San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Restaurant specializes in gluten-free goodness

From the look of it, Café-Tal stands out as a place to have a delicious meal made with amazing ingredients. Its menu featuring traditionally flour-based dishes like crepes, pizzas and desserts belies the fact that Café-Tal is a 100 percent gluten-free restaurant and growing food distribution business that caters to people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. 

It all started eight years ago, when the second of Mayela Quesada’s three children was born. The family had a medical scare when Quesada’s daughter, Andrea Trujillo, reached 18 months weighing only 7 kilograms, malnourished and suffering from stomach problems. 

The little girl was diagnosed with celiac disease. Her parents, both doctors, had to rethink their family’s eating habits, including eliminating most processed foods from the kitchen cupboards. 

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Pizza with gluten-free crust.

Alberto Font

Making basic things like cookies, pizza and pasta without wheat flour was a big challenge for Quesada and husband Eduardo Trujillo.

“I spent hours in the kitchen to come up with recipes that would improve my family’s quality of life without sacrificing on the variety of ingredients we could cook with,” Quesada said. 

Nights of intense reading and test runs followed, until, four years ago, she succeeded in coming up with an all-purpose flour that worked perfectly as a substitute for wheat flour. 

Quesada was able to bring back desserts and other dishes to the family menu. Now, she is sharing her gluten-free goodies with others at Café-Tal, San José’s only restaurant catering to people with celiac disease, in the western neighborhood of Rohrmoser. 

“Our flour has a lower glycemic index, which means that it is healthier than most other types of flour. Yes, it is gluten-free, but it’s beneficial for everyone,” Trujillo said. 

Quesada’s flour can be used as a wheat flour substitute in any recipe, such as Café-Tal’s creamy chicken crepes (₡4,500/$9) and delicious, crunchy pizzas (₡5,000/$10 for a medium). It also makes sinfully delicious almond croquants and many other dishes. 

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Café-Tal owner Mayela Quesada, at right, and family, from left, husband Eduardo Trujillo and kids Sofía, Andrea and José Pablo.

Alberto Font

“Other restaurants also serve gluten-free dishes but there is always a risk of cross-contamination, since in many cases industrial sauces, sugars and oils also contain gluten,” Quesada explained. “In my restaurant, everything has been studied to be 100 percent gluten-free.”

In just a few months, the restaurant has established a regular clientele of people with celiac disease, including Environment Minister René Castro. The gluten-tolerant also frequent the eatery to try its delicious food and some of the best coffee in the city. The brew comes from the 2008 Cup of Excellence winning plantation, owned by Quesada’s family. 

“I believe that using high-quality products makes a difference in every dish and in every drink,” Quesada said.

Café-Tal is on the Rohrmoser boulevard, 50 meters east of Librería Internacional bookstore. For information, call 2290-6027 or look for Restaurante Café-Tal on Facebook.

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