The decision to be gluten-free is pretty simple, in that it isn’t so much a decision as it is a necessity. Being able to eat a meal without fear of the consequences is one that most people take for granted—and in this case, the consequences are painful. You may appear to have unbelievable self-control, but in truth, that Robicelli’s cupcake is absolutely not worth the unattractive side effects. So the hardest part isn’t turning down gluten-laden foods, it’s finding truly satisfying substitutes.
Thankfully, Brooklyn is full of them, both obvious and undiscovered. At Battersby they offer to hold the flour in their sweetbread without batting an eye, while Bogota Latin Bistro in Park Slope denotes every gluten-free option on their menu. So if you know where to look—and dine—you might almost forget you have any sort of dietary restriction at al.
Pazzi Pasta: If a cardiologist insists we should indulge in mass quantities of pasta, who are we to argue? Together with his southern Italian family, Dr. Giovanni Campanile runs this seriously charming eatery in Carroll Gardens, featuring noodles made with 80-90 percent of ancient milled grains, such as farro and kamut. And yes, there’s even a perfectly texturized option comprised of four high-nutrient gluten-free flours, which you can watch being mixed, kneaded and extruded before your very eyes, before being ladled with sauces such as ragu bolognese, smoked salmon and gorgonzola, or cauliflower, garlic and almond, which (bonus!) is also entirely vegan.
227 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
Beygl: Thanks to this tiny bakery and deli in Park Slope, you’ll never need to try and stave off a bagel craving with Udi’s again. The bagels here are so deliciously dense and chewy you may fear you were accidentally given a gluten one, but never fear: They’re just that well-made. Be sure to get there early—the gluten-free varieties sell out quickly, and the everything bagel might bring joyful tears to your eyes. Another bonus: They offer growlers of cold brew coffee, giving you another reason to crawl out of bed in the morning.
291 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope
Caracas Arepas: Similar to bao, arepas are soft, fluffy corn flour buns that are baked, grilled and then filled with mouthwatering fixings. At Caracas Arepas’ outpost in Williamsburg—which is far more spacious and less chaotic than its sister restaurant in the East Village—gluten-free folks have almost free reign of the menu. Come during brunch to soak up the sun on their patio and wash down arepas with $5 glasses of rum punch. Two will easily satisfy most appetites, but splitting a few will give you the chance to savor options like La Mulata, filled with grilled white cheese with jalapeños, black beans and fried sweet plantains; La de Pernil, filled with roasted pork shoulder with spicy mango sauce; and Los Muchachos, filled with grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese, jalapeños and sautéed peppers.
291 Grand Street, Williamsburg
Everybody Eats: Situated on the border of Gowanus and Park Slope, this 100 percent gluten and nut-free bakery is only open for walk-in sales on Saturdays, and the office is a bit tricky to find. But once you do, owner Pedro Arroba will greet you with a warm smile… and a gluten-free sugar cookie. Once you’re ushered inside, take your time considering the long list of baked goods, but don’t leave without a few crusty baguettes and a couple of pizza shells. (Nearby pizzeria, Cotte Benne, also sources their perfectly crisp pies from Everybody Eats!)
294 Third Avenue, Gowanus
Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats: Spitting distance from Prospect Park, cozy and romantic Giovanni’s serves seasonal Italian fare made with lots of love (and very little gluten). Start with some fresh mozzarella, then take your pick of homemade pasta dishes. Though they only have one gluten-free noodle variety on hand, options like Tagliatelle ai Gamberi (shrimp, fresh tomato and arugula in a light tomato sauce) and the exceptionally light Spaghetti alla Calabrese (Gaeta olives, fresh tomato and capers) won’t disappoint.
1657 Eight Avenue, Park Slope
Korzo: Central European fare isn’t necessarily g-free friendly (can you imagine Oktoberfest without juicy brats and giant steins of beer)? But Korzo’s extensive craft beer list includes several obscure cider options; you won’t find Angry Orchard or Woodchuck here. And the wunderwurst sausage platter includes not one, but three different types of sausages that are entirely gluten-free. Paired with fresh sauerkraut, horseradish and mustard (you’ll have to request a replacement for the house ale mustard), this is a meal that deserves a heavy clink of steins.
667 Fifth Avenue, South Slope