Zaytinya was high on my list of great DC restaurants well before going gluten-free. But shared plate style restaurants are now anxiety provoking given the inevitability of migrating forks and juggled dishes. It used to be my favorite way to dine, and boy does DC love the trend. But with time I have learned that by being slightly more cautious and aware, small plate format can still be an enjoyable night out. I have been pleased to find Zaytinya is an accommodating choice for innovative Mediterranean mezze.
Ask for the gluten-free menu and you’ll find a number of dishes listed that are naturally gluten-free. Although the list seems limited, a notation at the top mentions that many of the items on their regular menu can also be modified to be gluten-free. We were told the kitchen takes precautions to avoid contamination, and the waiter served all the g-free plates himself to ensure none were confused with unsafe dishes. A FAQ page on the restaurant’s website even indicates their willingness to accommodate all kinds of allergies and food limitations.
Gluten-free diners should be forewarned that the bottomless servings of freshly baked pita puffs are impossible to ignore. I have been told that they smell better than they taste…really? But fear not! Cucumbers are happily provided for a healthy option to accompany tasty spreads such as Hommus, Tzatziki, and Htipiti. The Seasonal Mushrooms with dates and toasted almonds are a standout in the vegetable mezze category; and the grilled octopus with yellow split-pea puree is light yet satiating and so beautifully presented that Mr. Green Bean was almost convinced to take a bite! (Mr. Green Bean is ordinarily repulsed by the little chewy specimen—that is unless they are fried.) The real treat of the night was the Garides Saganaki, sautéed shrimp with tomatoes, green onions, kefalograviera cheese, and ouzo.
Like a Mediterranean version of veal parmesan, these large shrimp sit on a bed of plump tomatoes, are covered with a generous blanket of salty cheese and then are baked to golden perfection. Gluten-free eaters rarely get to indulge in such richness.
Zaytinya is one of several José Andrés establishments sprinkled throughout the DC region. Each of his restaurants make accommodations for the gluten-free diner, as well as other restricted eaters, to ensure every patron a comfortable and carefree experience.