A mother’s love brings a neighborhood to action

Restaurateur Carla Gomes will host CityFeast: Dining Out to Conquer Diabetes at her two North End eateries, Antico Forno and Terramia.
Restaurateur Carla Gomes will host CityFeast: Dining Out to Conquer Diabetes at her two North End eateries, Antico Forno and Terramia.

Shortly before David Gomes first birthday, in the summer of 1991, he came down with what appeared to be a cold. His parents took him to his pediatrician, who said he should be better soon.

When he was still sick a week later, they took him back to the doctor, who tested him for diabetes. That test came up negative, but he was still sick, still not eating and rapidly losing weight. In two weeks, he would go from a healthy 32-pound baby to a sickly 22 pounds.

On David’s birthday, his father Ronald Gomes, a doctor, noticed that his breathing was labored. His parents rushed David to the emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital, where doctors told them their baby was very sick, that he was slipping into a diabetic coma.

The previous test had registered a false negative. If he lived through the night, the doctors said, David would live the rest of his life with diabetes.

“I was devastated,” recalled his mother, Carla Gomes. “We were just concerned about him surviving the night and dealing with the diabetes after. At that moment I wasn’t even thinking of how do we take care of him, I was just praying to God that he lives.”

David Gomes did live through that night, and the next. After a week, he was able to go home from the hospital, but that was only the beginning of his family’s struggle to deal with his illness.

“It was the most confusing roller-coaster ride that I’ve ever been on in my entire life,” his mother said. “Because the numbers didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand a high blood sugar or low blood sugar. Here I have a one-year-old baby, and I have to balance insulin, diet and exercise, and make all those three run in a baby that does not talk.”

Carla Gomes said the challenge sent her into fighting mode. She learned the terminology of diabetes treatment and how to balance her son’s blood sugar. She and her husband adjusted to the regular struggles, as they were forced to hold down a strong, growing child three times a day to give him a shot of insulin.

She kept sweets and sodas out of the house and monitored David’s diet closely, no hamburgers from McDonald’s and no chasing after the ice cream truck. That meant sacrifices for the whole family, especially their other son, just 17 months older than David.

Since that summer of 1991, Carla Gomes has watched as David grew from a underweight baby with a difficult illness into a strong, healthy young man. Today, 6-foot-2, 200-pound David Gomes is a 20-year-old student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He hopes to become a endocrinologist and to help other sick children.

His struggle with diabetes has altered the path of David Gomes’s life, and it’s changed his mother’s as well. The owner of North End restaurants Antico Forno and Terramia is a crusader for diabetes research who founded and helps host the neighborhood’s sixth annual fund-raisers for the Joslin Diabetes Center, where her son has received treatment for 18 years.

For next Sunday’s CityFeast: Dining Out to Conquer Diabetes, both of Gomes restaurants will join four others  Lucca, Taranta, Tresca and Caffe Grafitti  in offering a special five-course dinner with wine pairings for $150 per person, including tax and gratuity.

Proceeds from CityFeast benefit Joslin High Hopes Fund to support their efforts to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes and to search for a cure.

Gomes said from the beginning she’s had eager support from fellow restaurateurs. “When you go to restaurant people for help, everybody in the restaurant industry seems to come together, donates money, has benefits,” she said. We have a great restaurant community, in the North End especially.

The event has grown every year, Gomes said, raising close to $100,000 to date. My dream is to really get this expanded and raise tons of money, she said. Because in one night, in just a very few hours, if we can get so many restaurants to give us 50 seats, the amount of money we could raise in one night for diabetes would be incredible.

Just in the 20 years that the Gomes family has been dealing with diabetes, improvements in understanding and treatment have made life easier for David Gomes and the estimated 23.6 million other Americans living with the disease. Today, Gomes can drink a cola or eat a hamburger if he wants one, but he must remain constantly vigilant, giving himself a shot of insulin five to six times each day.

For Carla Gomes, the hope  and the reason behind CityFeast  is that David and others like him will see a day when a cure can be found. “My son doesn’t know life without diabetes, and I want him to know what that day is like”, she said.

