Since the kitchen keeps gluten-free ingredient substitutions on hand, many dishes are available gluten-free. Rice flour is available to replace wheat in a number of items. For example, the Chicken Scaloppini, Chicken Parmesan, Lamb Shank, Veal Scaloppini, etc are all dredged in rice flour for gluten-intolerant guests! A small number of dishes are destined to contain gluten. The meatballs and fried calamari are in this category (though the calamari can be sauteed instead, and a gluten-free coating is said to possibly be in the works!).
Sweet Basil is one of the few places in Massachusetts to serve house-made, gluten-free pasta. Chef Dave Becker has developed a most incredible chickpea pasta that can be served with any of the sauces on the menu! With advance notice, it can also be made into a variety of shapes. Dave pointed out that fresh water and a clean pot are used for the chickpea pasta orders, yet he also wants his guests to be aware that the pasta extruder is shared with the traditional pasta. However, it is thoughly cleaned and sanitized between uses.
Chef Dave wants everyone to feel welcomed at Sweet Basil . He and his staff are clearly comfortable accomodating diners with food allergies and intolerances. Even if you have an aversion to the taste of garlic, he’s willing to work with you! A call ahead of your visit is recommended, but not necessary. With pre-planning, some dishes are modifiable. For instance, the polenta normally contains some semolina flour, but for a gluten-free diner, a semolina-free batch may be put aside earlier in the day. For those avoiding dairy, he can also omit the cheese. Another example is the dipping pesto which is served upon seating. It is made without cheese (or pine nuts), but this can be added in after a patron’s needs are known. He even keeps eggless pasta on hand (contains gluten) for his egg-free guests! He truly undestands the importance of avoiding cross-contamination and he stores some products separately from the main kitchen (soy and nuts).
On our visit, we were lucky enough to meet the enthusiastic and talented Chef Dave (who also happens to have authored a cookbook!). He encouraged us to sample many dishes to showcase the range of flavors in his gluten-free dishes. We began with the Nut-Free Pesto which would normally be served with bread. Instead, ours included crudite that consisted of grape tomatoes, pepper and zucchini strips. We actually preferred this rather than bread and, of course, it’s an easy and delicious way to work toward fitting in your veggie allotment for the day! Next was the Caprese Salad served with a balsamic drizzle. This, too, was incredibly fresh and well balanced and the touch of glaze perfectly complemented the salad greens and fresh mozzarella! Along with the salad, we were presented with the most incredible Vegetable Risotto which included roasted eggplant, carrots, onion and spinach. It was fantastic! Surely, the best risotto we’ve ever tasted! I would guess this is partly due to the high quality ingredients that go into the dishes as well as the talent of the kitchen staff. Using local and organic ingredients is a top priority at Sweet Basil. They often procure produce from the nearby Natick Community Organic Farm.
As we moved onto entrees, we tried the savory yet slightly sweet Chicken Marsala which was made with port, mushrooms, figs and spinach, and then the Braised Chicken which included large pieces of extremely tender chicken, port wine, balsamic glazed peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. This was served over perfectly cooked chickpea pasta which had just the right texture and a mild flavor (unlike some bean-based pastas). We also tried some polenta with mascarpone and sweet corn. Words can not adequately describe how deliciously tasteful and creamy it was! And, finally, we were offered the gluten-free version of the Steak Bomb Sandwich (bunless). This thinly sliced, tender steak was mixed with gorgonzola, onions, mushrooms and roasted red peppers. Sandwiches are normally served with french fries (but the fryer is shared) or with some mixed greens. Believe it or not, we could not single out a favorite dish! We’ll definitely be returning to try some of these again, as well as some others too!
Don’t forget to inquire about the daily specials and please note the BYOB and cash/check only policy.