For a romantic evening or just delicious gluten-free food, Tini’s Italian Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side will please most every palate. I was able to visit this restaurant twice in the last two months. The environment is soothing, upscale and at the same time family friendly. This is a true Italian family owned restaurant. The owner, Enzo Lentini, greets regulars with a warmth and geniality I experienced during my recent trip to Italy. The food is simple, delicious and they strive to accommodate all gluten-free requests. Rather than a separate gluten-free menu, the few items that CANNOT be made gluten-free are starred.
Enzo Lentini relates that Tini's was inspired to be one of the first restaurants to participate in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program after a close family friend was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Tini's gluten-free options give testament to the tasty delights they offer as part of GFRAP. During my first visit to Tini’s I ordered the scallops and polenta – a standout dish made with red wine, shitake mushrooms and butter.
I also enjoyed the grilled octopus and a taste of Andy’s Fennel Endive salad and Veal Scallopini. We were satisfied with all of our choices. I was also particularly pleased to see a Rosso di Montalcino on their wine list. It helped me hearken back to my afternoon at Poggio Antico.
Starting with the Fava and Chicory, a recipe from Enzo’s own mother, every bite demanded another until only the empty plate was left staring at my much satisfied countenance. It is one of the remarkable dishes I still crave and remember weeks later.
Another plate came with my main course, the Spigola Pugliese -- a bass filet in a simple sauce of black olives, fresh tomato wedges and basil-- providing me with yet another satisfying excursion in Tini's world. Simple ingredients produce a bright and flavorful dish. It reminded me of the call for simple cooking at La Chiusa.
My friend Kris ordered the stuffed artichokes and oxtail special. Kris has exacting standards for Italian food, having also lived in Tuscany; he was thrilled with everything Tini’s offered. (The stuffed artichokes are not naturally gluten-free, but they can be prepared gf upon request.)
While I didn’t order it during either visit, they offer most of their pasta preparations with gluten-free corn pasta. They have a few gluten-free dessert options as well, including a Chocolate Mousse, Panna Cotta, assorted gelati, and fresh fruit.
Tini's is not least expensive GFRAP restaurant, but the prices are not at all unreasonable for the location, ambiance and quality of food (appetizers average $10 and mains $18-25). It’s a taste of Italy without a seven-hour plane-ride. I look forward to many more dinners at Tini’s.
Tini's Ristorante Italiano Address: 1562 2nd Ave, New York 10028 At 81st St Phone: 212-628-3131