Cafe Milano: Dining Out Italian-Style

My Aunt Therese was diagnosed with celiac a few years before me, and she’s been a wonderful resource and friend as I learned how to adjust to a gluten free diet. We have a lot in common, including our love of food and cooking. I asked her to write a guest post for the blog and here it is!

There are two things I appreciate about her post. First, she wrote about Italian food. We’ve both spent time in Italy and can’t say enough good things about authentic Italian cuisine. When you say you can’t eat gluten, most people immediately think of pasta and bread. For that reason, it may be surprising to discover that traditional Italian food has a lot to offer a gf person. A good Italian restaurant should be able to offer several gluten free options, including risotto, meats, and possibly gf pasta. Therese’s experience is a general guide to gluten free dining, Italian-style.

I’m also grateful that she mentions her happiness watching others eat good food, even if it’s something she can’t have. This may not be true of everyone with celiac, but I completely agree with my Aunt. People are inclined to apologize if they’re enjoying a gluten-filled food in front of me. There’s no need! If it’s well made and you’re savoring it, I’m happy for you. Especially because I pretty much always have my own plate of deliciousness, too. And with that, I would like you to meet my Aunt Therese.

Café Milano

 I am Ms. Stephanie’s aunt, Therese, and a diagnosed celiac as well.  Steph and I have a lot in common, one most particularly is our love of good food!  My husband, Charlie, and I were fortunate to visit La Jolla, California recently as a gift to ourselves for Christmas.  Charlie and I don’t exchange gifts, instead we prefer to “have experiences”.  Stephanie’s parents, Joe and Jane, (my bro and sister-in-law) arranged to meet us for an overnight visit.  We’ve spent a lot of time together in La Jolla and really enjoy the coast, our walks and the fabulous restaurants.

One restaurant we frequent is Café Milano. A photolovely Italian gentleman, Pasquale, has served his good cuisine for years here, and I always smile when I pull up out front to see the lighted Fiat.  He keeps the lights on all year, but now at Christmas, has the packages on top and Santa in the driver’s seat!  Great advertising!

Inside is cozy and warm and the service is attentive.  They accommodate special diets very well.  They have gluten free pasta, and can make any veal or chicken dish gluten free by not dusting the protein with flour ahead of time.  My favorite starter is the Italian straticcella soup made with homemade chicken stock, fresh spinach, an egg whirled in, and topped with parmagiana reggiano. It’s soul satisfying, delicious and the perfect light start to the meal.


Our choices were varied: I had veal parmesan with capers and a side of spaghetti with olive oil and garlic, oh gosh, yum…photo-4

You don’t see the gluten free pasta here because I had eaten it all on a side plate!  They know exactly how to cook gluten free pasta because, hey, they are Italian!!!  A lovely Caprese here was just as fresh as could be with homemade mozzarella and the freshest of basil and delicious artichokes and although I hadn’t ordered it, my brother graciously shared.


The meatballs looked really, really good. Unfortunately they weren’t gluten free, but I still admired them.  I am always happy when someone eats good food in front of me and enjoys it!


Same goes for the wild mushroom risotto — it was lovingly prepared and I was too full to share in that dish!


Pasquale and his staff always make us feel so welcome.  My family is so important to me and to make and keep traditions alive is the best ever.  Who knows, we may find another restaurant next time, but sharing time and sharing food and making laughter is the best Christmas gift ever!

therese, joe, jane, charlie

therese, joe, jane, charlie

May your holidays be bright, your hearts full, your smiles bright, and may you know that you are loved!  Merry Christmas, Therese.

For those of you interested in gffriendly Italian restaurants in Portland, check out Iorio  or D.O.C.


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