Fresh First: 100% Gluten Free in Fort Lauderdale

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Once upon a time people ate meat and potatoes, and were absolutely fine with it.

Then we learned about heart disease, celiacs, dairy-allergies, the industrial farming system, and all the other issues stemming from our "standard American diet." (SAD)

While awareness of dietary issues still has a way to go, it's on the rise and we're starting to see more shops and restaurants that cater to those who have special alimentary needs.

Fresh First is Fort Lauderdale's first place to earn the recognition of "Great Kitchen" by National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), and it caters to diets and lifestyles of all shapes and sizes.

See Also: Ten Best Juice Bars in Broward and Palm Beach Counties

Owned by mother/daughter team Mary and Francesca Siragusa, the restaurant offers a wide variety of organic fare ranging from vegan and vegetarian to wild caught fish to free-range chicken. Everything in the spot is gluten, corn, and peanut-free as well as non-GMO.

Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday, the restaurant aims to bring those with dietary restrictions and those who just like to eat good food together under one roof.

"We've had wives come up and thank us, because they're vegan, and they find it so hard eating out with their meat-eating husbands," said Mary.

The menu spans from meat like the mushroom turkey burger ($13.25) with local mozzarella to raw zucchini puttanesca ($13.95) with sprouted garbanzo beans, sprouted lentils, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, kalamata olives, and scallions in a garlic lemon sauce to macaroni and cheese ($11.25) to vegan chocolate chip cookies.

While the fare runs from raw to vegan to full on animal protein, the one correlation between everything is the lack of gluten, corn, and peanuts. The entire staff underwent training by the NFCA.

"We had a woman and a man come in not too long ago; as soon as she walked through the door she was smiling," said Mary. "We asked, 'Is it your first time here?' She said, 'Yes.' We asked, 'Are you celiac?' She said, 'Yes.' We asked, 'Are you excited?' Her eyes lit up and she said, 'Yes!' The man said, 'I've never seen someone so excited to walk into a restaurant.' She told us she has such a hard time going out to eat, because of her dietary issues."

After years of working together with a catered home delivery service, the mother/daughter duo opened the doors to the restaurant about six months back. Since starting up, they've added to their list of services; they are now providing planned meals for different dietary lifestyles once or twice a month. Each meal comes with cold-pressed juice that has been squeezed with an in-house Norwalk juicer -- fresh squeezed juices are available all day long, as well.

Together, Mary and Francesca, hand-picked every element in the restaurant from the high-quality fresh-caught tuna to the wallpaper and the fabricated copper that borders the pass through to the open kitchen.

They're main goal was to create a positive space for all.

"We're all about love and no judgement here," said Mary. "We do the best we can to bring together healthy food and a healthy attitude.

Fresh First is located at 1637 SE 17th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-763-3344, or visit freshfirst.com.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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