Surviving, no, Thriving at an Italian Restaurant

Tangled Pasta

Last night my family went out for dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday. (Happy birthday, mom!).

She chose a nice Italian restaurant, with the typical American-Italian restaurant fare: Bread on the table as soon as you arrive, salads and fried stuff for appetizers, pastas and pizzas, chicken and fish options that all come with pasta on the side.

I have yet to eat at an Italian any restaurant that offers 100% whole grain breads or pastas, so when it’s not a cheat meal, that means that all of those are off-limits. (At home we have stockpiles of 100% whole wheat pasta and bread, ’cause hey, I like pasta and bread as much as you do!).  Since I’m saving my cheat meal for Umami Burger this weekend, I had to get a little more creative.

Challenge… Accepted!

Temptation #1: The bread.

Although my nephews were devouring the focacia-dipped-in-olive-oil-and-balsamic, I stood strong and didn’t have any. I knew if I cheated just a little (“just one bite!”) I’d end up devouring a whole slice, if not two or three.  Instead, I focused on the wine and conversation.

Temptation #2: The entrée.

I chose the Shrimp Scampi, which normally comes with linguini. I asked to have vegetables instead of pasta, and our server was happy to oblige. I also ordered a house salad (dressing on the side, natch), which was quite lovely (white beans in a house salad – nice touch.)

My shrimp came on a bed of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. The whole plate was delicious (there was no shortage of garlic, olive oil, or butter) — and I didn’t even miss the pasta. Seriously. Didn’t miss it.

Temptation #3: Matty’s dinner.

Matty had the Chicken Marsala. Thankfully this wasn’t too tempting for me, since I don’t eat Chicken (haven’t touched it since I was fifteen). I did steal a very tasty mushroom, though.

Temptation #4: Dessert.

We were celebrating a birthday, after all — so it would’ve been rude not to have some. They brought out a huge piece of Tiramisu.  As the plate was passed around, I capitalized on the opportunity: Just a scoop of marscapone off the top, deftly avoiding any of the espresso-soaked ladyfingers.

Can I get a fist bump?

All in all, I walked away from that meal even more satisfied than if I had devoured the bread and pasta. I didn’t feel over-full or bloated, and I was proud of myself for making great choices. Next time I’m tempted, I’ll try to remember that feeling, reminding myself that ultimately I’m happier when I make healthier choices.

What challenges and temptations have you already encountered in January?  How have you dealt with them?

Wondering what all the fuss is about with #januaryrules?  Check out this post and this LA Times Daily Dish article.

Photo by Steve Mohundro.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

You May Also Like:

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
January 6, 2011 3:06 pm

At Umami Burger, you can get your burger in fresh lettuce leaves. Skip the fries and have two of them with a salad on the side! It’s a bit messy, but quite delicious! Staying on track means being selfish, something totally counter to our parents’ teaching. Focus on how you deserve good health more than thinking about making others “comfortable” as they stuff down the carbs.

January 5, 2011 3:53 pm

*Fist bump!* Way to go!!!

January 5, 2011 12:42 pm

Very impressive, well done! If we could only bottle that “feeling” that comes with making healthy choices!

January 5, 2011 11:37 am

Way to go, Andrew! I’ve learned to not even look at the bread since just looking will turn into desiring a piece which is completely off-limits.

It’s funny, because when my husband and I were out for dinner on New Years, he commented after we started eating that he really wanted to try the Korean restaurant’s kal-bi (short ribs) but he felt it would be unfair to me since it wouldn’t be gluten-free. It was sweet of him to do that, but I told him I have to get used to being out with people who aren’t going to think, “Oh, Debi can’t have that so I’m not going to order it.” Besides, I had made gluten-free kal-bi last week so I was good for my kal-bi fix. 😀

Enjoy your Umami Burger this weekend!

January 5, 2011 11:24 am

Thank you for this!! I had been trying to figure out how to navigate Italian without consuming my weight in refined flour, as I just got a gift certificate for Miceli’s and wanted to go with the family next weekend, but also wanted to save my cheat meal for me and my boyfriend’s anniversary, also next weekend! This is super helpful. Also, Umami does have a pretty good veggie burger, it’s very filling. And I don’t mind their fries, I just smother them in the homemade ketchup or garlic aioli (super cheating!). I have to say, though, my favorite from Umami is the truffle burger. Oh my, that thing is gooooooooood.

January 5, 2011 10:36 am

Oooh! Umami Burger this weekend!! So good. Are you going to actually have a burger?! 🙂 Their “combo” meals are quite civilized.