Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Restaurant Review: Sitti - Downtown Raleigh

I recently had lunch at a brand new restaurant in Downtown Raleigh called Sitti. Sitti is an "Authentic Lebanese Restaurant" which opened a few weeks ago as a joint collaboration of Empire Eats (think Duck 'n Dumpling, Raleigh Times, The Pit, etc...) and Neomonde Baking Company which has served the Raleigh area for 30 years. Unfortunately, Neomonde is a bakery and does not have any Gluten Free items itself.

I had not previously been to Sitti and really didn't have the chance to preview their menu or call ahead like I normally do. I was under the assumption that we were going somewhere else for lunch - oh well. Regardless, upon entering, I did my normal routine of asking the hostess for a manager and/or chef to speak with about my Gluten Free requirements. Within a few minutes, I met with Todd Henderson - Sitti's General Manager.

Todd kindly walked me through what was safe for me on their regular menu. A few minor modifications had to be made but overall the process was a lot easier than other places I have been. He knew every ingredient on the menu which really put me at ease. I ended up with the following for lunch...

Chicken Kabob – tender pieces of marinated chicken grilled on skewers served with garlic whip. Served with Sitti rice, sumac, onion and grilled tomato. $7.99

I immediately questioned the "marinated" part of the description in which Todd then explained the ingredients - all GF. I also asked about the garlic whip - again everything GF. I mentioned to Todd that I was not comfortable with the meal being prepared on a shared grill - he indicated that the meal would be sauteed in a fresh pan by itself - excellent! He then brought up the fact that their Sitti rice indeed had wheat noodles in it. He suggested substituting the Sitti House Salad – romaine, cucumber, tomato, red onion, mint, parsley with olive oil and lemon juice - instead.

Todd also went on to say that he would prepare the kitchen staff on the Gluten Free requirement of my meal and personally check it on as it made it's way through the kitchen. These gestures definitely made me more relaxed about my meal. My meal came out and no mistakes were made - everything just as we had agreed. Others around me ordered the same dish and I could definitely tell my chicken was not cooked on the grill like theirs.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal at Sitti. It basically turned into a kind of Chicken Kabob salad but the taste was excellent. After the meal, I again approached Todd to thank him for his efforts and to let him know I was pleased with my Gluten Free dining experience. I went on to mention who I was and what I did (this blog) and he became very interested in learning more about Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Diet. Apparently, Sitti has had quite a few Gluten Free requests and have had to learn quickly about the meal preparation. Sitti seems very open to working with me to create a Gluten Free menu and to get more information about the NFCA's GREAT program. Read this post to learn more about the GREAT program and this post about me becoming a GREAT Guide.

Sitti Lebanese Restaurant
Downtown Raleigh
137 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Phone: 919.239.4070
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