TICKET TO DINING: Grandma’s Grotto — a gluten-free paradise for all tastes
What’s not to like about a restaurant named Grandma’s Grotto? Located in Horsham across from the former naval air station, it’s a warm, unpretentious Italian eatery offering pizza, pasta, salads and Italian entrées — plus some of the best pastries you’ll find this side of Zake’s.
But before you go thinking that it’s just another friendly neighborhood haven, you must know that co-owners John and Desiree Vallario have created the most unique menu in the region — one that is roughly 90 percent gluten-free.
According to Chef John Vallario, “No one in the world makes as many gluten-free foods as I do. I’ve been thinking about putting a challenge out there on Facebook to see if anyone, anywhere, makes more gluten-free foods than I do.”
The chief recipients of the chef’s fully researched menu are those suffering from celiac disease, a chronic nutritional disorder caused by the intestine’s inability to absorb gluten. This can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea and malnutrition and, if not treated properly over a long period of time, possibly to anemia, liver disease and various forms of cancer, including cancer of the pancreas.
Since gluten is a mixture of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, you can imagine how prevalent it is in all kinds of foods and how dangerous it can be to those allergic to it. In fact, it is known to afflict one in 133 people in the United States. At the moment, there is no known cure for the disease, but it can be effectively managed by following a gluten-free diet.
Here’s where the Vallarios step in.
“Customers would come in and ask if we had gluten-free food,” said the chef. “At first, I said no; I was not familiar with it. But I started doing a lot of research and began experimenting with gluten-free foods. If I didn’t reach a point where I couldn’t fool myself that what I was eating tastes just as good as gluten foods, then I’d throw it away and start over until I got it right. Now I really like it. And I’m not allergic to gluten.
“Now I’m fully certified,” he said, “and I learned that everyone would profit from eating gluten-free foods.”
But don’t misunderstand. Grandma’s Grotto is a full-service restaurant. Virtually everything on the menu can be made gluten-free, so in effect, roughly 90 percent of the menu items are gluten-free. But gluten dishes are also available.