Product Reviews, Restaurant Reviews and Recipes: All GLUTEN FREE!
After a reasonable flight with British Airways into Pisa International Airport, our holiday in Italy started. I was surprised by the ease to which GLUTEN FREE was catered for and delighted when some of the unexpected restaurants would have a whole Menu dedicated to Celiacs: so some great GLUTEN FREE meals enjoyed in Italy:
PISA: Of course whilst seeing the leaning Tower there is much more to the city than this monument but it is such a famous world sight and one not to be missed.
Our dinner in the evening was in a cafe, just by the Pisa Tower as although it is not high season, we found a lot of the restaurants were closed. It was a simple Caprese Salad of tomatoes and Cheese (and no GLUTEN!)
And breakfast the following morning at our hotel (Hotel Victoria) one of the oldest in Pisa by the River was supported by my own bread (Tescos: brought with me!)
Moving on from Pisa: lunch was in Lucca, a lovely little town away from the tourist traps of Pisa. We found a great street-side cafe which had a good menu including a selection of good salads (which could be made GLUTEN FREE!) I guess they took off any bread /croutons and it was a good plate full in Cafe Monica:
And then onto Parma. We’re doing a Foodie Tour tomorrow so it was a nights sleep and of course a good dinner. From a google search, found “Grilland” which was open (as many options were closed!) and within walking distance. It wasn’t the easiest ordering process as being off the beaten track, there was no English Menu nor any English spoken. Indeed, when asking about GLUTEN FREE, initially all dishes contained GLUTEN which was a little surprising. Only from some sign language and waving, did we establish which dishes I could eat. I opted for a good plate of grilled meats and really enjoyed this very large dinner:
As a culinary center of the world, it was great to embark on a GLUTEN FREE Food Tour. We self-drove with three other parties and our guide to cover three locations and the “Three Kings” of Parma. The first stop to view the production process of making Parmigiano–Reggiano or Parmesan cheese. It was a reassuring to learn that it is lactose free (completely) and it was great to taste a young cheese (12 months), a medium (24 months) and an aged cheese (36 months) as there was a real difference in the texture and the taste.
Our second stop was at the Parma Ham factory run by the Conti family. This was fascinating to see the raw meat arrive, stamped, salted and hung, before of course tasting this. It was interesting to learn about the different cuts from the pig leg as well as see the rows and rows of hams.
And after soom tasting, it was time for lunch. The tour party all ate together at a Vineyard Carra Di Casatico which was most picturesque. After a brief tour and review of the process of wine making we sat down to a huge plate of parma ham! Before our main course pasta was served. Whilst all the other guests had a selection of two pastas I was presented with a beautiful GLUTEN FREE pasta with Fungi (mushrooms and truffle) and it was so tasty. The pasta was lightly cooked so still firm and the light sauce was populated with melt-in-the-mouth well flavoured mushrooms.
It was all served with a glass from their extensive range of wines ( I choose the Rose) and finished off with a Grappa!
Our tour recommenced with a visit to a balsamic vinegar maker Medici Ermete which was less exciting (as there was no dressing up to walk around the factory) as this product relies on age and time rather than a physical process but interesting to try the different products and experience the intensity.
We then drove onto Modena, and found a great restaurant for a GLUTEN FREE Pizza: Idissonanti. On their website, they offer GLUTEN FREE options and whilst I object to paying a little more for my option, it was a great traditional pizza.
It looked the part with a traditional spread base, a rich tomato sauce and a good portion of sliced meats on the top. It was finished off with rocket leaves and was very filling.
Staying at the Maranello Village Hotel (close to the Ferrari factory and corporately linked together) with a Ferrari parked in the reception area! I was surprised that the breakfast offering included a basket of GLUTEN FREE delights.
This was a soft sweet roll injected with an apricot jam. It was a hard sponge which really needed the jammy middle and was a sweet treat for breakfast.
I still had some of my bread so was able to make my own sandwich alongside the lovely ham and cheeses on offer. They also had fresh fruit as well as yogurts. After a wander at the showroom for Ferrari (sorry) the museum for Ferrari including a factory tour by bus we headed off to the second Ferrari museum. Lunch was at this second Ferrari sight which had it’s own restaurant inside. They were very accommodating and offered me GLUTEN FREE crackers instead of bread with
Dinner that evening was in Modena which was found just wandering the city. An Thai restaurant was able to offer a GLUTEN FREE dish of Prawns with a plain rice:
And wandering in Pistoia, we found a little restaurant for a quick salad lunch. It was a big lush plate and very tasty:
In Florence, such a beautiful city, there was ample choice of GLUTEN FREE restaurants although some weren’t open as it was out of season (not that you could tell with the number of tourists wandering the city). Our first dinner was in a lovely local restaurant La Spada which had lovely pictures of Florence on the walls. Located in the basement, this restaurant was full of locals as well as a few tourists and I had a delicious risotto which had a great depth of flavour. A simple dish but a tasty one.
Staying at the David Hotel, on our first morning, they were so apologetic that they weren’t prepared for my GLUTEN FREE Breakfast but still had a basket of goodies to offer me. They advised that GLUTEN FREE Bread would be available for the following morning and offered GLUTEN FREE cereal as well as snacks.
