The Problem With Postino’s New “Gluten-Free” Bruschetta

Step 1: Receive an email from one of my previous favorite restaurants about gluten-free bruschetta.

This restaurant was my jam – I went here for everything: dates, birthdays, happy hour, etc. The waiters used to know me. I used to get their bruschetta more than any other item at restaurants. And then I caught celiac (my gene actually turned on after one fateful night at this very restaurant). Needless to say, this restaurant holds a special place in my heart. If they had something I could eat, I’d be so excited. However, years ago I was informed by a server that their kitchen was far too small to accommodate someone with celiac disease and that I shouldn’t even order a salad because there was bread everywhere. Sure enough, when I opened up my wine menu, crumbs fell out. I shit you not. I haven’t gone back and – le sigh. Oh well, there are plenty of bread-focused restaurant I can’t eat at. Until now. Or should I say…until now?

Postino's "gluten free" bread

Step 2: Receive a handful of emails from friends alerting me about bruschetta.

Because this cafe is so popular in our area (yes, I miss it dearly and my friends know it), I received two emails alerting me of the new bread. Apparently they think because I can’t eat at my old favorite restaurant, I unsubscribed from their emails. Nope, I’m a masochist apparently. I still get their birthday emails – even though I haven’t had my birthday there for years. It pains me to have to email back and tell them that I’m still investigating how this bread is prepared, but I doubt I’ll be able to gather here with friends for happy hour again unfortunately.

Step 3: Reach out to Postino via social media and email to ask how gluten-free their gluten-free bruschetta really is. OYE. I asked about 1) how they toast/prepare 2) if separate pre 3) if separate ingredients used 4) if the bruschetta is placed on a wooden board used for both gluten-free and gluten-free bread.

Step 4: Disappointment.

#1: EMAIL TO ME FROM PR TEAM

Thanks for reaching out to us!  We always love hearing from our guests. In regards to the questions you asked: yes, all of our bruschetta is prepared in the same kitchen and uses the same equipment (for both regular and gluten free breads).  We are of course always happy to put our gluten free bruschetta on a ceramic plate upon request – but it is still produced in the same kitchen.  We do take health concerns seriously, and if the gluten allergy is severe, it is probably best for that individual to not partake in these food items.
Have a great day!

#2: EMAIL TO THEM

I’m disappointed to hear that. With “gluten free” being a trend, it hurts those who really need to eat gluten-free safely from false advertisements like this. I would make sure that your team knows to put asterisks or footnotes that although the bread might be gluten-free the kitchen and preparation is not gluten-free and therefore not safe for anyone with a true issue to gluten. Those newbies to celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are tricked by those words and may not ask how it’s prepared, assuming it’s safe. For liability purposes, you might want to inform the servers that as well. If you’re going to claim gluten-free, it should fit the FDA’s less than 20 ppm requirement, and therefore should be prepared as safely as possible, on separate equipment with separate ingredients and not served on any porous surfaces. I’m more than happy to talk to your team about it, but labeling something GF without it being safe for those that need gluten-free food can be a very fine line in food service. Please let me know how you plan on approaching this in your restaurant.

#3: THEN THIS HAPPENED. I received a PR/marketing outreach on Celiac and the Beast. I’m assuming they just googled Celiac or Gluten-Free Arizona or Phoenix to find me. Boy, they should have been prepared emailing a gluten-free blogger about an item they didn’t know how to prepare properly.

Hi,The best thing since sliced bread- gluten free bruschetta!  Postino, Phoenix’s original WineCafe, is now offering gluten free bruschetta for all of its bruschetta options.  Postino worked in partnership with a local Phoenix bakery to create their own gluten free loaves of bread.  Available at all three Postino locations, the gluten free bruschetta will feature the same delicious taste and flavors that keep customers coming back.  Postino features 12 varieties of bruschetta including brie and apples with fig spread, white bean with tomato, and salami with pesto.The Valley’s original local WineCafe, Postino began 10 years ago with a dream and some homegrown determination. Postino features unique, approachable wines; simple, delicious food prepared with local ingredients; and a warm, friendly culture that brings everyone together.  Today, Postino continues this tradition with three unique locations, each set in historically relevant buildings integral to the neighborhoods that surround.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

#4) EMAIL TO THE MARKETING FIRM

I’m actually in the process of writing a blog post about it now. However, it is NOT positive. Here’s the information that I sent and received from Upward Projects. If you have any different information or additional information before I write my blog post warning celiacs and gluten-free medical diets to not eat at Postino’s, please let me know. (attach prior emails)

#5) EMAIL FROM ORIGINAL PR FIRM (see #1)

Thank you for your thorough response. As you are probably aware, our kitchens are very small for the volume that we do and we are simply unable to dedicate specific areas/tools to 100% Gluten Free production. We do feel that offering the Gluten Free bread as an option (it is made in a Gluten Free facility) to the best of our abilities is the best we can do at this point. We SO appreciate your point and will make sure to notate that while the bread is gluten free, our facility is not. We can see how this would be important to know to people who have Celiac’s Disease.

