Monday, June 2, 2014

Chianti's Pizza and Pasta Review

Promising to be a place "where old world taste and good friends meet," Chianti's Pizza and Pasta in Sanford enticed me in with their gluten-free offerings including pizza and pasta. Finding myself in their neck of the woods last, week, I decided to stop by to check out their offerings in person and to pick up dinner to-go. 

Once stepping inside, I was blown away by the transformation from a strip-situated restaurant to a homey and intimate dining area overlooked by a busy open kitchen. I didn't know what my expectations were, but the comfortable dining area immediately made me feel at home as if it was a small Italian eatery. 

Once seated, I looked over the menu, but with the gluten free options not marked, I knew I had to work with the main waitress and chef to figure out what I could and could not eat. Though the waitress outlined all of the dishes that could be made gluten and dairy free, I didn't register them because I was solely focused on getting pizza. I know they offer gluten-free pasta and many entrees could be adapted to be safe, but I found it disconcerting when the waitress said the eggplant Parmesan could be adapted. When asked what would be substituted for the flour "breading" she replied "are you able to eat a little wheat?" which I found disconcerting. When I explained that gluten is in wheat, she offered to consult with the chef as to my options. 


After hearing the back and forth between them of what would be both gluten and dairy free, I formulated my order: the gluten-free chicken Mediterranean pizza (red sauce topped with chicken, peppers, cucumbers, tomato, olives) without cheese and olives. Though I had questions about the safety of the chicken, I was assured it was just baked with rosemary. As we sat and waited for our pizzas, I took in the atmosphere. Though early for a weeknight dinner, I shared the space with what looked like a graduation party as well as others coming in for dinner. Though the space was small, we were not crowded. Though the kitchen staff were helping to deliver dishes to the party, there was only one waitress waiting upon all the tables. After waiting awhile for the pizzas to cook, they came out piping hot and just in time for my growling stomach. 


Upon opening up the box, I was disappointed to find that olives were predominately scattered on top despite my request otherwise. While merely a picky request instead of a dietary restriction based one, it's a simple mistake that could have made a big difference if I could not have olives. Once digging in, I found the crust to be soggy to the point of being under-cooked. Soggy centers of crusts are not uncommon for gluten-free pizzas, but this was more than most pies I've had. On the upside, the toppings were fresh had a good flavor. The inclusion of cucumbers gave the pizza a unique texture mix-up that was interesting and unique. On a return visit, I would definitely ask for the pizza to be cooked longer than usual to get a crispier crust that is more "well done" instead of "medium rare."

All in all, Chianti's pizza was acceptable, but nothing special. I really liked the feel of the place and would have lingered there to dine in if I wasn't so tired. It would be an ideal restaurant to host small gatherings, parties, and/or reunions. I'm unhappy to report though that hours after eating, I had a gluten-poisoning reaction that while not totally debilitating was enough to render me out of commission over the next few days. I don't know what caused it, but know that the pizza was the clear cause. I sincerely hope my experience is an outlier for gluten-free consumers, but it was a reminder of the constant risk I'm taking each time I eat out even when staff are knowledgeable and make a point of checking ingredients. 


The Basics

Address: 685 Towne Center Boulevard, Sanford, FL 32771
Website: www.christophersitalian.com
Cuisine: Pizza, Pasta, Salads, Entrees 
Ideal For: Lunch and/or Dinner 
Price: $10-25 per person
Accessibility: The restaurant is very accessible for a wheelchair user.
Special Features: They offer coupons on their website.


Disclaimer: Restaurant reviews are based upon the information I have at the time of the review and do not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

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