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Austin-based restaurant chain Johnny Carino's gets serious about gluten-free

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Lemon rosemary chicken at Johnny Carino's
Get Johnny Carino's lemon rosemary chicken and fresh vegetables with gluten-free spaghetti too. Carino's Italian/Facebook

Austin-based restaurant chain Johnny Carino's is busting out the gluten-free with an expansion of its menu that includes 23 gluten-free items. This achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider that Johnny Carino's is an Italian place that serves pasta and pizza.

The new menu includes GF versions of Carino classics such as the skilletini and spicy shrimp and chicken. As for pizza, the chain is partnering with Colorado-based Udi's Gluten Free Foods, which will provide a gluten-free pizza crust, made with tapioca, brown rice flour and egg whites. It's gluten-free but not vegan.

The new menu meets FDA guidelines for gluten-free status, says Johnny Carino's culinary vice president Chris Peitersen.

"I developed the new recipes by utilizing gluten-free ingredients, consulting nutritional experts, and working in conjunction with Analytical Food Laboratories to conduct the actual scientific testing of the menu items," Peitersen says.

So exacting is the gluten-free mission that the chain has created entire gluten-free zones in Johnny Carino's kitchens. That includes separate utensils for handling dishes, to make sure that no gluten crosses the plate of a GF item.

Johnny Carino's owns and operates 65 restaurants, mostly in Texas, with an additional 55 franchised locations nationwide. All will have these gluten-free options.

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