Words and photos by Farrah Skeiky
If a restaurant has a Mediterranean or Mediterranean-inspired menu, there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a gluten free version of the same. Why? Because most of it– at least 80%– already is gluten free. Urbana has caught onto this tip, and their printed version of a gluten-free menu is simply a copy of the standard one, with the non-gluten free dishes shaded to indicate lack of availability. This reveals two important things: one, how much of the menu at Urbana is already gluten free with little to no alteration, and two, how the kitchen is smart enough to know when not to mess with a recipe that may yield something sub-par.
In the most pleasant bombardment possible, the strength of the gluten free menu wasn’t at all questioned. It dodged the glaring mistakes of most gluten-free menus and paid attention to seasonality (plenty of radishes, asparagus and seasonal greens on each plate), presented a variety of textures, and showcased the evolving nature of gluten-free cooking. The best example of that evolution? The pizzas. While the first one out of the oven was juuust a little too overdone, the next was exemplary with just enough of a crispy crust. Those who don’t eat gluten free on a normal basis noticed the difference but appreciated the pizzas as thinner-crust pies, and those of us who have known about our celiac for five years and understand the ins and outs of gluten-free baking know that inconsistency happens.
Everything except for the pizzas and pastas are gluten free with either no modifications or very slight ones (like subsitituting the type of flour used in a sauce, or even the simple practice of using new pans and trays to avoid cross-contamination. Urbana’s use of chickpea flour for crusts and other items pays respect to Mediterranean ingredients rather than going for the easy (and frankly sub-par) combination of rice and corn flour. And rather than insisting on re-creating every pasta style with wheat-free ingredients to yield pastas that are just okay, Urbana crafts only a couple of pastas, like bucatini, in gluten free versions to keep in mind the best texture and temperature for the flours used.
Maybe you feel you have no business eating gluten free and wish the trendy aspect of that lifestyle would disappear. If that’s the case, I’ll tell you this: after eating a course from each section of this wheat-free menu, we still had plenty of room for dessert.