wanted to go home, my belly was quite sore. In fact, I almost think that the creamy risotto was worse for my stomach than glutenous pasta would have been (since I'm starting to think gluten is not the problem, rather, either stress, IBS, or some other mystery ingredient). But - they were accommodating for my requirements and I appreciated that.

Personally, I think putting cream in risotto is sort of cheating. Risotto is plenty creamy even without dairy if you make it well. The addition of a bit of parmesan if desired is fine to hold it all together, but cream is so unnecessary and to me lowers the quality of the meal! It must be a matter of taste, and since I don't have much dairy at all... it wasn't to mine.

But, I do like Nicollinis. Their menu is a mess, but the place has a nice feel, a painting (or print) of Vernazza (Cinque Terre) on the wall (which makes me feel cultured for having been to Cinque Terre!), and their food is generally pretty good. They're often packed, though. I would like to go there for gluten-free pasta one night! I know my option will be pasta puttanesca, but that's okay with me!

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