How to Eat Vegan and Gluten-Free at Italian Restaurants
Eating out vegan and gluten-free is challenging at the best of times, but it might feel even harder than usual at an Italian restaurant. With most dishes consisting of gluten-containing bases, like pasta or pizza dough, then topped in meat and cheese, you might wonder whether there's anything at all that you can eat.
Luckily, most establishments are becoming more aware of the need to cater to special dietary requirements, and you might be surprised at how many options restaurants have available that will suit your needs. The list below will give ideas on what to look out for on the menu, plus what to ask your server for.
There are a few starters that are guaranteed to be suitable. Olives are always an excellent option, as are potato dishes — just make sure they're not cooked in butter. You might find that many side dishes like sweet potato fries, salads or roasted new potatoes are suitable, and it's easy to ask for these to be brought along with starters instead of with your main meal.
Some restaurants offer gluten-free breads, which are delicious to dip into olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If gluten-free dough balls are available, ask for them to be brought with garlic oil for dipping, instead of non-vegan garlic butter
The first thing you should do when deciding on a main is to ask about gluten-free options. There's often a separate menu that can be brought to you, and it's easy to alter most dishes to make them vegan.
If there's a gluten-free pizza offered, then you're in luck. Ask for a pizza without cheese and customise it with all your favourite vegetables. To add the kick of flavour that might be missing without cheese, try adding caramelised onion, olive tapenade, or chilli oil. You don't need dairy for a delicious pizza. For a more filling meal, try adding pine nuts on top.
Gluten-free pasta is also becoming more widely available. Choose a simple tomato spaghetti dish, tasty lentil Bolognese or healthy courgette sauce — just make sure your server holds the Parmesan. If there's no gluten-free pasta, then spiralised vegetable noodles may be an option. These are becoming more and more popular and are perfect if you're looking to lose weight.
If there are no gluten-free options, then go for a salad with as many toppings as possible. Look out for warm vegetable side dishes that could be added to make the meal more filling.
When it comes to dessert, sorbet is usually a safe option. Common flavours include mango, lemon and raspberry, and there's no dairy like regular ice cream. Some restaurants also offer fresh fruit bowls, and these can be combined with a few scoops of sorbet for a more decadent dessert.