The Return of Bistango

When visiting New York, there are certain sights that should be on every traveler’s checklist: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Frick Collection, and Century 21 (come on, who doesn’t want great discounts on designer clothing?). For gluten-intolerant visitors, that list should also include Bistango.

Haven’t heard of Bistango? The restaurant is located in Murray Hill, and it’s been in business for 15 years. There was an interruption of service this spring, when Bistango closed for renovations. The original plan called for it to be closed for only a month, but as the timeline stretched on and on, I started to worry whether it would return.

Happily, Bistango is back. If you’ve been there before, you’ll notice that the bar is shorter (making more room for tables), and that the brick walls have given way to red-painted plaster (with stylized portraits of the owner’s three daughters on the walls). What hasn’t changed is the restaurant’s commitment to its gluten-intolerant diners. The first sign is when bread is brought to the table: I love the warm slices of gluten-free bread — baked by Everybody Eats in Brooklyn — and the individual bowls of oil and garlic for dipping (that way, there’s no cross-contamination).

Almost every item on Bistango’s menu, with the exception of a couple of stuffed pastas (such as the ravioli), can be prepared in a gluten-free version. (Many dishes are naturally gluten-free, and all of the sauces are.) Celiac-safe starters run the gamut from the Bistango salad (a mix of mesclun, sliced apples, goat cheese, and pine nuts), to the plate of prosciutto and Gorgonzola with fig compote. Main-course dishes include rack of lamb in a rich cognac sauce, and chicken breast topped with spinach and mozzarella in a marinara sauce. There’s also gluten-free pizza and pasta to choose from.

While the food is consistently excellent, what really makes a meal at Bistango stand out is the graciousness of its staff. The owner, Anthony, goes back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, talking to everyone and making sure that diners are comfortable. The servers are just as thoughtful, making Bistango a rare find.

Bistango [address] 415 Third Avenue (at the corner of East 29th St.), New York, NY 10016 [tel] 212-725-8484 [web]

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