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.

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