4.26.2014

Gluten Free Rome - Roma Senza Glutine!

I've just returned from a delightful 15 day visit with my dearest friend Alessandra in beautiful Roma. 

I have spent a great deal of time in Rome, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I've packed up and moved there for a year at a time twice in my life (so far). As a celiac, most people would not consider this the ideal environment. I'd agree that this was true 20 years ago when I spent my first year there. Back then the words celiac and gluten (even when said in Italian) only confused people. Every interaction ended in one of two ways - complete disbelief and pity, or complete disbelief and dismissal. 

When I returned 10 years later, things had already changed a great deal. As a european citizen (and at the time taxpayer) I was entitled to healthcare. As a celiac I was essentially "disabled" in a culture where everything is made with flour. This translated into a 120 euro prescription for gluten free food available in the pharmacy. I dare you to try and keep up with that quantity of cookies, gnocchi and cake. I came home a year later with an extra 15lbs around my midsection.

On this most recent visit I was in awe of the quantity of restaurants around the city that were promoting their gluten-free options. Rather than make a list of places that will constantly change (and will vary in their understanding of contamination)... I thought I'd illustrate just how common the offering has become. 







I've eaten at Il TulipanoNero, in Trastevere, where I've had many, many amazing pizzas over the years. Click on their name for a link for them goes to Trip Advisor with loads of mixed reviews. I've always come away very happy. 











They were one of the first restaurants in Rome to offer gluten free and have been endorsed by the Italian Celiac AssociationYou will sometimes see this sign posted to indicate that the association has trained the restaurant and approves of their processes. This approval is renewed every year.  


As with anywhere, I don't strictly rely on places that promote their gluten-free status. I ate at Luca's in the neighbourhood of San Giovanni. Luca, the chef made special versions of dishes that were served to others where possible. He came out to explain which desserts were safe (I was too full - but he insisted I have a little plate of the filling he used in one of the pastries). 

Italians are passionate about food, and in my experience, are very accommodating. I also dined at il desiderio preso per la coda, near Piazza Navona, where the server was very attentive and had risotto made for me that did not use the pasta water (common practice) or include "dado" (their word for commercial broth). As a rule, I prefer to eat where the Romans eat and avoid places full of other tourists. Italians eat LATE, so an empty restaurant at 8pm is not an indication of popularity.

Valentino does not have a sign - the exterior remains from its heritage as an osteria or Italian pub
At Valentino, in the Monti neighbourhood I ate like a queen - they make meat, cheese and vegetable dishes (no pizza, pasta on the dinner menu). The owner was very clear on which dishes included pane gratata (bread crumbs - also commonly added to vegetable dishes here). I've eaten at Valentino three times, the food and authentic Italian atmosphere - makes it my favourite Italian restaurant. If you click on any of the names of these places, I've linked to their websites.

Fellow blogger, Erin at glutenfreeglobetrotter recommends La Soffitta Ristorante Renovatio, near the Vatican.
 

Another reader and blogger named Anna from gluten free jet setter commented that Taverna Barberini made her gluten-free pasta that she still dreams about. I noted on their site that they also hold gluten-free events there. 

Voglia di Pizza has also gotten some online attention and cross promotes with a hotel that promises a good gluten free experience.

Mama! Eat - is located in Trastevere and also has two locations in Napoli. Check out their menu online. I'll try them next time as they are around the corner from my favourite Piazza - Santa Maria in Trastevere.


I typically stay with Alessandra when I'm in the city - so don't eat every meal out. We shop and eat most meals at home. EVERY grocery store I've been in has at least some gluten-free pasta, cookies and or crackers.You will not starve in Roma. 



The gluten-free goodness is never ending. How about the classic Tiramisu - made gluten-free at Pompi. They have several locations around central Rome. Mamma mia - if only Alessandra hadn't been lactose intolerant... I ate a portion that was more than enough for two - all by myself in less than 5 minutes. 

Gelato - for the most part safe in and of itself, but like any ice-cream place, one must be careful of contamination. Scoops that go in a cookie/biscotti flavour get used with all of the flavours. Use your best judgement, and always share that you are gluten-free. This is a language that is well understood now - especially in Italian. Do everyone a favour and be clear to avoid unnecessary intake. 


At Fatamorgana Gelato, one needs not worry at all. When I asked to see the gluten-free cones they promoted, the server looked at me quizzically. They are all gluten-free, he said, and proceeded to show me the recipe for the most amazing thin crispy cone I've ever had. They have 6 locations in the centre of Rome. Everything is gluten free. Almond cardamon, chocolate orange, and lactose free flavours like pineapple ginger... sigh. 


My celiac childhood has left me with a considerable weakness for cookies. There is an incredible selection within the grocery stores, and many larger grocery chains even carry their own line of gluten-free goods. You will never be bored. I often trekked around the city with little bags of almonds, individually wrapped packages of cookies (to have with my cappuccino), or crackers and wrapped cheeses on days when I wandered alone and just needed something to hold me over. Unlike my travels in northern Europe, I rarely needed these little emergency rations. 

I've lived with celiac disease for a very long time, and have only ever approached food through a lens of caution. I will admit that my Italian, while not perfect, is pretty functional, and this helps a lot - but is not necessary to get a safe meal that will I suspect will greatly exceed your expectations. 

A couple of key words to know:

Gluten Free: 
Senza glutine (pronounced sen-zah gloo - tee - nay).

I am/have celiac disease: 
Sono celiaca (pronounced so-no chee - lee - ah - kah )

Check out this useful travel site HERE to download cards in every language that you can carry with you. 

Visit the Italian Celiac Association site HERE. At the time I'm posting their regionalized restaurant list was under construction.

Mangiare Senza Glutine is an Italian language site, but includes an APP you can download to search wherever you are in Italy for gluten free anything. It was recommended to me by another Roman friend Priscilla, who works as a tour guide. 

If you are not into eating out for every meal (like me), an ideal arrangement is to rent a small studio apartment with a kitchen. Everything tastes better here - even when you make it yourself. So many products like sauces, pesto - even chocolate are marked as gluten-free... so it's not difficult to keep yourself satiated here. Keep the food simple, avoid highly processed items with long ingredient lists - and ask for help. The various names for gluten on the restaurant cards will be helpful when shopping too, as you can use them to ask others to validate ingredients if you need to. 

All I've covered here is food... which is divine, but only a part of the experience, and by no means comprehensive. What I wanted to provide here was a sense of the possibilities. My hope is to calm any anxieties about travel to a country known for its gluten. Even without the fine fare... Rome is non-stop eye candy. 

Remember to click on the many links I've shared for more information on the places I came across ... and then pack your camera, sunglasses and most comfortable shoes. You'll certainly find your own special gluten free finds when you get there. 

Buon Viaggio!!


Eataly carries three stories full of the most beautiful Italian food products. At Piramide station on the metro. 

ps: for more on travel - check out the links on the right side of this blog... and don't forget to check the amazing sites of the gf travel bloggers I've linked to above!


2 comments:

  1. Great roundup of GF spots in Rome! I'm sad that I missed Il Tulipano Nero, but it's on my list for next time. I think I got distracted by the extensive GF pasta menu at nearby Mama Eat. Absolutely cannot wait to return to Rome to eat more!

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  2. Thanks so much Anna - there certainly are plenty of places to try... I too am eager to get back and try new places too!

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