Tag Archives: italy

Florence — Food Glorious Food

WARNING — A TON OF SUPERLATIVES INTHIS POST!

The food gods are shined down on us in Florence. The first restaurant was a family owned trattoria one block down our street. For lunch they had a 9 euro set menu that includes an entree, side, and water bottle The serving sizes were perfect and the waiter pointed out every single gluten-free option. My husband settled on a chicken and ham dish with a side of potatoes and I got salad and a beef steak.

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For dinner, we went to the wonderful i’Toscano. Almost all the appetizers,  entrees, and desserts are gluten-free. Both our dishes were gluten-free, including this amazing fried chicken that was plated nicely on a wood plank. My husband — who is a fried chicken afficianado — ate everything off the plank, including the perfectly fried rosemary. We spent hours at the restaurant eating and capped the evening off with a wonderful apple tarte for me and a pannacotte for El hubs.

For lunch the next, day, we had reservations at Buca dell’orfo. Our AirBNB host had recommended the place as a local favorite not to be missed. Reservations are a must at this tiny restaurant right next to the Ponte Vecchio. The restaurant only has about 7 tables and their menu is entirely in Italian.  There weren’t many options without gluten and tomato so the waiter suggested a beef and cheese dish. My dish was incredible with perfectly seared beef slices topped with lightly fried herbs and pecorino cheese, all covered with olive oil.  It was so good that I wanted to lick my plate! For dessert I got a caramelized pear which had been marinated in simple syrup, wine, and spices. So good!

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My husband had an equally amazing dish — lightly breaded and fired chicken and artichoke. The food was priced reasonably for the quality – the only downside was the 8 euro 750ml of water. Every bite was so unforgettable though that the ridiculous water was worth the cost of entry.

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Gluten-free can be found at some unexpected places in Florence and in the outlying regions. For those with more mild gluten issues who don’t need food to be prepared in separate facilities, I found that it can never hurt to ask if there are any options that are senza glutine.  For example,  this morning my husband stopped at a bakery and I was resigned to eating the remains of my white chocolate bar for breakfast. When we walked into the Deanna Terracafe (right off the square at the Santa Maria Novella station), I found a large sign saying that there were gluten-free options on the piano level. I walked upstairs to find croissants, tarts, and some prepackaged gluten-free cookies.

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My luck continued on our day trip to the Cinque Terre. Our tour guide spent the day reminding us of the amazing wine tasting and fried bread. When we finally got to the fried bread shop, I asked if they had anything senza glutine and he told me that he had a chickpea bread in the oven. It was the perfect snack after a long day of hiking. I found the same bread again at the first village – this time with zucchini and onions.

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My husband’s pain frito or fried bread.

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Looking for gluten free when your SIM card isn’t working

Before we left, my husband researched the phone and Internet situation. Many of our plans were predicated on the ability to use the Internet, such as the Google map with dots for our sightseeing destinations and gluten free restaurants I found through trip advisor and chow hound reviews. Unfortunately,  our SIM card didn’t work until the end of the second day. So, after visiting the Colosseum, we walked toward the Borghese Gallery and just looked at menus at restaurants along the way.

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After some sad head-shaking from multiple faster-food proprietors, I realized that senza glutine might only be a magic phrase in nice restaurants. Starving and veering toward light-headedness, we ended up at this kebab place next to the Borghese estate entrance called Turkish Kebab. I didn’t get a food fog and my tummy didn’t hurt but it wasn’t very good — let’s just say that they had to microwave my rice and chicken. Oh well… sometimes calories and blood suger are what matter most.

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The Borghese Gallery is awesome and the art collection is so cool.  After all the art in my European history classes from high school,  it took visiting the Borghese Gallery to really help me understand and really appreciate the differences between Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Bernini. I can also now recognize Baroque paintings and sculptures. The audio tour is totally worth it. Tip – if you bring an audio splitter, you only have to purchase one audio tour ticket at certain places because you can use an audio splitter that enables you to use two headphone sets with the tour device.

We also visited the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.

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Along the way to dinner, I saw a vendor serving warm chestnuts. I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of “chestnuts roasting over an open fire” and basically scarfed them down. It was the first time my husband ever ate chestnuts.

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We had dinner in the area at this restsurant called Origano. We got a mozzarella and prosciutto dish as an appetizer.

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El hubs got penne and white wine. It was okay. Unfortunately,  the only gluten-free non salad meal was the risotto with artichokes. As with most risottos, it took forever to come out and then it was so salty I couldn’t it. Like i-accidentally-dumped-half-a-salt-container-salty. My husband suggested I rinse the rice with water — I respectfully declined. Overall, the food was so-so, the wine was good, and the service was good. Originallly, i hadnt plammed om saying anything about the dish because i was full off the chestnuts but the owner asked me so many times thst i finally mentioned that it was too salty and the owner refunded half of the price of my dish.