This had a light chocolate covering and was delightful as another sweet treat. I also had the GLUTEN FREE Melba toast which made a change. In the heart of the city, just in the shadow of the Duomo, we had a beautiful lunch at Le Botteghe Di Donatello with me making my selection from my “Special Menu Celiaci /GLUTEN FREE!”. It was impressive to have such a wide selection and I had a great GLUTEN FREE Pizza (as we’re in Italy!)
A great location to watch the world go by and taste some great GLUTEN FREE Pasta. A superb lunch before a wander up the Duomo Bell Tower and a view across Florence.
One of our best meals was our dinner in a GLUTEN FREE restaurant: not everything was GLUTEN FREE but effectively all the menu could be made GLUTEN FREE! And it is so good that they sell provisions (pastas and Pizzas bases) as well as serving great meals. Ciro & Sons was a lovely family restaurant with a great selection which included GLUTEN FREE, LACTOSE FREE, EGG FREE, NUT FREE and SHELLFISH FREE.
This little taster was black olives marinated with chill and herbs and small GLUTEN FREE bread which was delicious. It had a firm crunch to it and added to the service of this restaurant. My main course was a pizza as a neighbouring table had one and it looked amazing:
I noted inside, along with great family photos, they sold packed of GLUTEN FREE Pizza Base mixes as well as ready to eat Pizza Bases. I would recommend them as the light crisp dough was very taste topped with fresh ingredients. I wasn’t going to have a dessert but the Menu included several GLUTEN FREE options and (again) they looked amazing:
This delicate and light dessert was rich with the coffee kick as well as the creamy mascapone mix. It was a lovely finish to a great GLUTEN FREE Meal. The Ciro & Sons restaurant would definitely be revisited at a future point.
Back at Hotel David, the breakfast the following day included warmed GLUTEN FREE bread rolls. These were crunchy on the outside with a good layering of seeds and again another GLUTEN FREE delights basket.
Whilst on our city tour (highly recommended if only to avoid huge queues which Florence is imfamous for!) we had lunch just by the Duomo at a sign-posted “GLUTEN FREE” cafe. This Pizzaria had great GLUTEN FREE Pizzas as well as good selection of regular dishes.
Another great choice for a quick light bite which felt and looked like the reael thing. A simple dish which was GLUTEN FREE. I have to say I was impressed that they also offered GLUTEN FREE desserts but having this whole pizza (and more walking to be done around the Uffizi Gallery in the afternoon) there was no room for pudding:
Unfortunately, our time in Florence ended we headed onto Assisi. This beautiful city is a religious pilgrimage with the tombs of Saint Francis of Assisi as well as other Saints with several grand Churches to visit. We arrived quite late in the evening at Hotel La Terrazza so we had dinner in their restaurant. After a little discussion in rather bad Italian, they understood my allergies and food requirements and I had a grand meal of beef with rosemary potatoes and some grilled vegetables. They still insisted on the obligatory bread basket despite our discussion on GLUTEN but it was a filling and substantial meal.
After a good day of touring around the various sights of Assisi, we headed onto Gladiator country and stopped enroute in Pieza. This sleep town is a typical Tuscan place with beautiful buildings, rolling hills and good food. A surprising Menu at the La Mensa del Conte with a special page for “Per Celiaci” (Coeliacs!)
Another great meal which was GLUTEN FREE. And a delight that I had wide selection of dishes to try and taste without any drama.
Staying with the film theme, our last night and last evening meal was at the Vignamaggio (where the real Mona Lisa was born) and it featured in the film “Much ado about nothing” with Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Richard Briars et al. This beautiful main house has separate cottages with holiday accommodation and provides the opportunity to wander the extensive gardens and take in yet another beautiful vista across Tuscany.
The restaurant offers a limited selection to hotel guests and outsiders but is very high-end with quality dishes, refined dining and attentive service.
The waiting staff were great in offering which dishes could be made GLUTEN FREE in addition to the notes on the menu (with numerics to indicate any allergies or specific ingredients.
The “Specials” of the day didn’t feature on the main menus and included a Melon Carpaccio with “Petali di Prosciutto” Parma Ham. This was my choice and delicious with the contrasting sweetness of the melon and the saltiness of the aged Prosciutto ham. My main course was “Baccala con fagioli” Cod-fish with beans. This was a clean fresh taste again contrasting the lightly cooked fish with the more dense beans and a salsa dressing.
And despite two very good courses, I decided to have a dessert. This was less choice for myself but I did have a very healthy and tasty fruit plate.
So a very good evening with good wine (from themselves), and several creative GLUTEN FREE courses. As we were staying there at Vignamaggio, breakfast was equally as grand and GLUTEN FREE.
And simarly to Hotel David in Florence, there was a basket full of GLUTEN FREE treats by Schar.
I discovered a new GLUTEN FREE Cracker Pockets. These come in packs of 3 and are a hard dry biscuit.
I enjoyed them with a selection of sliced cold meats and they made a change from a breakfast bread (as mine had now been eaten all!)
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This information was correct as of JUNE 2017. But as I am learning, ingredients do change and therefore you should always read the label and check for yourself whether it is GLUTEN FREE or not!