7 Sisters Italiano’s menu boasts homemade gluten-free food
A waitress at 7 Sisters Italiano places down a plate with a large serving of pesto pasta and returns to the table a few minutes later.
“Can you tell it’s gluten free?” she asks, raising her eyebrows.
“No,” says my dining companion, impressed.
“That’s the best part,” the waitress says, smiling.
Owners Todd and Jeanine Morgan opened the Citrus Heights restaurant in December 2010 with a goal in mind: To make quality homemade Italian food in the vein of an old-school mom-and-pop eatery one would have found in Italy at the turn of the 20th century.
That means authentic recipes, organic ingredients and homemade bread, sausage, dough, sauce, pasta and cheese.
“People should be passionate about food, not go to a restaurant and feel like they’re settling,” Jeanine Morgan says.
But the husband-and-wife team had another goal, which involved raising the bar on the taste of gluten-free food. To do so, Jeanine Morgan — who suffers from celiac disease along with their two children and the majority of her 11 siblings — creates her own line of convenient, gluten-free cuisine.
“You want something and you realize no one else is going to do it, so you shut up and realize you have to do it,” she says.
In the process, she’s providing an enjoyable eating experience for those who often can’t go to restaurants without worrying about the potentially dangerous impact on their health. Jeanine Morgan’s food is certified by the Celiac Sprue Association.
“People come in here and try our food and cry. And we know we did our job,” she says.
Their gluten-free menu includes about 20 products, including desserts, and she’s also experimenting with vegan and dairy-free dishes.
“I guess that’s where my degree comes in,” says Jeanine Morgan, who majored in biochemistry at Rutgers University.
There are also plenty of non-gluten free items available. The Morgans pride themselves on providing customers with a constantly evolving menu of reasonably priced dishes — appetizers, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas — devised by the trials and taste tests of Todd Morgan.
The friendly chef often visits patrons’ tables, offering free samples, suggesting items not even on the menu or boisterously encouraging them to “dig in!”
In October, he introduced a stew with sausage, mushroom, onion, garlic and marinara.
“This is a hearty meal,” he says. “It’s a winter-time thing.”
For an appetizer, he recently created a mozzarella wrap filled with salami, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, capers, onions and olives. He’s always coming up with new recipes to try.
“I make a lemon pizza. People are totally freaked out by that,” he says.
He actually prefers his pasta plain with butter and garlic, and he avoids food out of a box.
Todd Morgan is a native New Yorker with 30 years of Italian recipes up his sleeves, and his wife is a native of Philadelphia. They married and lived in New Jersey.
“Then 9/11 happened,” Todd Morgan said.
The couple sold their house and headed out west to Nevada. After eight years of operating Big Apple Pizza and Catering in Sparks, they wanted a change and moved to California.
7 Sisters Italiano is named for Jeanine Morgan’s sisters, and the restaurant is tucked away in the corner of a shopping center on Auburn Boulevard. The intimate space is simple, bright and airy, with a comfortable homey-feel. Patrons can watch the chef working in the kitchen from any spot in the restaurant, which seats about 35.
Carry-out and catering is also available.
“Business has done exceedingly well,” Todd Morgan says. “It’s shocking in this economy. It’s because the food we do is unique to this area.”
Sena Christian can be reached at email@example.com.
7 Sisters Italiano
Where: 8493 Auburn Blvd. in Citrus Heights
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 1-7 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Info: Can accommodate parties. Call for reservations on weekends. (916) 727-2777. www.7sistersgf.com.