Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gluten Free in Rome

Yesterday, we returned from our trip to Italy. We spent 7 nights in Rome, 5 nights in Florence, 3 nights in Venice, and one night at the Rome Marriott Park Hotel near Fiumicino Airport outside of Rome. As far as food goes, our trip to Italy was completely stress free for me. I easily found safe places to eat in all the cities we visited, thanks to other gluten free bloggers, the Find Me Gluten Free app, and the AIC (Italian Celiac Association) website and app.


 All of the restaurants I dined at were either 100% gluten free, or were accredited by the AIC, with the exception of one gelato shop we visited in San Gimignano on a day trip from Florence.


We arrived in Rome late Sunday night, checked into our Airbnb near Piazza del Popolo, and walked to Carrafour to buy some groceries.


Every day in Rome except one, I had breakfast at our Airbnb. We were able to buy fresh fruit at a local market, and I enjoyed the Gaia lemon muffins I bought at Carrafour. I easily found gluten free options in all the grocery stores we shopped at in Italy.


When I bought salame or other Italian meats, I made sure that they were labeled senza glutine.  These small packs of salame from Carrafour were a favorite of mine. We usually ate our big meal of the day for lunch, so it was nice to have something small to snack on at night if I was hungry.


Our first night in Rome, I also bought two containers of Grom gelato at Carrafour. Grom, a 100% gluten free gelato chain in Italy, has several locations in Rome, but we did not try gelato from one of their shops until we got to Florence.


When I wasn't inhaling gelato from a gelato shop, I had a box of gluten free Cornetto ice cream cones I could snack on at our Airbnb. My gluten-eating daughters and I really enjoyed them.


If I included pictures of all the gelato I ate in Rome, this post would be ridiculously long. Fatamorgana Gelato was my favorite gelateria in Italy. Everything in their shop is 100% gluten free, including the cones, so no need to worry about cross contamination. They also have a large selection of dairy free options as well.


My favorite flavor combination of the trip was their amazing basil with walnuts and honey, and zabaione, topped with whipped cream. They have a small gelateria near Pizza del Popolo that we went to almost every day, and a larger location that we visited twice near Piazza Navona.


After visiting their shop in Los Angeles, I had hoped to have their waffle bowls in Rome, but we only found them at a small Fatamorgana display in the Westin Excelsior. Fatamorgana has so many interesting flavors to choose from. Be sure to sample a few before making your final decision.


Besides Fatamorgana and Grom, you can also enjoy gelato worry free at Fiocco di Neve near the Pantheon. Everything is gluten free, including the cones, which are also vegan. On our first visit, I tried their pistachio ricotta and amarena, which was my daughter Emma's favorite gelato in Rome. My husband said it might be his favorite too. It was good, but a little too sweet for my taste.


On our second visit, I ordered pistachio ricotta, and cassata con ricotta fresca, which tasted like cannoli filling.  The presentation of cones at Fiocco di Neve was never as pretty as Fatamorgana and Grom, but their gelato was amazing, and I loved their round cone toppers.


Our first full day in Rome, we had lunch with a former student at Voglia di Pizza, an AIC certified restaurant with a separate kitchen for gluten free food preparation.


I ordered the four cheese pizza with rocket (arugula), minus the gorgonzola. The only thing that could have made this thin crust pizza more perfect was if the arugula had been dressed with some olive oil, pepper, and maybe a little balsamic reduction.


We liked Voglia di Pizza so much, on our last night in Italy, my husband and I took a shuttle from the Rome Marriott Park Hotel into the city to have a date night, while our daughters stayed with my aunt and uncle.


I ordered the same pizza, except this time, I asked for bufala mozzarella subbed for the gorgonzola.


After seeing Aperol spritz all over Italy for two weeks, I decided to try one at Voglia di Pizza. I am not really sure what all the hype is about. It was decent, but I doubt I would ever order one again.


After our first visit, we had gelato at Fatamorgana, which is just a block or two away, but after seeing a server walk by with torta di ricotta on our second visit, we decided to try a piece. The cheesecake at Voglia di Pizza was the best I have ever had. It had an incredible crust, and was much lighter than traditional cheesecake made with cream cheese in the United States. It was definitely one of the best non-gelato desserts I had in Italy.


After our small group tour to Tivoli to see Hadrian's Villa and Villa d'Este, we had lunch at Ristorante Il Viaggio, which offers an entirely gluten free menu and cooking classes. They did have gluten-filled bread and pasta available for my family, but I was served housemade gluten free bread.


