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Home Health Family Health Dining out When Your Family Has Food Allergies

Dining out When Your Family Has Food Allergies

“For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost.” For Paul Antico, the old proverb went the other way. For want of a restaurant with allergy-friendly options for his family, AllergyEats was born.

allergyPaul Antico is the father of five children, three of whom have food allergies. Twenty-year-old Tucker has a tree nut allergy; 16-year-old Keegan is allergic to tree nuts, sesame and dairy (and also has eosinophilic esophagitis, an autoimmune disease in which, as a reaction to certain foods or allergens or to acid reflux, a white blood cell known as eosinophil builds up in the lining of the esophagus and can inflame or injure the esophageal tissue); and eight-year-old Bree, Antico’s youngest child, is allergic to egg.“AllergyEats really came about from our own frustrations with dining out and, frankly, the time it would take to find restaurants that really understood food allergies,” says Antico, who lives in Cohasset, Mass.

The scope of the situation started to sink in for Antico one weekend in 2006 when his wife went away with their daughter Ashley on a trip, leaving him at home with Tucker and Keegan. “We went to eat out on Saturday night because my cooking is limited to breakfast,” Antico confesses. “All the places we usually [went to] that I knew we were comfortable with had long waits. We ended up driving around for two hours, the kids were so upset and hungry, and I’m frustrated because I just didn’t know where to go. We ended up at a small pizza joint that had egg-free pasta. I just kept thinking as I drove, ‘I wish there was a guide.’ ”

For Antico, this was no idle wish. When he left his job as a financial analyst two years later, looking for a new direction and to
de-stress, he began planning AllergyEats in earnest and, in early 2010, officially launched it. Today, AllergyEats is the largest online guide to allergy-friendly restaurants nationwide. The website and mobile app encompass large restaurant chains, small diners and everything in between. Users can search for restaurants by specific food allergy or intolerance and location; AllergyEats also provides live links to restaurant websites, online menus, restaurant ratings, a “Food for Thought” blog, and even a Disney World specific dining guide.

“My goal is to alleviate a bit of the stress that often accompanies food allergies,” Antico writes on the site. “It will mean a lot to me if I can help a child enjoy a special birthday dinner in a restaurant, rather than just another hot dog somewhere easy.”

AllergyEats is always looking for restaurant reviews from families with food-allergies and sensitivities. If you would like to share a review about a restaurant you have visited—good experience or bad—go to AllergyEats.com or download the mobile app.

—Joyce Heid

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