Usually, when I meet new people and I say that I live in Italy, the eyes of my interlocutors light up, a big smile comes on their faces and they start to talk about their love for Italian food. No doubt, Italian cuisine is one of the most pleasing part of the Italian lifestyle that Italians often take for granted. For foreigners, instead, walking through an Italian market, tasting hundreds of different cheeses and hams, eating pizza, cacio e pepe, Florentine steak or variety of fried fish is simply exciting. The regional variety of food here is simply incredible and after seven years here it still happens to me to taste something completely new, to find an ingredient, a vegetable, a cheese that I have never heard about before.
The question is: how to approach this rich and unique gastronomic tradition, in which cereals are THE protagonists, when you suffer from celiac disease? Is it possible to enjoy Italian kitchen, based on pasta and pizza, when gluten is your biggest enemy?
I myself was diagnosticated as celiac three years ago and I have to say that this diagnosis meant freedom for me! I finally knew why I suffered so much and I discovered what to do to avoid continues ache, pain and discomfort. Then, the question arose: what will I eat?
It took a while before I learned how to cook avoiding flour and cereals containing gluten, however eating at home was never a problem. There are so many fresh, gluten free ingredients accessible here, that I almost do not notice the lack of gluten. However, when I want to go out to have a dinner in a restaurant with my friends or family, then the things get more complicated. Even if in almost every restaurant you will find some gluten free dishes, going out usually means very little choice for me. I can have a salad, grilled beef, roasted chicken or a risotto. Fortunately, in Florence there are these five places, where a person with celiac disease can feel truly free and where we can enjoy our dinner together with the “healthy” friends without any restriction.
Quinoa is my favourite gluten free place in Florence, a true paradise for everybody, for these who suffer from celiac disease, these who enjoy good food, families, couples and even our friends with four paws. The restaurant is located in a beautiful courtyard adjacent the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, few steps away from the cathedral. The interior is really modern and pleasant, the menu includes some Italian classics reinterpreted in a modern key by the chef, such as the pasta with meat sauce and aged ricotta cheese. But you will find here also their delicious Pad Thai, or vegetables and tofu, tamari sauce and Jasmine rice. The best news is that all of the dishes are 100% gluten free! You can order everything and forget about restrictions and I assure you that your “healthy” friends will enjoy their dinner just like you. On Sundays Quinoa organizes gluten free brunches and every day they welcome our dogs with a special menu prepared for them and offered free of charge.
Vicolo di S. Maria Maggiore, 1 – 50123 Firenze – +39 055 29 08 76
Living in Italy and not eating pizza? Impossible! Thanks to Pizzaman I did not have to give up on my Friday pizza with my fiancé. Pizzaman is a Florentine chain of pizzerie, which I knew years before I learned about my health problem. I always loved it and considered it one of the best pizza in town. When I discovered my disease giving up on pizza seemed a punishment. Fortunately, Pizzaman serves delicious gluten free pizza every day. You do not have to book your gluten free pizza in advance, it’s always there, prepared in a separated oven. The dough is made of rise flour or with gluten free cereal flour. In the menu you will also find gluten free beer. This pizza was awarded during the Gluten Free Expo in Rimini where they won the competition for Europe’s Best Gluten Free Pizza. For me this is the best gluten free pizza in town!
Pizzaman have few restaurants in Florence and here you will find their addresses and opening hours. The pizzeria close to the historical centre is this one:
Via dell’Agnolo 105/107R – 50122 Firenze – +39 055 248 0200
Santarpia is considered by many the best pizzeria in Florence. In fact, if you want to try their pizza, you have to book your table at least few days in advance. They are always fully booked and they have many loyal clients who visit them regularly. Santarpia was included in a prestigious gastronomic guide Pizzerie d’Italia 2018 edited by Gambero Rosso, one of the most important and influential food editor in Italy. Just like Pizzaman, they are not a fully gluten free restaurant, but you can order many of their pizzas in the gluten free version. When you book your table remember to underline that you will ask for gluten free pizza. Undoubtedly, they use the best ingredients you can find in Italy, the best mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce, burrata cheese, truffles – it’s all really delicious. The dough for the gluten free pizza is soft and tasty. The pizzas are baked in a separated oven so there is no risk of contamination.
Largo Pietro Annigoni 9C – 50122 Firenze – +39 055 245 829
Forno StarBene senza glutine
What about bread? In Florence we also have a chain of gluten free bakeries StarBene senza glutine where you will find fresh bread, my favourite buckwheat schiacciata, cookies, croissants and cakes. One of these bakeries is in via de’ Neri, not far from the Palazzo Vecchio. You can have there an Italian breakfast with a fresh croissant or a quick lunch with a delicious sandwich. You can also buy there your bread to take away or gluten free pasta if you want to cook your dinner at the place where you stay. On their website you can find their shops located in Florence, Siena, Arezzo and Lucca.
Via De Neri 13R – 50122 Firenze – +39 055 210070
Grom ice cream
Are you tired of having your ice cream in a paper cup? Do you want to choose your flavours without thinking about gluten in the tiramisù or the cookies ice cream? If so, go to Grom! Grom is the only ice cream place I know of that is 100% gluten free. They produce their gluten free cones and the cookies that they add to some of their flavours. Every month they create a new “flavour of the month” and my favourite flavour they have is Grom’s cream – Crema di Grom – made of pastry cream, Ecuador “Arriba” chocolate chips and Grom’s meliga cookies. Grom is sensible of different food intolerances and their clearly inform about the ingredients in their flavours. It’s not difficult to find there lactose or egg free ice cream too. In Florence you will find them right behind the cathedral, but they have their shops in many other Italian cities too: Venice, Milan, Padua, Rome, Parma, Siena, Verona and so on. You can enjoy their gluten free ice cream in many different places during all your Italian holiday.
via del Campanile angle with via delle Oche – 50012 Firenze – +39 055 216 158
Remember that every Italian supermarket has a gluten free shelf with pasta, biscuits, bread and beer. When you go to a restaurant, always ask for gluten free options and inform about your intolerance. Do not forget to enjoy Italian gluten free cuisine! Buon appetito!
Special thanks to Quinoa and Pizzaman for photos used in this post!