Florindo’s. Never has a local restaurant been so well known in the gluten free community –unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. This locally owned Italian restaurant in Glenwood Springs, Colorado was the recent recipient of an onslaught of emotion from the gluten free community after a former employee, Damian Cardone’s now infamous Facebook post captured by Celiac Handbook, when he said he fed gluten to gluten-free customers while working there.
Florindo’s is a local restaurant that doesn’t have a website touting its greatness, but rather it appears to rely on word of mouth– which really took it on the chin in late March. I chatted with Florent Gallicchio, the owner of Florindo’s on Thursday afternoon to follow up on the story and find out more about his side.
Cardone’s Gluten Free Statement
Cardone’s Facebook page claimed he was a chef at Florindo’s when he made his statements about gluten free being “bulls*#t”, and that he served “high gluten flour pasta” to gluten-free customers. This news horrified the gluten-free community and sent us into action mode — spreading the word on social media, even calling the restaurant. Gallicchio first wanted to make it clear that Cardone “…was never in my kitchen….He never cooked any dish here.”
So I asked him if it was possible that Cardone could have manipulated the orders in such a way that the customer thought they were ordering gluten free, but when he put in the order to the kitchen that it was really a “regular” meal. Gallicchio said “99% of [his gluten free customers] call first….[they] bring their own pasta.” He says there are many dishes that are easily accommodated to be gluten free, while he doesn’t keep gluten-free noodles on hand, he is happy to cook them up for folks.
“I have been in the business for over 40 years…I have many customers– they are personal friends of mine. It is my joy to [create gluten-free meals for them].” – Florent Gallicchio, Owner Florindo’s
Gallicchio says he still hasn’t been able to talk to Cardone about why he would say such a destructive thing in such a public manner. “I was shocked and surprised that he did this to me…to hurt me like that.”
Aftermath at Florindo’s
Once the gluten free community found out about the statement, things went crazy. Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with this story, and people were rightfully angry. To be honest the celiac community has a very tough time getting restaurants to take the gluten-free diet seriously. So to read that Facebook post is like a shot through the heart.
Gallicchio says instead of cooking– he found himself constantly on the phone with gluten-free consumers calling in from across the country, “I had to give up my working to explain [what happened].”
A recent Op-Ed piece from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent cited a few website comments trashing the restaurant because of the Facebook post. “Now the restaurant is getting reviews on sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor titled ‘Fraud,’ ‘Don’t Eat Here,’ and ‘Don’t Give This Place A Dime'” the Op Ed piece said– all a result of Cardone’s words. These “reviews” are no longer visible on these websites. However, the aftermath remains visible-one person’s post defending the restaurant is still up,”In this day and age, information goes viral quickly and it’s terrible that such wonderful people are paying the price.”
Gallicchio’s response to the viral comments and information on the internet, “This technology…people are very jumpy. Listen to both sides first…” He says there has been some impact at the restaurant, but each day is getting better, “It has hurt, but I have very good support from my local customers.”
Gluten Free at Florindo’s
So bottom line, can you eat gluten free at Florindo’s? Gallicchio says yes. He says they have processes in place to clean up any prep areas for gluten, or any other possible cross contamination with meat, or something else. Their utensils are sterilized in boiling water. And he cooks all gluten-free pasta in fresh water.
Celiacs “are welcome in my restaurant…I take it seriously with my heart.” If you have additional questions about their practices you can always contact the restaurant directly.
My take: Am I endorsing Florindo’s with this post? No. I think each person who may want to eat gluten free there should call ahead and discuss the gluten free practices and then make a decision. This is what all of us should be doing regularly anyway in my opinion.
I do feel it is fair to tell his side of the story beyond a one sentence sound bite on a television news story 2 weeks ago. From here you can decide what you think about this case. Feel free to comment below.