Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Italian job

It's difficult to be vegan at Donatella's in Rancho Mirage. It's not impossible, but it's not easy either.

Tonight was my second visit to the restaurant, which has a cult-like following for the authentic Italian fare.

During those visits I have learned:

1. All the pasta is homemade with eggs.
2. Ditto the gnocchi.
3. Ninety-nine percent of the menu includes one or more of the following: Meat, seafood, cheese.

The people at Donatella's make good food, and they're nice as can be. It's just difficult to get your point across. If you say you don't eat meat, the server suggests something with cheese. If you say you don't eat cheese, they suggest something with meat. And if you (again) say you don't eat meat, they recommend the fish.

In short, they simply don't understand vegan.

Last time I ordered the grilled veggie platter. It arrived with half the plate covered in what appeared to be a mountain of poached egg whites, (which turned out to be cheese). And that massive white lump was covered with layers of prosciutto.

This time around, I had to really stress that I only wanted vegetables on the grilled veggie platter. My table ended up with a decent plate of four eggplant slices, four zucchini slices, four tomato slices and one long hunk of roasted red pepper.

I also ordered a risotto that the owner assured me was dairy-free -- but I'm simply not 100 percent confident about anything I order at this place.

I might return just for the wine, which is imported from Verona and is excellent.


cv chick said...

No offense, but why would you go to Donatella's expecting them to specially prepare vegan food for you? I don't go to Native Foods and try to order a veal marsala...

Maggie said...

That's not a fair comparison. Native Foods would never have veal in their kitchen, but Donatella's certainly has fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Vegan food is food. Any restaurant should be capable of preparing something a vegan can eat.

The bigger issue was that I had a very difficult time communicating with the staff what I needed. Even after explaining that I don't eat animal products, I was still offered ice cream, cake and the fish of the day.

What if I had a food allergy? That could have been dangerous.