Feb 23, 2012

Gluten-free Rome

Please read my 2018 update! 

Not many gluten-free travelers realize that coeliacs exist in Italy too.

The boot-shaped peninsula seems like the last place where you'd enjoy a gluten-free meal, what with all the pasta, pizza, bread, focaccia, salumi and other Italian specialties and staples. But celiacs in Italy can enjoy a large variety of gluten-free foods at every meal.

For example, mornings can have a sunny start with gluten-free croissants (cornetti senza glutine) along with steaming cappuccino. Midday snacks and main meals can include gluten-free panini, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free beer, gluten-free pizza, and even gluten-free gelato, served in a flour-less cone.
gluten: substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic tissue of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes disorders in people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.
Prompted by a celiac friend skeptical of traveling to Italy, I did a little research, tried various products and after a number of wheat-less meals, I came up with this little list of gluten-free dining options in Rome.

Baiamonti Lounge Bar - Charming pizzeria, cafe and tavola calda (informal, cafeteria-style) that caters exclusively to celiacs. Via Baiamonti, 12 (Prati) - Tel. +39 0637351954

Hotel Diana Roof Garden - Dine sans wheat on a breathtaking terrace with sweeping views of the Vatican and tiled rooftops. Via Principe Amedeo, 4 (Esquilino) - Tel. +39 06478681

Il Capriccio di Trastevere - This fun trattoria offers a large number of gluten-free options along with their regular menu of Sicilian specialties. Via Roma Libera, 19 (Trastevere) - Tel. +39 065816469

Polenta (slow-cooked cornmeal) is a typical northern Italian staple, and totally gluten-free.

Il Viaggio - Sitting in the pastel rooms of Il Viaggio, celiacs can pick from an impressive list of wheat-less dishes, from antipasto through dessert, and choose between 3 variegated tasting menus. Via Isonzo, 14 (Nomentano) - Tel. +39 0697997043

Insomnia - Great seafood and homemade desserts in this restaurant and pizzeria that has prides in providing numerous gluten-free preparations, including pizza, pasta and fried goodies since 2007. Via Portuense, 469 - Tel. +39 0655389376

Giancarlone al 19 - Giancarlone cooks up some of the city's best homestyle Roman cuisine, with an eye for celiac pizza-lovers. Via Durazzo, 19 (Prati) - Tel. +39 0666014164

'O Masto - Pizzeria in EUR that serves Napoli-style thick crust pizzas, receives daily deliveries of mozzarella di bufala and limoncello from Naples, and coats its ambrosial fritti with celiac-approved breadcrumbs. Largo Salinari, 8/16 (Tre Fontane) - Tel. +39 065413448

Mama! Eat - Appealing joint that serves up a plethora of delicious gluten-free options, including pizza, several pasta dishes, tasty grilled panini, desserts and beer. Via di San Cosimato, 7 (Trastevere) - Tel. +39 065806222

Renovatio | La Soffitta - Home to some of the best gluten-free cuisine in town. Specialties include antipasti, thin crust pizza, Roman pastas classics like carbonara, and homemade desserts. Piazza Risorgimento 46a (Vatican) - Tel. +39 0668892977

Tramvì - Within the compound of the children's museum Explora, celiacs can enjoy palatable dishes in a colorful setting. And free parking in a virtually carless zone. Via Flaminia 82 (Piazza del Popolo) - Tel. +39 0632600432

Universale Caffè - Wheat-less pastries and sweets are served along side freshly brewed espresso and exotic teas, as well as gluten-free appetizers with drinks. The place is located at a stone's throw from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Via delle Coppelle, 16/a (Pantheon) - Tel. +39 0668392065

Voglia di Pizza - Bakes flour-less pies, served with gluten-free beer, both at deliciously small prices in otherwise costly surroundings. Via dei Giubbonari, 33 (Campo de' Fiori) - Tel. +39 066875293

Beyond the city center:
Agriturismo Santa Anastasia - In the lovely setting of this rustic working farm and B+B minutes away from the center of town, the wood-fired brick oven and grill churn steaks and gluten-free pizzas until late at night. Via Torre Sant'Anastasia, 83 (Ardeatina) - Tel. +39 0671350361 - temporarily closed for renovation (2018)

Al Colle - Besides the delightful wheat-less pizzas, this place rocks a lush garden and a romantic terrace overlooking the Tuscolo winelands. Via di Passolombardo, 212 (Romanina) - Tel +39 067201032

Stella Marina - The special gluten-free menu includes wheat-less ravioli, potato gnocchi, and fettuccine, all dressed with delicious seafood condiments, plus stellar homemade breads, cakes, crostate, tiramisù, and sorbets. Via Nino Taranto, 29 (Acilia) - Tel. +39 0652440215

Favorable facts for celiacs in Italy:
  • In Italy celiacs receive a monthly allowance from the government for gluten-free foods.
  • By law gluten-free foods must be available to celiacs in schools, hospitals, and public places, like malls and cinemas.
  • All pharmacy products are required to indicate the presence of gluten on labels.
  • All food labels must indicate the presence of gluten.

