For an expanded and updated version of this article for 2022, you can read my guest post on romewise.com
My aunt and her kids have been gluten-free for the past 25 years, long before it was in fashion. More recently, my little sister became highly non-coeliac gluten-sensitive. Having members of my family live sans wheat has opened my eyes in regards to how important it is for a community, and a city like Rome––where wheat is so prominently part of the everyday diet––to offer allergen-free options. This prompted me to do some research.
Gluten is the substance present in cereal grains––especially wheat, barley, rye, soy and related species and hybrids––responsible for the elastic tissue of dough. A mixture of two proteins, gluten triggers adverse autoimmune reactions responsible for a broad spectrum of gluten-related disorders, including coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia and a type of dermatitis. People with these conditions suffer from a variety of symptoms including joint pain, allergies, headaches, intestinal distress, and must therefore practice a gluten-free diet.
One of my most successful posts to date is in fact my list of gluten-free restaurants in Rome originally appeared on this blog in 2012. Many places closed since then, others have changed ownership and menu, others simply are no longer gluten-free. So it's time to update that article for 2018. You'll notice a visible increase in listings and overwhelming variety of offer.
There has been a considerable increase in the demand for gluten-free options in Rome. Restaurants have had to step up their game and offer allergen– and gluten–free menus, adding and separating kitchens, utensils, pizza ovens and chefs dedicated to handling special ingredients to avoid cross-contamination. Pastry shops and pizzerias have done the same. Take-out and delivery services are no less geared for this burgeoning market segment.
Whether your reasoning is health-related or you simply prefer gluten-free food, here's my updated gluten-free Rome, Part II list for 2018.
Restaurants, pastry shops and stores marked with a heart (♥) are 100% exclusively gluten-free. All the other listings are certified by AiC, the Italian Coeliac Association, which means the chef and waitstaff have been trained and periodically monitored by AiC personnel, and follow AiC regulations for preparing safe, gluten-free meals.
Rome's first 100% gluten-free hamburger joint is located in Pigneto. Their sourdough buns are baked fresh daily and their hamburger patty is a delicious blend of lean and fattier cuts of meat. There is a choice of 8 veggie burger options available, plus salads and meatless entrées.
Mama Eat ♥ in Trastevere) inches away from St Peter's is one of the many dedicated gluten-free restaurants in Rome, where there is zero risk of cross-contamination. The menu includes Italian favorites like lasagna, risotto and parmigiana di melanzane, but the most popular here is the cuoppo, a faux newspaper cone filled with deep-fried goodies ranging from montanara (fried pizza), battered cod fillets, crocché (potato croquettes), pasta cresciuta (fried pizza dough speckled with seaweed) and more... desserts may include fried donut holes drizzled with chocolate, so save room for dessert. There's gf beer, too.
This is one of Rome's oldest gluten-free restaurants. Located in the Alessandrino suburbs, it offers an AiC-approved menu and attentive service. The restaurant is equipped with a separate kitchen with wood-stoked pizza oven. The dedicated cook prepares ravioli, fettuccine, lasagne, various types of supplì, breaded and fried stuffed olives, croquettes, zucchini flowers, fried pizza, cod fillets, panzerotti (fried dough pockets containing melted cheese and ham) and pizzas, in addition to meat entrées and fabulous desserts. Vegetarian and lactose-free options also available. Great gf beer.
Cozy little celiac retreat away from the hustle and bustle surrounding the Pantheon. Almost everything on the menu can be ordered gluten-free, including pasta dishes, fritti and pizza, actually one of the best gf pizza in Rome, which unfortunately is sold with an extra €2 on top of the menu price. The centro storico restaurant also boasts a vegetarian buffet with lots of grilled vegetables, salads, soups and cheeses. Free wifi.
Most of the pasta dishes, pizzas and desserts on the menu of this Casalpalocco restaurant can be made gluten-free, including the signature tiramisu, whose gf ladyfingers are homemade by the owners. The gluten-free bread is also homemade daily. I tasted the gf version of their fettuccine with porcini, and I could not tell the difference with the wheat version.
This raw gluten-free gourmet restaurant occupies a small, intimate space in what was once a butcher shop located near Vatican City. With its very few tables and a carefully designed menu, this is one of the city's best kept secrets. Think lobster with parsnip noodles, salicornia, watermelon and Cerignola olives; or fish tartare with Jerusalem artichoke and passion fruit. Save room for dessert.
Tiny breakfast and aperitivo place in the heart of Rome's posh Spanish Steps neighborhood that offers gluten-free appetizers, pizzas, smoothies and tapas. Great for a wheat-less break during "retail therapy" shopping sessions.