 By Jeremy C. Fox, Town Correspondent

January 24, 2011 on boston.com

Sweet potato & butternut squash-filled ravioli

Fall Dish of the Week: Ravioli Autunnali al Burro Fuso at Terramia Ristorante

I know that I am probably one of those unique individuals who enjoys eating sweet potatoes and butternut squash year round. Waiting patiently for fall seasonal foods to roll around just isn’t my forte. And neither is decision making. Determining whether I want a sweet potato ravioli dish or a butternut squash ravioli dish, can be a difficult choice. At least it was, until I entered Terramia Ristorante in the North End.

Sweet potato & butternut squash-filled ravioli
Sweet potato & butternut squash-filled ravioli

So you can bet I was first in line. Upon entering the intimate, classy Italian setting, filled with candlelight, white tablecloths and a warm atmosphere, I immediately felt comfortable and relaxed. Not to mention, it was slightly tucked away on Salem Street—away from the hoards of tourists. After ravaging the fresh bread (hey, it was a late dinner), I decided upon the “Ravioli Autunnali al Burro Fuso” —mostly because the description went something like this: “Sweet potato & butternut squash-filled ravioli.” The fall dish to end all fall dishes.

And it really was. The dish consisted of 6 very large raviolis. So large, in fact, I couldn’t finish the meal (and as you can see, the dish is larger than my head). The raviolis were stuffed with small pieces of fresh butternut squash and sweet potato. Unlike most ravioli you find elsewhere that has a ground up or processed filling, Terramia’s filling felt like the real deal.

But what I like most about this dish was, hands-down, the sauce. Most restaurants drench their pasta in an exorbitant amount of sauce in order to hide the less than desirable ingredients inside. If you’re like me and love Italian food, this can get old. But, Terramia’s amount of lightly drizzled toasted hazelnut brown butter sauce was juuuust right. The perfect accompaniment to the fall ravioli, the sauce had a sweet, honey-like taste, which perfectly brought out the fall flavors of sweet potato and butternut squash.

In addition, the dish was topped with sage and pieces of sweet mascarpone, Italian cheese made from cream—just enough to complement the dish. No one thing on this ravioli dish was too rich in flavor or (in my opinion) overrode the dish as a whole. But if you’re looking for something savory, this dish probably wouldn’t be your pick. It’s certainly sweet, but not too sweet. All of the ingredients blended together to create an autumn ravioli that was far and away the best I’ve had in Boston.


Pappardelle alla Bolognese Terramia Ristorante Boston North End

My 5 Favorite Things About Boston (and 5 Least Favorite)

“2. Food – You know I like food and I have been fortunate enough to eat at some delicious restaurants, so when I say the food in Boston is amazing, I mean it! The European food is especially delicious. There are some incredible French and Italian restaurants, the latter being my very favorite. I spent more time then I’d care to admit in the North End. My husband went on a personal mission to find the best Bolognese and I ate, well, everything else. Fried zucchini flowers, foie gras, carpaccio, bruschetta, truffle paste, seafood risotto, well, you get the picture. What was my very favorite? The dish that I dream about? That would be the truffle paste at Vinoteca di Monica. I love love love truffles and this is hands down the best truffle pasta dish I have ever had. And which Bolognese did my husband crown as his favorite. That would be the classic Bolognese at Terramia Ristorante. And don’t even get me started on the canolli’s and lobster tails at Mike’s!”


Pappardelle alla Bolognese Terramia Ristorante Boston North End

Gluten-free options quietly popping up on North End menus

Also located on Salem Street, Terramia Ristorante serves gluten-free options as well. “It’s not super difficult for us to do,” said waiter Andy. He said that most of the time, the only item that needs to be substituted in dishes is the pasta itself. “It’s an easy remedy,” he said. That remedy, head waiter Gabriel Goaga says, helps the restaurant “attract more customers.”


