Monica’s Italian Bistro – Gluten Free Italian Restaurant

This restaurant in Iowa City, Iowa, deserves a “shout out” or cartwheel, if you’re into that kind of thing, for having one of the very best gluten free menus I’ve been fortunate to sample.

Monica’s Italian Bistro” is located near the University of Iowa, home of the Hawkeyes!

Am I a Hawkeye fan?

Well, I am now because I spent a week there this past December watching them save my young cousins life with open heart surgery. (Incidentally, less than two months later she was back home and I had the indescribable pleasure of cooking dinner with her.)

Despite the sub-zero temperatures during my visit, I must rave about both the University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center Surgical team, the actual University of Iowa hospital and patient care AND Monica’s.

Why Monica’s? Because I was there a week, far away from home – and far away from a kitchen. I was craving a big gluten free meal.

I had been keeping vigil in ICU and picking my way through hospital food (found out the day that I left that the hospital HAD gluten free options!)

One day my cousin was able to sit up on her own and she insisted we go out to eat.

Driving down the road, in a city that was blanketed in snow and completely foreign to me, there was a BIG sign that said, “Monica’s. We have over 38 gluten free menu items.” (Insert screeching brake sound here.)

That was actually on their sign. Someone actually called out gluten free items on the restaurant street sign. Does Iowa City have a huge gluten free population that I don’t know about?

Monica’s definitely did not disappoint. Sadly, the pictures do not do it justice (taken with my iPhone 4).

What you should know are two things:

1. If you find yourself in Iowa City, Iowa, you MUST go to Monica’s for terrific gluten free Italian food and service.

2. If you go to Monica’s, you MUST get the gluten free rolls.*

*More on the gluten free rolls. They’re the “I can’t believe this isn’t gluten” gluten free rolls.

In fact, I had two different waiters look it up for me. They said, “Yes, they really are gluten free. From a company called French Meadow.” They said they special order them.

I know French Meadow makes both gluten and gluten free food. I called the manager of Monica’s the next day. She assured me they really were gluten free. (Unbelievable “normal” soft doughy role.)

That didn’t convince me, so I contacted French Meadow Bakery. Sure enough. They’re gluten free. But sadly, only distributed to restaurants.

The take-away there? If you want the best gluten free roll available, you need to go to Monica’s in Iowa City and/or find a local restaurant that carries these rolls. (If you do, please let me know!)

Part of the gluten free menu!

Yup. Those are gluten free rolls from French Meadow bakery with a side of cinnamon sugar butter. Heaven.

Trying to depict the soft, warm, doughy-ness that is this roll.

Thank you Monica’s for being a haven on a very tough trip.

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