Eating In Italy As A Gluten-Free Vegan

Yes, it's challenging, but possible!


For the past two weeks, Joe and I ate our way through Italy.  Literally.  We visited Sorrento, Capri, Florence, Rome and everywhere in between – eating.  As a gluten-free vegan, eating in Italy is always challenging.   My coveted smoothies, acaí bowls and salads are nowhere to be found abroad.  Here, I share the challenges I faced when flirting with gluten and some go-to Italian meals that I put together off of restaurant menus.  While it's not easy for me to eat anywhere but in NYC or LA (they just get me!), it's doable.  If I can do it in Italy, you can do it anywhere.

My gluten intolerance causes severe migraines (see post) so I have to be really careful about flirting it, but do on occasion.  Being that I don't eat meat, fish or dairy (ever, see post), the pizza and pasta were calling my name.  When I first gave up gluten about two years ago as a test to see if it was causing my migraines, I was shocked to find that it did.  I didn't however, notice any other changes mentally or physically that came along with eliminating it.  On this trip, I found that it also caused extremely bloating. Each time I ate it, I had almost an immediate bloating reaction that was extremely uncomfortable and made it easier for me to steer clear of.

Being that we ate out three, sometimes four meals per day (yes, four), I had to be creative in putting together meals from appetizers and sides.  One waiter, didn't like it, but the rest were more than accommodating.   I just couldn't eat another rocket pomodoro salad!

Beans + Escarole

Every Italian restaurant has cannelini beans somewhere on the menu and escarole is often in a salad or served as a side.  Topped with pepper, (I use Tumeric at home),  it couldn't be more delicious.

Grilled Mushrooms + Arugula

There's a decent amount of protein in mushrooms and they were often found as a side dish. Arugula (known as rocket in Italy) is a classic and served as a salad with tomatoes.  I can't tell you how many of them I had!  I asked for sautéed arugula with grilled mushrooms and it was wonderful.

Grilled Eggplant + Marinara

Thinly sliced, grilled eggplant loaded with marinara sauce is one of my favorite dinners and I often get it in NYC, too.  I found some of the antipasto plates contained eggplant and just asked for it this way.  Note: Even if eggplant parmesan is on the menu, that doesn't mean you can get the dish sans cheese.  Most of the time, I found they were pre-made.  

Vegetable Soup

No noodles, just veggies and broth.  This was often an appetizer, but I would order the salad with rocket and pomodoro to start and then have this as my main.

Lemon Sorbet

Each time Joe enjoyed his pistachio gelato, I had a small cup of lemon or berry sorbet.  Of course it's not as good, but at least we were able to have ice cream together.