We started with the fried calamari with crunchy vegetables, which was the best calamari we had in Italy.


The fried zucchini slices were incredible as well, and we loved all the other vegetables on the plate, which we think included fried sweet potato.


For entrees, my husband and I shared spaghetti alla carbonara, and the homemade gnocchi with cheese, pepper and pears. The gnocchi Cacio e Pepe at Il Viaggo was one of my favorite pasta dishes in Italy. The gnocchi were light, and complimented so well by the cheesy sauce and pears. Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish with Pecorino Romano and black pepper that I have been making at home for a few years.


The spaghetti alla carbonara was good, but not something I would order again on future visits.


For dessert, I chose the apple crumble with custard, which was another one of my favorite non-gelato desserts in Italy. It definitely tasted as good as it looked, and I had a hard time keeping my daughters away from my dessert.


The morning after my aunt and uncle arrived, we walked to Pandali, a 100% gluten free bakery near the Pantheon.


Most of their baked goods did not look that appealing to me, but their donuts looked delicious, and that's all I needed for breakfast.  This was the one place in Rome that I could not find someone that spoke English well.


I ordered a ciambella (donut) and a girella crema e cioccolato (swirled cream and chocolate), but I did not realize until I sat down to eat that I had been given a girella crema e uvetta (cream and raisin). I enjoyed them both, but I definitely would have preferred the swirled cream and chocolate.  I was pleasantly surprised that my donuts were not very sweet, which was fine with me, because I don't enjoy anything that is overly sweet.  I would have liked to have tried one of their savory pockets, but we had early lunch reservations that day, followed by a tour, so I did not want to be dragging them around until dinner time.


One of the posts I found super helpful on my trip was Gluten-Free Rome: A Survival Guide for Celiacs.


The author said that the pizza at Pantha Rei, an AIC certified restaurant near the Pantheon, might be the best pizza in Rome. Sadly, it was the worst pizza I had on our entire trip. You could definitely tell the crust was gluten free, because the texture was just not right, and my potato and mozzarella pizza was incredibly bland. When my husband and I traveled to Rome 15 years ago, five years before my celiac diagnosis, we had amazing potato pizza at a restaurant near the Vatican.  This pizza need rosemary or other seasonings, and it could have used some Parmesan or Romano. My gluten-eating family enjoyed their pizza and pasta at Pantha Rei, and the service was very good, but I would probably not return on future visits unless I was going to order pasta.


Sadly, I reread a great post about Rome by the The Sightseeing Coeliac after we ate at Pantha Rei, where she mentions the gluten free pizza is not great there.


I was super excited to eat at La Soffitta Renovatio after reading a review from Gluten Free and Glittery. This AIC certified restaurant, which is a short walk from the Vatican, has a separate kitchen for preparing gluten free food. Like Voglia di Pizza, gluten free dishes arrive with a flag.


For an antipasti course, my husband and I ordered fried calamari with zucchini, and prosciutto di parma (parma ham) with bufala mozzarella. The fried calamari and zucchini were overly salty, and tasted like they had been made in old oil, so I did not enjoy them.


I loved the prosciutto and bufala mozzarella, but was concerned when it did not arrive with a flag. I mentioned it to our server, who was pretty rude our entire meal, but he did not seem concerned.


I ordered a calzone with prosciutto and mozzarella, minus the tomato sauce, but I was brought a pizza instead.


Because my pizza was so good, I decided to not return it.  Gluten Free and Glittery mentioned that they had gluten free cannoli, but cannoli were not on the menu. When we were leaving, I saw a display with cannoli and asked our server, who was nearby, if they could be made gluten free. It turns out I could have had a cannoli, but we had given up our seats. My one big disappointment of this trip was that I never ate a cannoli, but we might go back to La Soffitta Renovatio next summer when we are in Rome during our Mediterranean cruise on the Disney Magic. My daughter Emma's favorite meal of the trip was the Cacio e Pepe with housemade gluten-filled pasta at this restaurant. I might try the gluten free version if we return.


After lunch at La Soffitta Renovatio, we walked over to Mama Eat Street Food, a 100% gluten free fast casual restaurant near the Vatican, for fried donut holes with chocolate. They were a little sweet, but they were warm, and so good dipped in the chocolate, which I asked for on the side. Mama Eat Street Food, which used to be called Mama Frites, makes panini, calzones, lasagna, risotto, fried pizza, and other fried foods. Lactose free and vegan dishes are available as well. You can view their menu here.


