At the mere mention of Italy, most people start salivating thinking of the mounds of pasta and the piles of pizza they would consume in the land of glorious carbs. I was no different – my previous trips to Italy were characterized by inhaling enormous amounts of exquisite food. I was a little bit afraid to head to the land of the carbs with my (relatively) new food sensitivities in tow. However, for the most part, I didn’t need to worry. These are the 5 essential survival tips for eating as a gluten-free vegetarian in Italy.
- Know that there ARE amazing gluten-free options in Rome and Venice – The availability of gluten-free options has soared over the last few years, and Italy is no exception. The first night we were in Rome, we went to La Soffitta Renovatio, which had sublime food. Had excellent gluten-filled options for the others, and a range of pizzas and pastas for me. It was heavenly. I inhaled this entire pizza with relish followed by a perfectly crafted creme brule. It was one of my happiest food moments in recent memory. [Note: we made a reservation, which I would recommend, because even though it is a large restaurant, I think it gets quite busy at peak times]The excellence did not stop there. Our first night in Venice was Steve’s birthday, and we headed to Trattoria da Nino to celebrate. We didn’t have a reservation but were able to be seated on the patio without a wait and enjoy the mild Venetian evening. I was able to have one of the best g-free pastas I have ever had. Later that week, we found a good lunch spot, where more pizza was consumed. Word of warning – some restaurants have substantial sitting fees (this one included). I would normally be a bit miffed at the surprise on the bill, but the food was definitely worth the additional expense.One gluten-full, one gluten-free. Two happy bellies. Our final night together in Venice, we had picked a place, but on our way, we were lured to this place by an enthusiastic accordion player and a very charming waiter. Finding out there were gluten-free options, we happily stopped for one of the most extraordinary meals of the trip. Everything was melt-in-your-mouth perfect, the canal-side ambiance unparalleled, and the company was sparking. Steve ended the evening shuffling with the waiter after Despina had a spirited debate about football. I don’t remember the name of this place, but the perfection of that meal is stamped on my soul. [Edit: Apparently this place is called Trattoria Ali d’Oro. Can’t recommend highly enough!] On my way to the airport, we happened to wander by the restaurant, and I got a quick pic with our fav waiter.
- It takes a little bit more work (unless you want to eat salad) – When we took the time to look up restaurants with gluten-free offerings, I was very happy with the options available, but the one time we ventured out hoping to see where the night took us, hoping to amble across a suitable establishment, we ended up at a small restaurant, and I ended up eating a sad salad while my travel companions were able to enjoy giant plates of pizza. The salad fate only struck at one other restaurant, but in this case, it was pretty delicious.
- You might eat a metric ton of cheese, but that will be delicious – For me, the savoury mozzarella on salads and strings of hot cheese on my pizza are some of the best things in the world. All of the veggie meals I had were very heavy on the cheese front, and while this was heavenly in my books, it would be challenging to be a vegan at several of the places we ate (I am sure it would be possible, but for me, cheese=happiness and I was thrilled to sample some of the excellent cheeses in Italy).
- If in doubt, gelato – As someone with many food restrictions, I am not always sure when I will find my next source of sustenance. Dangerously, for those around me, it means that my hangry rage could strike at any time, which is quite unpleasant. In order to stave off my hangry-ness, I tried to maintain a high level of gelato concentration in my body at all times. This is important health advice.
- Most importantly, wine is gluten-free and vegetarian. Thank globs! And we had some pretty exquisite bottles during the trip. We got to celebrate two birthdays on this trip – one in Rome and one in Venice. Great wine (and champagne!) were sampled to mark both these occasions.
Thanks for the delicious time, Italy! Buon Appetito!