#6 RECEIVE SIMILAR REPLIES VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

Postino WineCafe wrote: “As you are probably aware, our kitchens are very small for the volume that we do and we are simply unable to dedicate specific areas/tools to 100% Gluten Free production. We do feel that offering the Gluten Free bread as an option (it is made in a Gluten Free facility) to the best of our abilities is the best we can do at this point. And in order to avoid any cross contamination we are not serving the bruschetta’s on the same boards. We SO appreciate your point and will make sure to notate that while the bread is gluten free, our facility is not. We can see how this would be important to know to people who have Celiac’s Disease.”

Jesus Christ. I told them everything they had to do to make it safe for celiacs – for free. But, instead, they’re just going with the whole “our facility is not GF,” line. While I totally understand that they are just covering their asses, and I totally understand that their kitchen probably couldn’t accomodate what we would need to be safe (although honestly, you could if you wanted to), it’s still frustrating. WHY? Because it is marketing “gluten free.” But it’s prepared hap-hazard and not in the way that it should be if you’re going to call it gluten free, even if it’s the best we can do. The BEST you can do is offer it properly, talk to the chefs and servers about how to prepare it the way to keep everyone safe. So I ask you – who is this bread really for? When your old #1 can’t eat at your restaurant even though you hilariously sought me out for your PR launch – who can? While I might just cry into a glass of wine at my old favorite restaurant, I would have to go into the kitchen and walk the chef through how to prepare my food if I ever order this bruschetta.

I know I’m particularly sensitive to this restaurant because it’s one of my favorites. I just want restaurants who attempt to go gluten-free or offer gluten-free items to try harder. To make it so the people who actually need a gluten-free diet can actually eat there.

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Comments: 19

  1. Val S May 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm Reply

    DITTO! I’m tired of “Gluten Free”, me getting all excited, MY KIDS getting all excited… Then finding out all the above you listed, because they simply think its a good PR move.

  2. Lisa G May 30, 2014 at 5:26 pm Reply

    RIGHT ON! I am SOOOOO sick of trying to eat out anymore. It’s just not worth it because, at the end of the day, they don’t care. It’s MY responsibility to NOT eat their restaurants if it’s not safe for me. DUH! So like you said, why don’t they just accomodate people that need true GF foods? It’s not that hard for them to do that. The only restaurant that I have found in my area that truly treats GF as GF in their kitchen is the Spaghetti Factory. The last time I went, about a month ago, I ordered the GF meal, Mom ordered her regular and like we done a million times before, a side of the steamed broccoli with Mizithra cheese (ok, it’s mostly to make me feel better about eating pasta). The Manager came over and said I’m sorry I can’t serve that to you (they knew I was Celiac) because they do not know who handled the produce on the truck that it was delivered in and they cook the broccoli in the same pans as their “other broccoli”. I didnt’ get mad. I was HAPPY this person took the time to keep my best interest in mind. I “heart” OSF. And I know what it’s like to not be able to go to a favorite restaurant anymore. Boo on them….. Thanks for your blog and FB site :)

  3. Anne May 30, 2014 at 5:27 pm Reply

    This reminds me of Iron Cactus GF menu. This is a chain in many cities, and known for their GF menu…… But they call it a Gluten Free-ish menu. Nobody but me seems to notice or care. I will not eat there or recommend it to our GF guests.

  4. Adelaide May 30, 2014 at 5:36 pm Reply

    Well said! If I was you I would be reporting them to the correct government department. This is an all too familiar situation for coeliacs

  5. Wendy T May 30, 2014 at 5:38 pm Reply

    I made the same FREE offer with Johnny Fox’s public house and was passed off and given excuses until I gave up. Last time I was there they had opted for no gluten free options.
    How lazy!

  6. Heather H. May 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm Reply

    That’s how I felt about Domino’s and their “gluten free” pizza. After getting so sick from it {yes, dumb I know}, I went in there and had them show me how they prepared it since they gave me the old standard of how they do everything separate over the phone when I originally ordered it. The girl in the place walked me through it, and there was no mention of “separate utensils, and separate pizza boards” like they told me over the phone. They literally have a pizza making station the size of my computer table that they make all of the pizza’s on, and they told me over the phone that they had a “separate station for making the gluten free pizza’s”… It’s just shady and douchy in the biggest way so I just watch my family eat pizza on pizza night while I gnosh on some leftovers from the fridge… Sad, but better than getting myself sick. But I still hold a grudge ;-)

  7. Amanda Morrow May 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm Reply

    It should be considered false advertising and eligible for fines… this isn’t some fad (ok, stupidly it is turning into one that shouldn’t be) it is a serious condition. It needs to be federally regulated and have kitchens that aren’t meeting those regulations shut down until they do or they remove the Gluten Free label from contaminated foods.

  8. KC @ G-Free Foodie May 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm Reply

    Do we also get to tell them that “Celiac’s” and “bruschetta’s” do not have an apostrophe or a “s”? Or is that going too far?
    WTH. SMH.