Local Restaurants Provide the Gluten Sensitive with More Options

COM senior Jasmine Daniel was nervous about moving away from home and into a college dorm for the first time when she began her four years at Boston University. For most incoming college students, this is typical. But Daniel had something else to worry about in addition to the normal roommate and making friends aspects. She had to worry about something else called gluten.

Gluten is a group of proteins found in products such as wheat, rye, and barley. People with Celiac disease cannot eat gluten because it causes the immune system to attack the gluten, which harms the small intestine. This then makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients.

According to the Gluten Free Network, gluten sensitivity in some form, including Celiac disease and mild gluten intolerance, affects about 15 percent of the U.S. population. That’s 585 students out of this year’s 3,900 freshman class, which basically means it’s a big deal.

“Before I came here, I was nervous about eating,” Daniel said. As a high school student, she felt she did not fit in with her classmates who could binge on pizzas and doughnuts as much as they wanted without the negative side effects she experienced.

“But then I found other things,” she said, adding that the places she turned to for gluten-free items were health food stores and, surprisingly, restaurants. Uno, P.F. Chang’s, and Outback Steakhouse were among Daneil’s favorites.

“I love food and I love going out to eat, so I went where I could go,” Daniel said. “It was rough in the beginning, but now six/seven years later, I don’t mind at all.”

Restaurants like Uno’s, P.F. Chang’s, and Outback Steakhouse are among those making it easier for Celiacs and those with gluten-sensitives to enjoy food like their non-sensitive peers. According to a recent study by SPINS, gluten-free sales came to $12.4 billion in the 52 weeks leading up to August 4, 2012. Since last year, this number has increased by 18 percent when sales were only at $10.5 billion. These sales include natural, specialty gourmet and conventional food and drug sales.

With all this gluten-free information flying around, where does it leave Boston’s gluten capital, the North End?

“I avoid the North End,” Daniel said. “I know it’s all pasta. When my friends go there, I stay home.” Lucky for Daniel, she may not have to do that anymore. Multiple restaurants in the North End now offer gluten-free options for those who are sensitive to the protein. According to Menu Pages, there are 22 restaurants in the North End that now serve gluten-free dishes.

“Out of our 20 main dishes, we serve about 14 or 15 that are gluten-free,” said Chef Joshua Breen of Terramia Ristorante in the North End. When he began as executive chef three years ago, Breen noticed the only gluten-free option the restaurant offered was chickpea flour gnocchi.

“I saw that gluten-free was becoming trendy and I wanted [those with gluten sensitivities] to enjoy their meals with other guests,” Breen said. All the gluten-free dishes are made in-house, save for the Bionaturae linguine pasta because they do not have the type of cut available in the kitchen. The linguine comes from Italy. Terramia’s ravioli is made with chickpea flour, a couple of eggs, water, and milk, and they use separate sifters and bowls while cooking.

“We also have vegan ravioli,” Breen said. “We want all of our customers to be happy with a variety of options.”

Breen, who grew up working in a spice company with his family, said he also uses Xanthan gum and potato flour as substitutes. Antico Forno, a restaurant of the same owner known for its pizza, is now working on a gluten-free pizza dough, which Breen, who serves as kitchen manager there, said is not quite finalized but almost there. They are currently working on capturing the proper texture. Antico Forno also serves gluten-free pasta.

As for other restaurants in the area, Breen feels they are on the same gluten-free page.

“I’ve noticed people picking it up more,” Breen said. “Barbara Lynch has gluten-free options. It’s definitely picking up as a food trend.”

Once Breen began working on new recipes, it became a routine. He keeps all utensils separate and covers everything and trains his other cooks to do the same. Chickpea flour is a common substitution, something he uses in the Pork Osso Bucco and what he uses to bread the chicken. He makes about three to four gluten-free pastas a day and usually makes more on the weekends.

“I’ve seen a lot of gluten-free people,” Breen said. “We make our recipes fresh and we go through them a lot.”

Thanks to restaurants like Terramia and Antico Forno, people like Jasmine Daniel no longer have to fear what they are putting in their mouths. Now someone go find Jasmine and tell her to take a trip to the North End. We heard she’s never been.

October 8, 2012 by Samantha Wood