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To cap off the night, we went back to Grom. We both got medium cups – El Hubs got egg cream,  vanilla,  and something else and I got caramel, chocolate, and pistachio. Because the flavors are so true to the purest form of the flavors in my cup were werent balanced -I had too many bitter, slightly burnt, heavy flavors. The texture, however, is awesome AND it doesn’t give me tummy pain – I’m prettty sure it’s going to be a nightly treat.

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Senza glutine: The Magic Phrase

It’s three am and I can’t fall asleep for some reason. It’s partly jetlag but it’s also because I’m so excited for my next restaurant meal! I think I’ve found a little phrase that is going to make eating in Italy easier for me. (Note, I have tested negative for celiac disease but most foods with gluten give me all sorts of tummy issues. My goals for this trip are to avoid gluten-brain, food babies, and other tummy discomfort when possible.)

Months ago, I put Pimsleur Italian I mp3s on my computer with the intent of learning some basic Italian. After my weekly Chinese lessons started, those plans flew out the window.  Luckily however, one of the key phrases I did pick up included “senza glutine.” I’m not sure if it’s spelled correctly, but that’s how I remembered the pronunciation and I can proudly say that every Italian I’ve spoken to understands exactly what it means!

Our first meal in Italy was at La Scaletta (close to the church for St. Maddelena on via Della Maddalena 46/49). In addition to our spaghetti, we had GF bruschetta. It was so good that Joshua ate the tomato even after all the bread was finished.

Below are our spaghetti, bacon, egg, and parmesan cheese entrees. Can you tell which one is gluten-free?

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The first one!

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Our first gelato was at Grom. We got espresso and pistachio. My friend was right, – Italian gelato is not as sweet as gelato in the US, but the flavors are so much more complex. My husband said that eating the pistachio flavor left him feeling like he had actually eaten a handful of pistachios. The best part is that I didn’t have any negative reaction to it – no tummy pains like ice cream. I guess I will try every Grom flavor! I’m not going to try any non-Grom gelato because I read on chowhound that other brands sometimes put wheat-based stuff in their gelato. I havent verified that, but Grom guarantees that their gelato is gluten-free.

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Some gluten-free goodies at Delspar market.

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Some additional travel notes in order…

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was crazy. To be more specific, the security check point people were nuts. In addition to electronic devices, we had to remove every headset and charger. And they went through each person’s bag manually before putting it through the x-ray to make sure that we didn’t forget anything. Other than the crazy and long check point, there were lots of cute dutch things like tons of chocolate and even a cheese bar. We also saw teacups at this one cafeteria place, Wasabi flavored cheese, and of course joshua picked up the insulated glass cups.

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We are using AirBNB and the apartment we are staying in is on the oldest street in Rome according to everyone in the neighborhood.  Our place is actually a historical preservation site or something and there’s even a glass panel in the floor where you can see some old artifacts. It’s very close to La Travestere, great restaurants, and very convenient to all the sites.

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We were really beat after the sleepless plane ride. Some photos from our evening walk below.

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St. Maria Maddelena

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First leg – No sleep until Rome!

The fist of our two-leg flight will be landing shortly. Per usual, I was unable to sleep; instead, I read Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout, watched 500 Days of Summer, and played about an hour’s worth of Frozen Bubble. About three-quarters of the way to Amsterdam, I finally asked for some sheets and pillows. Holy smokes I never realized how cold it can be on an airplane – my thighs were freezing!

We are flying KLM for this leg. We had some small hiccups in the beginning includling a late departure. Dear husband got an unexpected upgrade to his seat that resulted in more leg room but also meant that we were separated by 30 rows. The service on this airline is pretty good though and I was extremely surprised by my gluten free dinner. The breakfast is nothing to write home about (a plain rice cake, apple sauce, and OJ), but the dinner was the best I’ve ever had on a flight. My econony dinner was leagues better than any of those times I was lucky enough to fly business class! They served a butter sauce over chicken breast, wild rice and broccoli. It also came with a GF dinner roll, a melon plate, and a salad with no dressing. I couldnt get a good photo of the meal because the lights were too dim for my tablet camera,  but I saved the dinner roll for breakfast so I could at least one proper picture. After scarfing it down this “morning” — it’s 1246 am EST — I can happily attest that the GF food was delish and my tummy is happy!

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PS Wonder what Domo is doing at the doggie place. Dear husband said he’s probably jumping in the kiddie pool and doing back flips.  We spent the day wondering if Domo’s full name should be Domo Bucko Nation Station Welsh.