Berkeley goes gluten-free

BERKELEY, Calif. — When a customer orders a gluten-free item, the staff at Tivoli Caffe in Berkeley knows exactly what to do. The family-owned restaurant on Bancroft shifts into high gear as employees prepare the allergy-friendly food, keeping cross-contamination in mind.

The Tivoli Caffe

The cafe is a family-owned business and makes free deliveries to the UC Berkeley campus. Photo by Libby Morris

“My sister has celiac disease, so we’re very cautious. Every customer that walks in here we treat just like my sister,” said employee Daniel George Daniel, a member of the owner’s family.

Tivoli Caffe has both gluten-free and vegan options on its menu, which resonates with residents of Berkeley. The restaurant prepares the specialty food in a separate space and uses different utensils to ensure that the food is entirely gluten-free.

Gluten-free food “does cost more because a lot of places that we buy from don’t give you much of a deal when you buy in bulk,” Daniel said. The staff either has to make the products themselves or buy from outside bakeries, such as Mariposa in San Francisco.

This cafe isn’t the only place that offers gluten-free options around town. Gluten-free fare has increased in popularity, especially in this area. The Melt and San Francisco Soup Company, chains based in Northern California, also accommodate people with dietary restrictions.

San Fran Soup Co. sign

The Soup Company’s Berkeley location is one of 16 in the Bay Area. Photo by Libby Morris

“We’ve had gluten-free stuff on the menu way before I even started working here,” said Jose Chaname, manager of the San Francisco Soup Company’s in Berkeley and an employee for two years.

Not only does their menu accommodate gluten-free diets, but it also has vegetarian, dairy-free, and low-fat options.

“As far as wiping things down or changing gloves, we don’t mind. They’re steps we have to take,” Chaname said. Meeting the needs of customers with allergies is not seen as an inconvenience to the employees.

Patrons can view the Soup Company’s website, which offers a complete list of ingredients and allergens.

“Any questions about any of the soups we are able to answer them and give them the information they need. It’s in our bylaws,” Chaname said.

The Melt storefront

The Melt’s Berkeley restaurant is on Telegraph Ave. and is one of 24 locations in the Bay Area. Photo by Libby Morris

The Melt, near the UC Berkeley campus, has had gluten-free options since opening in 2012. Manager Kevin Ruf said he is always happy to help customers who need gluten-free bread with their grilled-cheese sandwiches.

“That’s definitely one way society is going: gluten-free. So we have to listen to our customers,” Ruf said. “We have to find out about allergies and find out about their diet regimens. We’re really just trying to create a healthier option and doing our best to take care of them.”