The complimentary breadbasket is disappearing

It would be premature to pronounce the restaurant breadbasket dead. But what was once a straightforward offering has become so tricky that when chef Eric Gburski was deciding what to give diners at Estelle’s, his new Southern-inspired restaurant, pickles seemed a safer option than warm cornbread.

“Not only are pickles gluten free,” he said, “but they’re soy and nut free, and there’s no dairy in them.”

Oh, staff of life, what’s happening to you?

In restaurants all over town, the traditional complimentary breadbasket is disappearing, a victim of two of society’s most powerful forces — the economy and the antiwheat juggernaut.

“You’ve opened up a Pandora’s box,” Mario Mariani, the general manager of Pain D’Avignon, a wholesale artisan bakery and cafe in Hyannis, said by way of starting a discussion on the topic. “It’s a sore point.”

With restaurants trying to fight their way back to pre-recession levels of profitability, Mariani estimates that 15 percent have started making diners ask for bread if they want it, and another 10 percent have stopped ordering table bread from his company.

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