Gluten Free in Florence, Italy – Day 2

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After a full day of walking the Boboli Gardens at the Medici Palace (Villa Medici), and Accademia Gallery which houses the statue of Michelangelo’s David, exploring the boutiques in the side streets, we found ourselves back in a piazza near my daughter’s apartment looking for gluten free dinner options. We were initially headed for a little place she had been wanting to try when we passed this Ristorante, and I mentioned to the girls how good the mussels looked on someones plate, as we had passed through earlier that day. We stopped to check the menu, and a kind gentlemen came over to ask if we were hungry. We let him know his menu looked good but we had gluten intolerance (senza glutine) issues. Well, well, well…comes to pass they had new ownership and had incorporated ‘senza glutine’ as part of their menu, which is why my daughter had not noticed it prior.

It was still fairly temperate from the warm day (in march, it can be quite cool, but we lucked out on beautiful weather) so chose to sit outside, since the Piazza della Signoria is beautiful with statues everywhere and a giant fountain that is lit at night.

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We had a wonderful meal and all our dishes were delicious. My daughters ordered a gluten free pizza that was absolutely killer to die for. The crust, unlike american GF, was soft, tender and flavorful. (American GF tends to be like a cracker or at the very least, chewy or crispy). Italian pizzas are not like american, where quantity seems to be preferred over quality. This pizza had high quality toppings which shined in its simplicity. I will take a pizza like this any day over the cheese laden gut bombs in good ole USA. I’m not knocking American pizza, its just that it is very different and if you travel expecting it to be the same, you will be disappointed. But then, if you travel expecting it to be like ‘home’, you are missing the point of traveling.

Pancetta & Mushroom (Fungi) GF Pizza:

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I asked the waiter if he had a antipasti he recommended, and he brought me this beautiful platter with fresh greens, juicy sweet little tomatoes, prosciutto, salami and two little crostini, one with a savory mushroom topping, the other a traditional bruschetta. The quality was excellent, and the meats could be shared with the girls :

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For our Secondi, the girls went for pasta, and I got the wild boar. I tasted theirs, they tasted mine. All were amazing, the pasta was perfectly cooked, the sauces were simple but complex in flavor. I know a good sauce, and these were made from scratch, well balanced and flavors fully developed. Bolognese sauce can be amazing or gross, depending upon the skill and time put in to making the sauce. This was amazing. (3 amazings…yes, it really was that delicious! Sorry for the half eaten plate, the girls were diving in to it before I could grab my camera!) Notice how it’s not sauce heavy? That is the way it should be served.

GF Pasta Bolognese:

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My Wild Boar:

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Doesn’t that look so yummy you want to eat the screen??? I know, and trust me, it was! Please be adventurous! Wild boar is a local favorite, and it’s hard to go wrong ordering what the locals eat.

I don’t have a dessert to recommend, other than panna cotta here. But with so many gelato stores nearby, it’s not a hardship. I would highly recommend a grappa to go with your espresso! They have a lovely selection here by the glass. I had the waiter recommend one for me, based on my after dinner drink tastes.

While I was searching the internet for appropriate links, I saw some negative reviews by american tourists of this place. I will reiterate that this Ristorante is under new ownership, and they are very proud of the new menu and quality of food they serve. I found the waiter and staff to be helpful, charming and well versed on their menu. An important point to make is that this place is unlike other eateries we visited throughout our trip. This one did NOT have the service included, so they DID run on tips. Some might be put off by the waiter informing them of this, but please, do not be offended. They are merely letting you know that the tip is not automatically included in the price, as it is in most establishments. Therefore, it is up to you to tip. In the rest of the places we ate they had “Service Compris” which means they automatically add in 15%. Many travel guides warn tourists to not tip because you end up double tipping. I am a fan of tipping over service charge added, because if service is excellent (or terrible), I can compensate accordingly. We had excellent service, so I tipped generously. Besides, my daughter lives around the corner, and she would be back for pizza!

If you are passing through Piazza della Signoria, I highly recommend stopping in.

Ristorante Cavallino

Piazza della Signoria
Florence 50122
Italy  Tel: 39 055 215818


Gluten Free in Florence Italy – Day 1

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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!)

Primo Course
Risotto with duck Ragu:

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Risotto Nero with Seafood:

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Gluten Free (done perfectly al dente) with organic zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant ragu:

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Secondo Course:

Braised Rabbit:

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Pork Chop steamed in Foil:

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Broiled Sea Bass:

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Served for my gluten intolerant daughter, instead of bread, rice crackers (very thoughtful):

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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!:

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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.