Soy–, yeast– and gluten–free "occhi di bue" cookies
Useful resources:
Associazione Italiana Celiachia ~ Italian celiac disease association
Cose dell'Altro Pane ~ Artisan GF products
Celiachiamo.com ~ Intolerance-awareness website, has now opened 2 shops in Rome
Glutenfree Roads ~ GF travel website
Celiacando ~ GF grocery store

Feb 14, 2012

Bagna càuda recipe

In the earliest part of my childhood I spent a lot of time with my Nonna Titta. I've spoken about her in many occasions on this blog. She was a pillar of my upbringing, and even though I was 9 when she passed away, she left me many memories and an impressive mark on my nature and individuality. I see a lot of her in myself today.

Bagna Càus, aka bagna caoda

In particular, the memories I associate the most with Nonna are sensory. The taste of her gummy, black Allenbury candies stashed in a tin box at the bottom of her beauty case, the glint in her emerald green eyes while we played pretending to be ladies having tea, and mostly, the smells coming from the kitchen when she'd cook. Her pièce de résistance was bagna càuda, characteristic of her Piedmontese origins.

This appetizer/soup, whose name in dialect means "hot bath," is enjoyed by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables in a manner similar to fondue in a heated blend of garlic, anchovy and olive oil. It is traditionally an autumn/winter recipe and must be eaten hot, as the name suggests.
My Nonna's bagna càuda terracotta pan

Bagna Càuda can be served in individual dipping bowls, or placed in a larger terracotta pan, placed on a burner at the center of the table, for communal sharing. Pictured above is the clay pot in which Nonna cooked and served hers.

Whenever my mother or I make Bagna Càuda, this is what we we still use.

Here's how we continue Nonna's tradition:
500 g (2 1/2 cups) extra virgin olive oil
150 g (3/4 cup) salted anchovies
50 g (1/4 cup) butter
6 cloves of garlic, peeled

Assorted vegetables for dipping:
2 cardoons (if these are not available where you live, substitute with 3–4 ribs of white celery, cut in sticks)
2 yellow bell peppers, cut in sticks
1 cup cauliflower florets
2 topinambur (aka Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple), peeled and cut in chunks
5 radishes, peeled
2 carrots, cut in sticks
2 artichokes, cored, outer leaves removed and quartered lengthwise
3 spring onions
My Nonna's bagna càuda terracotta pan

Scrape the anchovies with a paring knife, rid them of the bones and open them flat. Brush away excess salt with a kitchen towel, and do not rinse with water.

Thinly slice the garlic and trim away green parts, if any.

In an enameled terracotta pan (if you don't have one, a common nonstick saucepan will do), melt the butter over extremely mild heat, add the garlic and let it tan without browning.

Add the olive oil and the anchovies, gently simmering, stirring and breaking up the fillets with the back of a wooden spoon. Do this for 10 minutes, or until the sauce is creamy and evenly blended.

Serve on a fondue burner or on a cooling rack placed over tea light candles to keep the delicious bagna as càuda as possible while you gobble away, washing down with rivers of Barbera or Dolcetto.

Note: For those fearsome of such copious amounts of garlic, there's a trick: you halve the quantity of oil and compensate with a cup of whole milk, to be poured in at the same time. Identical garlic quantity, and same exact procedure: the milk tames the punch of the garlic.

It works, trust Nonna.
My Nonna's bagna càuda terracotta pan

Feb 9, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Here are a few photos of the winter wonderland we woke up to just a few days ago here in the Eternal City. I'm posting more images of the snow on Roma Every Day, n case you're interested in purchasing prints.
Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

Snow in Rome, 2012

I promise to be more consistent with my blogging, I know I've slacked a bit lately, but work has really absorbed me in these last few weeks.

A presto,

Feb 5, 2012

World Nutella Day 2012

World Nutella Day 2012

It's that time of year again! And since I'm on a diet trying to cut down on sweets, for this edition of World Nutella Day I won't break the gilded seal of the usual giant tub, rather savor every finger scoop of this tiny 30 gram (1 oz) mini Nutella. These wee jars are sold during the holiday season as tree ornaments, see the clear plastic eyelet? Clever.

Happy World Nutella Day to all my friends, readers, family near and far, and a huge thanks to the sweet events' founders, dearest Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and darling Michelle of Bleeding Espresso for putting this celebration together every year and giving me a chance to indulge.

Want to see more Nutella?

Baci nutellosi!

Feb 2, 2012

Value dining in Rome

pizza bianca

C'è crisi — it's crisis time: there's no way around it. Our former prime minister insisted the opposite as recently as last fall, when he told the world that Italian restaurants were packed to the hilt with happy folk spending money right, left and center. But that was 2011. Welcome to 2012, which finds Italy's economy poised on a slippery slope and trickling south faster than melting butter.

Dining out will remain an option for few fortunate foreign wayfarers and revolutionary nonconformists. But for others, pick carefully. Here's my shortlist of where to score a value meal, and still feel like living La Dolce Vita...

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