You might imagine that pizza and pasta-loving Italy wouldn’t be very coeliac-friendly, but Sicily was the easiest gluten free holiday I’ve ever had.
Back in June, my boyfriend David and I set off for Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, armed with my coeliac restaurant cards, emergency snacks and a list of gluten free restaurants.
We needn’t have worried. In Sicily, I didn’t once have to explain what gluten was. I didn’t feel like I had to apologise for ‘bothering’ staff about gluten, or explain that I wasn’t a fad dieter when asking about cross-contamination. Even though my Italian is rudimentary at best, I barely needed to use my Coeliac translation card. 99% of the time, all I had to do was mention that I was ‘senza glutine’ or ‘lo sono celiaco’, and staff would nod in recognition, and point me to exactly the things that I could eat. It seems that the ‘gluten free fad diet’ hasn’t made it to Sicily; when you ask for gluten free, the assumption is that you have a medical need for it. It was awesome.
David and I ended up sampling a LOT of gluten free Sicilian food (and beer! and wine!). Here are a few of my favourites.
S.P. n. 25 c.da Gaddimeli, Marina di Ragusa
What is it? A genuine coeliac-friendly pizzeria! Pizza fiends, go go go!
What did we eat? The best pizza of my life. The base was perfect; not too thin, not too doughy, topped with good quality ingredients. Points gained when our waitress, unasked, brought out gluten free breadsticks out for me and normal ones for David. The local Nero D’Avola wine was delicious and reasonably priced.
Gluten Free knowledge: Excellent. It is one of the few pizzerias locally that is certified by the Italian Coeliac Society (AIC), who have trained them in providing gluten free pizzas safely to coeliacs. Their menu was labelled clearly with GF symbols, and there were LOADS of gluten free options available, including foods other than pizza.
Atmos & Pricing: It doesn’t have the prettiest or most accessible setting (just off a busy roundabout, slightly naff decor), but the food, wine and price was great. There were gluten free pizzas starting at just 2 or 3 euros. Hard to grade on atmosphere as we went very early in the evening (before learning that Sicilians don’t eat out until later on) and pretty much had the place to ourselves. Our meal including main, breadsticks, a bottle of wine and service charge came to about 25 euros.
Caffe Delle Rose
Piazza Duca Abruzzi, 25, Marina di Ragusa
What is it? A gelato cafe full of wonderful gluten free treats.
What did we eat? Daily gelato. Almost all of their gelato is gluten free and can be served in a GF cone or GF brioche bun (SCREAM). There was also gluten free cannoli (hnngh), granita and a selection of traditional Sicilian almond-based treats.
Gluten Free knowledge: The best. They took care without me having to ask to avoid cross-contamination, by using clean servers for the gelato and storing gluten free items completely separately. All staff we encountered were happy to point out exactly what was ‘senza glutine’.
Atmos & Pricing: Lovely. The cafe is a hub for the locals. It is open all hours and perfectly placed for people-watching in the square. Pricing was average for the area (a couple of euros or so), there was a surcharge (I think 50 euro cents) for gluten free cones/brioche. Worth it.
Ristorante Il Barocco
via Orfanotrofio, Ragusa Ibla
What is it? Slow food in the heart of Ragusa Ibla. Truly lovely.
What did we eat? The best pasta of my life! I had a Sicilian pork sausage, tomato and ricotta pasta, and David had an artichoke pasta dish. Both were incred. The sauce was simple but full of flavour, and our meals were about as far removed from rubbery-pasta-with-a-jar-of-Loyd-Grossman as you can get. A good example of the local ‘slow food movement‘.
Gluten Free Knowledge: I did my customary ask-about-senza-glutine-in-broken-Italian and the waitress immediately knew what I was talking about, said that they should be able to prepare any of the pasta dishes with gluten free pasta, double-checking with the chef for each thing I was interested in.
Atmosphere & pricing: Located in the heart of town, just off the square outside the beautiful church of San Giuseppe. Relaxed atmosphere, the outdoor seats are nice for people-watching. The bill including wine/beer and service charges came to about 25 euros for the two of us.
Ristorante da Serafino
Lungomare Andrea Doria, Marina di Ragusa
What is it? Luxurious beach restaurant, where you can listen to the waves gently lapping the shore while you eat. *wistful sigh*
What did we eat? The first time, I ate fresh fish with grilled Mediterranean vegetables and the most amazing gluten free bread of my life (which they brought out without me even asking. (Note: David said this GF bread is the closest he has tasted to the real thing). The second time, I ate gluten free pizza. They don’t specify that they do gluten free pizza on the menu, I only found out by asking.
Gluten free knowledge: I explained in horrendously broken Italian that I am coeliac and needed to eat ‘Senza Glutine’, and the head waiter assured me that there were plenty of options, and it would be no problem to cater for me safely. I tried to show him my GF travel card and he was almost offended at the insinuation that they wouldn’t know how to cater for a coeliac. The service was excellent on both visits.
Atmos & Pricing: More expensive than our other meals in Sicily, but good value (we thought) for the lovely romantic setting and special experience. Our bills came to between 45-65 euros, including bottles of wine/prosecco and service charges, which equates to about £30-45 for two.
Via Tindari, 13, Marina di Ragusa
Delicious gluten free arancini, aka risotto balls! All of their arancini were gluten free (so there shouldn’t be any cross-contamination in the fryer) and they serve not one, but TWO types of gluten free beer.
Petit Bistro Burger
Piazza Duca Abruzzi, Marina di Ragusa
Modern burger restaurant in the heart of Marina di Ragusa. It felt slightly sacrilegious to not be eating something stereo-typically Italian, but the tasty burgers and sides were just what the doctor ordered. Gluten free buns and ice cream cones are clearly marked on the menu.
Honestly, most restaurants in Marina di Ragusa seemed to have something on offer for coeliacs, even if it wasn’t explicitly written on the menu. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many other GF discoveries waiting to be made.
Useful websites for Gluten Free travel in Italy
http://www.pizzerieperceliaci.net/ searches specifically for restaurants offering gluten free pizzas (God bless Italy).
Liked reading about my travels as a coeliac? Let me know in the comments, and please ‘like’ and share if you think other gluten free folk may find it useful. If there is enough interest, I will do another post about some of the delicious freefrom products I found in Sicilian supermarkets!
As always, I hope you’re all having a groovy and gluten free week.