  9. DCSuzyJ May 31, 2014 at 4:14 am Reply

    This is the so-called GF Domino’s pizza all over again. None of it is safe for celiacs. Which means, for me at least, why bother?

  10. Lizz May 31, 2014 at 4:19 am Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more! While the gluten free “craze” has brought celiac to the forefront, it has also proved to be dangerous in situations like this restaurant. And, sadly, they are not alone. I have had this experience numerous times and its SO frustrating! Don’t offer gluten free bread that you glutenize and screw us over with- especially, when you are making us so sick!!! It’s unacceptable!!

  11. Isabela May 31, 2014 at 5:21 am Reply

    Hi, because of it I don’t trust ANY industrial food. Eating at home is soooo much better for my healthy! But you did your best, and they are the beast.

  12. IrishHeart May 31, 2014 at 5:40 am Reply

    “So I ask you – who is this bread really for? ” That’s the million dollar question.

    Beats the shit out me. It certainly isn’t for us.

    if it makes you feel better, i tried valiantly to help a local cafe here. They have GF items on their menu and I asked what I thought were all the ‘right questions”. but, I kept getting progressive symptoms every time I ate there. Finally figured it out. The 2 toasters they have–yeah, well one is not dedicated as I “assumed”. the GF coffeecake–not separate baking supplies.The burger? made on the same grill with pancakes. I thought it was a separate pan. They did not outright lie, but they did not elaborate when I asked.
    Pissed me off royally, but I was gracious.
    I offered to come and show them the small steps they could take to make it truly GF. I gave them the GIG guidelines. I never heard from them. They still have a GF menu but I am not a customer anymore and I gave them a less-than-stellar review on FMGF

    Gluten free ingredients is not the same as gluten free preparation.

    They just do not acknowledge the CC issue and they refuse to spend the money to
    have dedicated sections, That’s fine, but don’t tell me it’s GF. All can think of is that line
    “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining”….

  13. IrishHeart May 31, 2014 at 5:47 am Reply

    Sorry about all the typos…! argh!
    I am using the hub’s tablet and my fingers just cannot push the right buttons today for some reason. LOL Need more coffee….

  14. Christine May 31, 2014 at 8:25 am Reply

    Smacking my head in disgust over their IGNORANCE!!! Hope Postinos Mgmt & staff realize that they’re misleading us to believe that it’s safe for us to eat at their establishment when realistically, it’s not. So glad Crabby Joe’s, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s, New Orleans Pizza, Boston Pizza, and other Canadian establishments have grown wise to our needs and are more than willing to accommodate. Remind me never to go near Postinos. Thanks for the warning:)

  15. Joy May 31, 2014 at 10:41 am Reply

    ugh!!!!
    I just ate at a restaurant I found on my Find Me GF APP…I was so excited to see GF spaghetti and meatballs!! I asked.. Just how gluten free are they? The waiter/ chef replied.. There is a miniscule amount of bread in the meatballs. You would never know! Great! What the heck people???!!!!!!

  16. Paula @CeliacCorner May 31, 2014 at 10:51 am Reply

    So glad you addressed this! I received the same email from PR company. I wrote back inquiring if the kitchen staff had received training in cross-contamination issues, etc. I also sent them info about NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens’ program, so in the event their kitchen was not really a GF safe zone, they might want to look into this! Haven’t heard back as yet … but now, based on your article, I know the new GF bruschetta is not gluten-free “safe for celiacs/gluten-sensitive”. Too bad.

  17. Breana May 31, 2014 at 11:39 pm Reply

    I hate trying to eat in restaurants. While I was reading this I was thinking about the new gluten free labeling law. Isn’t it supposed to go into effect in restaurants this summer? t will make this gluten free-ish menu issue a problem as restaurants will have to be accountable.

  18. Molly (Based on a Sprue Story) June 1, 2014 at 12:07 pm Reply

    Perhaps all of this stuff will one day be labeled “low-FODMAP” or “FODMAP-friendly,” because that’s probably who is really benefiting from this. People on a low-FODMAP diet don’t have to worry about small amounts of cross contamination and can usually even eat a breadcrumb or flour coating without issues. That said, lots of brands of gluten-free bread are not all that FODMAP-friendly because they contain soy, bean flours, or high-FODMAP sweeteners. So, statistically speaking, the bread is still probably for no one. No one, that is, who actually needs it.

  19. Jen June 28, 2014 at 11:22 am Reply

    I wonder if the restaurants going GF-ish is their way around dealing with the new FDA rules?

    There is a restaurant chain that I love and one of the owners has celiac and the other has a shellfish allergy. So they’ve spent a lot of time and money training their staff and ensuring that half the kitchen is GF. They even serve the GF food on square plates rather than round plates. And at least when I went the manager was delivering all the GF plates versus the other plates to ensure no cross contamination that way.

    But because they do cook gluten food on the other side of the restaurant and they don’t test their food they can’t actually call it GF. So they call it their GF-ish menu. But I still trust them.

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