Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: Ottavio (Gatineau)

Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.

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Ottavio is Over-the-Top Exceptional

By Lisa Ienzi

“We are aware and very knowledgeable on the effects of cross contamination and our precautions are unbeatable in the restaurant industry. Our in-house control ensures proper sanitation and prevents cross contamination.” – Ottavio Website

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and realized — before even sitting down — that it was going to be an amazing experience? Well, as many of you are well aware, this isn’t something that occurs very often when food allergies are involved. But that all changes when you go to Ottavio in Gatineau!

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In my case, it had been a long time since I was able to go out to a restaurant and enjoy Italian food. Between my two children, we avoid peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, sesame, flax, and mustard — a combination of allergies that makes it extra complicated to enjoy Italian cuisine (as well as many other foods) outside of the home.

Because cheese. And bread. And my once-upon-a-time favourite, parmigiano.

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This lovely pre-dinner roll is  gluten-free.

But Ottavio left me speechless (which does not occur often — just ask my husband) and in awe of the fact that my family can now enjoy Italian food at an actual restaurant.

I still can’t believe my children can now enjoy pre-dinner bread, pizza, pasta, and dessert — something so simple and taken for granted by so many — in a restaurant. Let me say that one more time: IN. A. RESTAURANT.

Ottavio is also a Porto-Vino style restaurant (so bring your vino with you), plus they have a kids’ menu (with gluten- free and allergy-friendly options available). Annnnd, kids eat free on Sundays! YAY!!

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So how does Ottavio’s keep their food allergy customers safe? To start, they have very
thorough and well thought-out allergen-control policies and procedures in place. Once the restaurant is aware of an allergy, they immediately go into allergen-control mode: they remove all dishware, flatware, and glassware from the table, and bring out new flatware that has been pre-wrapped (in a separate area of the kitchen) in a blue napkin with an “Allergen Control” sticker on it. So right away, the waitstaff can visually identify which people at the table have a food allergy. Amazing.

Children receive their own cups with lids on them and paper-covered straws, and adults receive new glasses that are to only be filled with water from the red pitchers (clear pitchers are for non-food allergy customers) because the restaurant does not want to take any risk with the possibility of cross-contamination with the ice. (See? So thorough!)

The waitstaff is friendly, approachable, bilingual, and most importantly, allergy aware. When we asked a question our server couldn’t answer with certainty, we were impressed that rather than simply take a guess, they went to speak with more experienced employees and kitchen staff to obtain accurate information.

This was so wonderfully reassuring to witness because in many establishments, servers often make (unsafe) assumptions and do not clarify with management or the appropriate people, putting those with food allergies and other dietary restrictions at risk.

Ottavio also has the holy grail of allergy binders — it is so detailed, and really easy to follow. The book is divided by priority allergen, and then each priority allergen page included is further divided by each menu item. Beside each menu item is a “oui” (yes, this item is safe) or “non” (no, this item is not safe).

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Specializing in gluten-free cuisine, they also have an entire gluten-free section of the menu, and these pages are further divided up, as above.

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At first, the binder can be a tad overwhelming, but as you begin to go through it, you see it is actually extremely easy to follow. One teensy issue some people might encounter is that the binder is all in French. But, don’t let that get you down, because their entire menu is bilingual, which is helpful for navigating your way through the allergy binder.

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And if the language barrier really is an issue, the staff at Ottavio are approachable, helpful, and would graciously support their customers in making informed menu choices based on their dietary needs.

Once we ordered our food, it came out on red dinnerware in order to keep with their safety colour system, and to help staff identify which customers have food allergies.

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Why travel to New York when you can get this ‘New York’ Pizza with gluten-free crust, and Daiya mozzarella-style shreds. Yum!

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These yummy French fries were prepared in their gluten-free fryer.

I am greatly impressed with the allergy awareness at Ottavio, and appreciate the time they take to educate themselves about food allergies. You can tell they really do have their customer’s interests at heart, and understand the severity and importance of food allergies. Did you know they also keep one EpiPen Jr. and one EpiPen Sr. on hand? Obviously, no one wants to have to use an EpiPen, but if it is ever needed, they are equipped!

If you’re anything like me, you won’t mind that they charge a $1 service fee for all orders requiring special attention for those with food allergies — A small price to pay, for reassurance and peace of mind when dining out!

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This particular restaurant is part of a small chain of franchise restaurants in Quebec, Canada, all of which cater amazingly well to the food allergy community. The Ottavio staff prides themselves on meeting the dietary needs of their customers, and they take a multitude of precautions to ensure the health and well-being of their customers. And, of course, they are doing all of this without compromising the flavour of the incredible food they serve! My tastebuds are still thanking me for this past weekend’s culinary treat at Ottavio in Gatineau.

Did you know Ottavio hosted Ottawa’s 3rd Edition #AllergyMom Meetup? It was a wonderful night with attentive customer service, delicious food, and a great atmosphere! Want to join a future meetup? See what’s coming up in Ottawa… 

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P.S. Got a mustard allergy? You might be interested to learn that both the manager and our server recommended we order from the gluten-free menu, as the regular flour used in the non gluten-free recipes has an allergy label on it for mustard. They explained that the label is there due to the wheat fields and mustard fields being right beside each other, and that there’s a high chance the wheat flour has been contaminated. They certainly know their stuff!

P.P.S. Love breakfast? The Gatineau location (only) recently started serving breakfast, but keep in mind they don’t have an allergy guide to accompany the breakfast menu at this time. (Hopefully it’s a work in progress!)


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