By Sophie Yalkezian
Photos by Rebecca Sands
Looking for lunch on the go? It’s slim pickins’ for those of us with a gluten intolerance.
Standards like pizza, a sandwich or burrito fly right out the window and leave only enough room for salad or fruit, maybe even a soup. When dinner comes around, the options narrow even more – chicken with no sauce, a burger minus the bun, salad (again). Of course the thought of a gooey slice of pizza sounds delicious, but the reality is that it would only leave my stomach in pain and my brain feeling guilty.
After two years of ruling out three quarters of every menu I look at, I’ve finally discovered a place where almost anything is possible. No, it’s not the hidden world of Narnia. It’s Big Mamma’s Boy, a restaurant specializing in old school Italian favourites using gluten-free flours and breads. My friend and I ventured to Cabbagetown to find for ourselves if such a gluten-free heaven could possibly exist.
The restaurant, located around Parliament and Wellesley, is in an old victorian house and the decor offers no contrast. Rich red walls and dark wood floors feel warm and sumptuous, complete with beautiful chandeliers. We’re seated in the front room among only six tables, but upstairs there are many more. They’ve also got a back patio that’s sure to be a hit in the summertime, when every city dweller craves pints on a plastic table. The rain and cold keep us inside on this night, so we sink into our armchairs and get ready for the parade of comfort food to begin.
To start, we have a side portion of the mac and cheese and some garlic cheese toast (did I mention comfort food?). Mac and cheese has long been just a dream for me thanks to an intolerance to cow’s dairy. But this one is made up of brown rice macaroni, and a mix of both goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. The texture is spot on – creamy with a hint of saltiness. However if you’re prone to wrinkling your nose at the smell of goat cheese, beware, because the taste is all over this dish.
Moving on to the main meals, I feel there is no choice but to try out one of the gluten- free pizzas while my friend opts for the “smothered chicken” dish. Both are excellent. The pizzas on offer are eclectic in toppings, from artichokes to seafood. They also have a “create your own” option, so no matter what you’re into, there’s a pizza for you. I choose the Californian, with prosciutto, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, goat’s cheese and mushrooms. The cheese, crust and sauce are all perfectly proportioned so that nothing is overpowering. Each bite is in delicious harmony with the last. The only flaw I found was in the crust – a bit on the tough side, but the fact that they had made a way for a gluten-intolerant person to experience good pizza is enough to makeup for that.
The chicken is perfectly cooked with a thin coating of chickpea flour that adds a smoky crunch. The “smothered” part of the dish comes from a mushroom gravy that doesn’t feel too heavy, probably thanks to a lack of wheat flour. For dessert, the flourless chocolate cake. It’s as decadent as it sounds, and to quote my lovely dining companion, “it melts in your mouth!” yet isn’t much to look at.
Overall, the meal was delicious from start to end, and even after eating pasta, pizza and cake, I didn’t leave the restaurant ready to take an ex-lax. Our tummies were happily satisfied, while our wallets significantly lighter. That is the one downside to Big Mamma’s Boy – you get what you pay for. Primarily local, organic ingredients and the
extra cost of the gluten-free options brings the bill up much higher than an average student meal. However if you have a gluten intolerance, the food is well worth it, and even if you don’t, it’s a healthy option for a special occasion or night out.
Feeling like a freak of nature is common for someone with celiac disease, thanks to North America’s gluten-loving culture. But it’s important to remember that the illness can actually be considered a blessing in disguise. Your body is telling you what’s wrong and you have the power to heal it.
So stay strong, gluten free folks! And head to Big Mamma’s Boy for a taste of what you’re missing!