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Great Neck: Gluten-free Italian

Gluten-free pasta at Cafe Rustica in Great Neck

Gluten-free pasta at Cafe Rustica in Great Neck Photo Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Well, shut my mouth. If I hadn’t known that the pasta pictured here was gluten-free (not to mention made from corn!), I never would have guessed. It was al dente, with good elasticity and no funny aftertaste, very fine fusilli indeed.

I was at Café Rustica in Great Neck, sampling some of the gluten-free items on the menu. Jeffrey Phillips opened the restaurant in 1993 and, over the years, more and more customers started asking for gluten-free menu items. This summer, he launched a gluten-free program and now, any menu item can be prepared gluten free. The restaurant makes its own gluten-free pizza (very respectable) and uses bread from the same dough to make breadsticks as well as the breadcrumbs that grace the gluten-free Parmigianas and Franceses. The restaurant makes its own gluten-free desserts.

But the pasta was really the star of my lunch. Phillips told me that he started off using rice pasta but found that it had a very narrow window during which it was perfectly cooked. Less temperamental were a corn-and-quinoa pasta made by Ancient Harvest and a corn-only pasta by Le Veneziane. I tried the Ancient Harvest linguine in a marinara sauce and found it had a good texture but a slightly weird quinoa-induced flavor.

The corn-only pasta, on the other hand, was indistinguishable from “regular” pasta, and good regular pasta at that. Le Veneziane is imported from Italy and you can buy it for yourself at Uncle Giuseppe’s in Smithtown, Port Washington and East Meadow.

Café Rustica is at 200 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck, 516-829-6464.

Newsday photo / Erica Marcus


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