In the cozy restaurant on via delle Quattro Fontane, coeliacs can indulge in almost anything on the menu as the majority of the dishes can be prepared gluten-free. The off-street location makes it the perfect place for a quiet, intimate dinner. Top dishes are the pasta e fagioli, amatriciana served in a pan, and spinach and ricotta-filled ravioli, all obviously gluten-free.
This restaurant in the Casalotti suburb offers a four-page menu of "Zero Glutine" options that include fried appetizers, focaccias, supplì, bruschettas, calzones, pizzas and desserts. There's a kids' gf menu and a play area with crayons and toys.
Safe place for gf eaters in Trastevere, where diners can select everything from pasta to pizza to fine grilled meat dishes. The one drawback is that the restaurant does charge an extra €2 to make a dish gluten-free.
All dishes on the menu at Il Viaggio near Villa Borghese can be made gluten-free with no risk of cross-contamination. Think classic carbonara, gnocchi cacio e pepe, and original preparations like tortelli with codfish, ricotta and cherry-tomato confit. If unsure what dish to pick, diners can always take advantage of the half-portion option, which allows to sample multiple dishes. The restaurant furthermore organizes gluten-free cooking classes: chef Luca shares his secrets and correct cooking procedures to obtain perfect dough for pasta, pizza and desserts made with gluten-free ingredients.
BAKERIES & CHOCOLATE
"In a world of mistreated foods, Grezzo, originally from Turin––home to stellar maître chocolatiers––chooses only certified organic raw materials," the store's claim is the governing philosophy behind this raw vegan and gluten-free chocolate shop located in the Monti district. The chocolates, cookies, gelato and other chocolaty treats sold at Grezzo are also in accordance with the paleo diet and contain no refined sugars. A second branch in Rome is due to open soon.
Pandalì ♥Exclusively gluten-free bakery near the Pantheon, opened by 4 women, one of whom is gluten-intolerant. Wheatless bread is baked fresh daily, on the shelves is also a wide variety of other baked goods such as muffins, crostatas, cookies and biscuits, cakes and more. Pizza sold al taglio (by weight), salads and sandwiches are offered at lunchtime. This is a great spot for merenda––a quick, sweet Italian snack enjoyed by kids of all ages in the middle of the afternoon.
This little gluten-free bakery near Termini has a secret: a unique and innovative flour blend prepared daily by the coeliac owner, that's completely natural, rich in fiber and vegetable proteins, and containing no chemically treated flours. In addition to cakes, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, also pastries of all kinds as well as savory products such as bread, focaccia, calzones, brioche, and other gluten-free products, all prepared with fresh ingredients and no preservatives or additives. Always open.
Located on via Chiabrera near the San Paolo station, this artisan gf bakery prepares all manner of pastries, cakes, crostata tarts, cookies and even pizza sold by weight. Their muffins and brownies (which they call "fondenti") are delicious and better than many other non-gf options I've tasted around town.
Well-stocked grocery store that sells gluten-free products. The stores of the L'Isola Celiaca franchise also serve fresh products such as bread, sandwiches, pizza, supplì, breakfast cakes and biscuits. Nine stores in the city and outskirts.
The celiachiamo.com online resource has opened 3 shops that sell gluten-free products in Rome. The one located on Via della Magliana is a veritable gf supermarket selling all manner of packaged goods but, more importantly, an artisanal workshop dedicated to gluten-free preparations which produces daily fresh bread, pizza pies and sold al taglio (by weight) plus pastries, biscuits, fried foods and custom cakes, frozen foods, beer, pasta, sauces, cake mixes, flours, cured meats... the list goes on.
This gelateria sells individually wrapped gf cones and does not use gluten as a thickener. Vegans can also note the different colored paddles to indicate whether a particular gelato flavor is made with eggs or milk. I always choose pistachio and, when in season, the best menta (wild mint) sorbet on the planet. Four locations.
This excellent gelateria is now a franchise with shops all over Italy and one in L.A., the owner Maria Agnese Spagnuolo, a coeliac, designed her gf gelato setting a trend in the city. Ideal for gelato lovers with dietary restrictions, the tubs are labeled according to what allergens are present in each flavor (sugar, egg, dairy, nuts, etc.). Picking your gelato among the 50 seasonal options on rotation is therefore very easy. My favorites are "Prince's Kiss" (chocolate and hazelnut) and "Crema ai fiori di mandorlo" (vanilla with almond flower extract). Eight locations.
BONUS – What to order in a non-gluten-free place without sacrificing the experience:
Why miss out on Rome's unique trapizzino street food experience? Those not eating gluten can order the chicken cacciatore (the number one filling of their signature triangular pizza pockets) and have it served in a cup instead. Six locations in Rome, plus others in Milan, Florence and Manhattan.
Anyone still skeptical about Italy's gluten-free offer can check out Associazione Italiana Celiachia, the Italian coeliac disease association; and Celiachiamo, dietary intolerance-awareness website.