The next day, we had dinner at Mama Eat in Trastevere, a beautiful neighborhood in Rome. Mama Eat is a more formal sit down restaurant in comparison to Mama Eat Street Food, and it has gluten free and gluten-filled foods, but they are made in separate kitchens to avoid cross contamination. Like Mama Eat Street Food, Mama Eat has many lactose free options. My aunt is lactose intolerant, and my uncle avoids dairy as much as possible, and they had no problems finding safe options at the restaurants we dined at in Italy.


Mama Eat's gluten free menu was huge, and I had a hard time deciding on a main course.


I had no problem picking starters though. I ordered breaded and fried mozzarella, which I have not had since my celiac diagnosis ten years ago. It was divine, and something I would not miss on future visits.


I felt the same way about the little fried pizzas I ordered, minus the tomato sauce. I asked for olive oil instead of the sauce, but I don't think they understood what I was asking for. It was still amazing though, topped with Parmesan and basil.


For an entree, I chose spaghetti carbonara sauteed with bacon, egg, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano. It was good, but my starters were the highlight of my meal.


For dessert, I shared pistachio tiramisu and chocolate cake with my husband.


Both desserts were very good, but I wish I had ordered the crepe with hazelnut cream that my daughter Katie chose. I could not taste it, because she ordered the gluten-filled version, but she told me the crepe was delicious, and The Sightseeing Celiac enjoyed it as well.


My uncle tried the gluten and dairy free Torta Caprese, Capri's traditional cake with chocolate and almonds. We are stopping in Naples during our cruise next summer, and I am considering eating at the Mama Eat location there, because I keep dreaming about their fried cheese and fried pizzas.


Our last full day in Rome, we had lunch at Risotteria Melotti, a 100% gluten free restaurant that we first tried in New York City three years ago.


It was nice to have a break from pizza and pasta, and their bread might have been my favorite of the trip.


For antipasti, my husband and I shared soft "Rosso Rosetta" rice polenta with mushrooms. This dish was so good, even my daughters, who are not fans of mushrooms, had a few bites.


My daughter Emma and I both chose the risotto Cacio e Pepe with Cacio cheese and black pepper.


I really enjoyed my entree, but I probably preferred my daughter Katie's risotto with basil, cherry tomatoes and burrata cheese, and my husband's risotto with lemon and shrimp.


Both dishes were amazing, and I enjoyed sampling bites of their meals which I ate my risotto.


The day we returned to Rome by train from Venice, my husband and I stopped at La Pasticciera, a 100% gluten free bakery that is about a 5 minute walk from Termini station.


My goal was to have a gluten free cannoli before leaving Rome, but I mixed up the bakery that they were available at.


The pastries at La Pasticciera were so beautiful, but I only bought tozzetti, which are biscotti-like cookies that you dip in an after dinner drink. I would have loved to have tried more of their beautiful desserts, but we had to return to Termini to take a train to Fiumicino Airport, and I did not want to be dragging around pastries in addition to my luggage.


Next time we are in Rome, I hope to stop at Napoleoni Gluten Free, where Amy the Family Chef recently had beautiful looking cannoli. You should also check out Amy's review of Relais Borgo Gentile, a 100% gluten free agriturismo (kind of like a bed & breakfast) about an hour outside of Rome. I also wanted to visit Sans de Ble, a 100% gluten free bakery in Rome, but it was pretty far out of our way, and we never had time to stop there.


Overall, we had an incredible trip to Rome, and I felt great the whole time we were there. I never felt the slightest hint that I was glutened anywhere. Except at Pandali, we had no language issues, and we were given English menus everywhere we ate on our entire trip. No one in my family speaks Italian, but we knew enough basic phrases to get by and be polite. I have found in my European travels that people are much more willing to help you when you try and speak their language a little bit first - a simple greeting, basic phrases for ordering what you want, and asking whether they speak English in their language. We also found the Google Translate app very helpful.

Yesterday, I created a Facebook group called Gluten Free Italy, where I will be posting pictures of menus from the restaurants we dined at, as well as the food we ordered. After we get back from Hawaii, I will be posting food reviews from Florence and Venice.

What are your favorite restaurants for gluten free dining in Rome?



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