Spotlight: Italian Cuisine

Authentic Italian cuisine is actually quite simple in preparation and presentation but features only the best ingredients of garden-grown produce, top quality meats, artisanal cheeses and olive oils. However, these classic Italian ingredients aren’t compatible with everyone. There is a growing demand for restaurants to meet consumer’s dietary restrictions, such as vegan, gluten and dairy free. With centuries of experience, Italy is a leader when it comes to keeping up with consumers and their dietary preferences. By offering specialty menu items catered to specific diets or allergens, Italy has found a way to allow everyone to enjoy their cuisine.

Dietary Restrictions

Italy is well-versed in gluten-free dining as is Europe. Celiac disease was recognized sooner in Europe than in America and the Associazione Italiana Celiachia estimates that there are over 4,000 recognized 100% gluten-free restaurants in Italy. The country embraces the 1% of consumers who have Celiac Disease as well as the thousands more who choose a gluten-free lifestyle.

By the same token, vegans might expect eating out in Italy to be difficult because of the prevalence of dairy in the dishes. Cheese stars on every menu and there are gelato shops practically on every corner.  However, eating vegan is entirely possible and enjoyable all over Italy. Ordering pizza is as easy as saying “marinara” which is a pie topped with red sauce, olive oil, oregano and garlic. Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you should be left out of the ultimate Italian food experience. Eating gelato at least once a day is required and most shops have vegan versions that are as creamy and rich as the dairy options.

Traveling in Italy with dietary restrictions as recently as three years ago could be quite problematic. Today, things in Italy have changed for the better. Most everywhere you look, gluten-free and vegan signs are in windows or on menu boards outside restaurants welcoming diners. With 15 locations, L’Isola Celiaca (translated “the celiac island”) is the place to go for gluten-free ingredients and products including pastas in every shape, size and color. Gluten-free pastries, desserts, cookies, breads and beverages can be found at this amazing resource for those avoiding gluten.

Food Convenience

Street food in Italy used to be non-existent. Lunches and dinners were long, leisurely meals enjoyed with family and friends over several hours with work in between.

Today, there are plenty of opportunities for Italians and tourists to find grab and go meals, whether from markets, stands or fast casual spots. One such spot in Venice is Frulala, a kaleidoscope of fruits and vegetables showcased in acai bowls, smoothies, crepes and cocktails. There are two locations, both located in the Cannaregio district of Venice. If you make your way there, be sure to try the Energetic, a blend of carrot, red turnip, celery and ginger or the Vain which blends banana, maracuja, coconut and yogurt.

Rome is home to another great take-away spot called Trapizzino, which serves amazing pocket sandwiches stuffed with fillings like pumpkin, almonds and pecorino or chicken cacciatoria. Unique offerings for the American palate included Tripa alla Romana and Burrata and Zucchini alla scapece. If you are in Florence, be sure to visit the Mercato Centrale, a wonderful food hall loaded with stalls offering butchered meats, fresh vegetables, handmade cheeses and more. Once you’ve bought the day’s groceries, head upstairs to the Sud La Pizzeria for a Margherita wood-fired pizza and a glass of wine. You won’t be sorry –except that there might not be leftovers to take home.

Vegans, gluten-avoiders and those choosing to eliminate certain ingredients from their diets shouldn’t exclude Italy from their travel plans. There are plenty of options to choose from. Those looking for a quick meal that still incorporates the rich Italian taste can be found at their fingertips.  Here at home, if you’re working on a gluten-free application with an Italian flair, consider our real food ingredients that bring umami without the gluten. Your consumers will be saying “grazie!”