My daughter is doing study abroad in Florence Italy, and recently I went to visit her for a couple of days. It would have been longer, but chaos and mayhem ruled the airline gods and I was delayed by nearly 18 hours, and so missed some of my precious time with her in this lovely and beautiful city.
We had been to Paris earlier in the week and managed to survive gluten free. Please understand that I am talking gluten free and not celiacs. If you are celiac, I would suggest checking the local celiac boards on where to eat safely. My youngest daughter (who was traveling with us) is NOT celiac, so it gives us a lot more flexibility in our eating choices especially in a foreign country with language barriers. My oldest (the one living in Italy) is sensitive to gluten but can tolerate it. However, she does pay the price with bloating and indigestion if she eats it, so she tries to avoid gluten if possible. Something to keep in mind when planning your trip abroad and having dietary issues like gluten or dairy intolerance: memorize the words required to instruct your waitstaff or inquire if they can provide gluten free (While in Italy, you would tell the proprietor: Senza Glutine) and allow yourself time to eat. By that I mean, you will rarely find street food, which is quick and easy to eat, available to you. Most street food uses bread in some form as a base, and while sidewalk groceries are available, in many countries you would definitely wish to wash the produce before consuming. So, you need to plan ahead and allow yourself time to find a bistro or restaurant where you can sit down and pick from the menu. Sitting is more expensive in Europe, so be sure to allow for that also.
We were in Florence for two nights, and so enjoyed two wonderful meals I am happy to rave about. This post is the first, I will post our second evening: “here“.
Ristorante il Paiolo
Via del Corso, 42r
Firenze Tel. 055 215019
This restaurant was an adorably quaint, friendly, and delicious little gem tucked along a little side street off the Via Proconsolo, that proclaimed ‘Senza Glutine’ pasta. We were welcomed by a cheery woman, seated by an elderly woman (who my daughters wanted to adopt as a grandmother, she was just that sweet) at a nice cozy little table midway back. I believe it was a mother-daughter team, with the friendly, accommodating daughter speaking excellent english, and the mother providing the warmth and cozy charm.
I’ve always wanted to have a chef prepare and serve a meal that they excel at and are passionate about, you know, just winging it, and this was where I tested that dream. I don’t know why, but this place just inspired confidence that everything would be lovingly and deliciously prepared. After explaining our dietary concerns, I asked her if she would be open to just bringing us three Primo and three Secondo dishes for us to try and share. Neither of my daughters nor I are picky, and other than the gluten issues we are adventurous eaters, enjoying exploration of local cuisine. Much of what she brought was naturally gluten free, but as requested by my youngest, we did have a pasta dish included. It was ALL delicious, delectable and completely reflective of regionally prepared, good home cooking.
(I will apologize for some of the photos being not super clear. I have a new camera and I’m still figuring it out!)
Risotto with duck Ragu:
Risotto Nero with Seafood:
Gluten Free (done perfectly al dente) with organic zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant ragu:
Pork Chop steamed in Foil:
Broiled Sea Bass:
Served for my gluten intolerant daughter, instead of bread, rice crackers (very thoughtful):
And for Dessert, or Dolce:
Gluten Free Chocolate Torte with candied orange marmalade. I am not an orange marmalade fan, but this was simply divine. The orange rind was sweet and slightly sugary-crunchy. The jam a soft accent. That is why the focus is on the marmalade, not the cake. The marmalade was the star of the dish, instead of the usual garnish!:
These dishes were served to us family style and we all were able to sample and taste. It was, in essence, a way to have 3 separate meals, tasting a wide variety of what italy has to offer, in one meal. If you are adventurous like we are, I highly recommend following our lead.
If you are visiting Florence (or Firenze), gluten free or not, this you will not regret stopping in here.