I am gluten and lactose free, so going to Rome was definitely going to be a challenge with all the pizza, pasta, and gelato. But thankfully, I am not the only one who has these sensitivities–Italians have them, too.
Our first night in Rome, we were ushered to the north side of the city, and under rain and thunder, we saw there was a gluten-free place about a mile away and decided to go for a stroll in the rain. After walking along highway exits and deserted streets, we came to Il Viaggio, a small, out of the way place that caters to celiacs. As you sit down, the waitress asks who is gluten-free and they make a big deal out of making sure you get served the gluten-free bread, while Jeff got all the gluten he wanted. It was remarkable food.
We started with a fromage and pear board with honey, raspberry chutney, and onion jam. I would not have thought honey with cheese and onions, but my goodness, if I adopt anything Italian into my kitchen, it will be that alone. Then we ordered our meals. I was so excited about the prospect of pasta, I ordered the most pasta-y dish: gnocchi with cheese, pepper, and pears. It was delicious and worth every calorie. Jeff had a small quail served with vegetables. Finally, the tables were turned!
The downpour pushed us to go straight back to the hotel instead of venturing out for gelato, plus, I slipped on a metal grate and banged my knee hard on the cobblestone sidewalk. It had been a long day, clearly, and we needed to go to sleep before we hurt ourselves any further.
The next day, we focused on finding more gluten-free establishments because our hotel location moved from north to south, and it seemed as though Trastevere was the place to go. Trastevere is a part of Rome on the west side of the river and south of Vatican City. It is where the locals hang out and the atmosphere feels more like the stereotypical Rome we had been expecting.
We treked through the area and found Il Tulipano Nero next to several more gluten-free places! I was so excited that I had found a way to enjoy real Italian food! I ordered a pizza with olives, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and prosciutto and enjoyed every single calorie. We still did order the house wine with every meal, and we never had a bad glass. I highly recommend this to anyone in Italy. For €5-6.00 you can get a half liter of house wine. That usually measured out to two glasses for each of us.
While wandering around Trastevere, we stumbled upon a gelato place called Fonte Della Salute. It was incredible! Not only did they have gluten-free cones, but also lactose free gelato! I had stocked up on a bulk order of lactose-free pills, and was popping pills with every cup, but this time, I didn’t have to worry about it and got to have a cone! The flavors at this place were also very inventive. I enjoyed the rice milk and bergamot mixed with pistachio. The next night, we went back and I had the crema catalana (which was a rich cinnamon flavor) mixed with apple and cinnamon. The flavors were outrageous.
The two other meals we went out for, I made a point of going back to the other gluten-free restaurants in the area to give them a try. Right next to Il Tulipano Nero was Da I Sandri a Trastevere. It was a smaller place than the other with a limited lunch menu. I didn’t get a chance to devour a pizza this time, but I did get a small portion of egg noodles with sea bass and tomatoes. Jeff and I also shared a pan-fried artichoke. We thought we were to eat it like the steamed artichokes, using the teeth against the leaves to get to the heart of palm. But the owners told us in broken English that we were supposed to eat the entire leaf. So, we ate our “artichoke chips.” They were a little crunchier than I would have liked, but the seasonings they put on it were delicious.
What I did like about this place is they were very specific even with the dishes and utensils they served me with. They are certified by the AIC group and maintain a very sanitary atmosphere.
The last place we went to was Mama! Eat also in Trastevere. The place was very relaxed with a younger crowd as patrons, but the food was absolutely delicious. On the last night in Rome, I had to try another pizza so went with the spicy salami, and it was so worth the two-a-days at the gym I’ll be doing for the next month. The crust was chewy without being tough and everything was so fresh.
In the states, I don’t think they have figured out all the ins and outs of gluten free pizza. It usually tastes like cardboard or dry crackers, but in Italia, they had it right.
I do have to mention a couple other things about what the Italians get right. There is scene, more of a shot that’s on the poster, in Eat Pray Love of Julia Roberts enjoying Giolitti gelato. Apparently, this place is famous worldwide for their gelato established in 1900. So, okay, let’s go. We had lunch at a place in central Rome after Mass which said they were gluten-free, but my stomach later told me they were lying–and Giolitti was near by. It was sheer chaos! The line was out the door and the yelling was deafening.
Being new to the game, I found I had accidentally cut in front of about 15 people to the check out and then about 20 people in line for my gelato. The place was so packed, I just took the open opportunity. We had also just fought the horde of people at the Vatican, so I was ready to push through it all again.
The gelato was by far the best. I had a dark chocolate paired with amaretto, and it was out of this world. Worth the fake wait.
Now the coffee: the coffee was amazing and with so much flavor. But what astounded me was that I didn’t have to wait for an hour for it to cool down! The baristas know the temperature of human tolerance and serve the coffee at a hot, but not unbearable level. What a concept!
Now this little talent comes in handy on our last night. At Mama! Eat, I told Jeff we had to have a shot of grappa. It’s just what we need to do. So apparently, the traditional way to drink it is to have a cup of espresso, down it, and then wash the cup out with a drop of the grappa. You then drink the espresso/grappa mix and chase it with the remainder of the grappa. I was instantly wired and grateful our hotel was close or else I would have no sense of direction.
I was so happy that I could enjoy the food of Rome without a perpetual stomach ache and would recommend any of the places I linked to anyone going to Rome.