I’ll admit that after my celiac diagnosis, I was afraid to go to Italy again. It is the land of pasta and bread, all things gluten. So I was surprised how gluten free friendly Venice is!
On our first night there, Kay wanted to stop and get gelato before we went to bed. We stopped at place on the way to our flat and seeing the cone dishes, I asked if they had normal paper cups before Kay pointed out a vase full of cones labeled “Senza glutine”. HOLY HELL, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a gluten free cone in an ice cream or gelato shop anywhere!!The shop was called SUSO. I was so impressed we came back again even though we did see other gelaterias elsewhere. It was too late to do food shopping after our arrival on Friday night, so we headed to Ristobar San Polo because we knew it would be open from 8am onward.
Breakfast is still one of the most difficult meals to obtain gluten free and unfortunately they could only offer Kay a focaccia or bruschetta and the only gluten free things they could offer me were tiramisu and some kind of apple cake, so I took both with a cappuccino! The tiramisu was pretty good, moist, but the apple cake was even better because it was warm. Still, with only two pieces of cake and a coffee, I was not really satisfied. Kay just ordered the focaccia and coffee and together we paid €26. Venice is not cheap!We stopped for more coffee in another square later on to soak up the sun and I ended up snacking on some of my gluten free snacks I’d brought along.For dinner, we went to Osteria All’Ombra because it had good reviews on The Gluten Bigot, but it was a pretty mediocre restaurant. It actually had a different name on the menu or wall somewhere and was run by Asians, so at first we honestly thought we were in the wrong restaurant, possibly an Asian one by the name on the card, but it was still All’Ombra they assured us and we aren’t sure if they bought the restaurant from original owners or if it was always like that, but they were definitely not speaking Italian in the kitchen and we are always a little hesitant to eat local cuisine prepared by non-locals. You know, like the sign of a good Chinese place is when other Asians eat there and how it’s a risky sign if there are only non-Asians in the kitchen. We decided to risk it because it could still be good, but all the gluten free stuff was frozen or pre-prepared and Kay’s normal food was not great either.
For the starter we ordered prosciutto and mozzarella, which was pretty blah.My pizza was fine and I did not get sick eating it, but even the ingredients on top seemed pretty mediocre.I was most disappointed when I ordered tiramisu for dessert and it looked exactly like the tiramisu for breakfast. Obviously it’s the same frozen brand, but All’Ombra didn’t defrost it very well. I could even hear the microwave ding in the background, but there were still frozen chunks of ice in the cake.
With that and the pre-set frozen gluten free menu, I was wondering why we went there instead of the many other places that also offer gluten free items. (Hint, almost all the restaurants I am betting have the same GF menu, as we found out at another restaurant the next day.) They did get points for a nicer presentation than Ristobar though.For breakfast on Sunday, we went to a grocery (Thank God!) and bought some absolutely delicious meat and bufala mozzarella.That with espresso from the moka pot supplied by the landlord (yes!!) we had an amazing breakfast supplemented by some gluten free cake we found in the grocery.Ahhh cheese. So good!! So fresh!Kay and I were both impressed how many gluten free items there were in the grocery. Many brands that we don’t know here in Switzerland.We had the cake above for breakfast and the snack bars below as additional snacks around the city.Kay wanted to buy the oreos below, which are actually German, but we ended up bringing them home because we didn’t have time to eat them in Venice.After our visit to the Doge’s Palace on Sunday, I was so pooped and wanted a coffee, but then a glass of wine sounded great too. Why not?? Weekend trips always inspire indulgence.In the afternoon we stopped back at SUSO for another cone. This time I got pistachio and yogurt with berries. Mmmm!I was really in love with the GF cones!We went to Malibran for lunch because it had a big “GLUTEN FREE” sign out front, which was also OK, but nothing amazing. They actually didn’t even have a dedicated gluten free menu and just told me I could order pizza or pasta. I was not especially impressed. I ordered mussels for an appetizer and then chose from the same boring pre-made gluten free menu of pizza or pasta.I ended up with penne and ragout, which I can probably make better at home myself, but it was hot and comforting since it had started to drizzle outside.So there you have it. Food in Venice is similar to Rome. Expensive and crappy because they know they can charge that much for mediocre food and people will still come.
Rest assured that as a gluten free traveler, you will still have lots of options for different restaurants and you can even order gluten free beer (Daura), pizza, pasta, and gelato with a cone, all with minimal effort on your part.
Don’t be afraid of getting sick, just be afraid of the prices! And if you can, I still recommend eating local produce at home because breakfast at our stinky flat was the best food we had all weekend! 🙂