Primal in Italy
When we first began planning a month-long trip to Italy, I was thrilled. But I was also concerned. I’m not just primal, I’m also gluten-sensitive. What could I eat in the land of pasta, pizza and gelato? And considering that we’d be eating out most of the time, how could I make my needs known to the servers, in my minimal Italian? Mistakes could be costly, both to my health and our vacation, but I didn’t want to spend the vacation stressing about food choices.
A post by glutenfreegirl.com (http://glutenfreegirl.com/2007/10/eating-gluten-free-in-italy/ ) was instrumental in calming my fears. Italy takes celiac and gluten sensitivity very seriously, and has an effective public awareness campaign.
I found that the magic words “senza glutine” (without gluten) cued the wait staff to help me choose the right foods. If they didn’t know (and usually they did), they checked with the chef. I never got that blank stare that we all know from North American restaurants. Although I wasn’t after specifically gluten-free foods, several times servers stopped me from ordering meat that had been breaded, or sauces that contained flour.
So, what did I eat?
Breakfast for Italians is usually a sweet roll (like a croissant) and a cappuccino. Since I generally IF in the mornings, that wasn’t a problem. In many of the hotels, a breakfast bar was included, which usually had cold cuts, cheese, eggs, yogurt, fruit and pastries.
I had a lot of salads- both insalatone (a BAS with tuna) and insalata nizzarda (a salade nicoise). In Florence, their trademark dish is Bistecca Fiorentina, which is a huge 2” t-bone, served rare, that serves two. In Florence chicken liver pate appetizers were common, served on tiny polenta rounds or crostini. One waiter brought me my own little bowl of chicken liver pate. The Tuscany region is famous for wild boar meat, which I ate as cured sausage and as meat sauce. Venice has a lot of lovely seafood dishes.
One of the biggest differences I found was that food was seasonal. Restaurants just didn’t serve food if it wasn’t at its prime. No pink baseball tomatoes there! It was porcini mushroom season, so I had fresh porcinis every chance I got. In September, the tomatoes and melons are also at their peak.
What about pizza and gelato? I had only one gluten-free pizza. That was the only food on the trip that I actually disliked, and I didn’t finish it. As for gelato, my sweet tooth isn’t what it used to be, but I had to try it. I liked the fruity flavors, in a tiny paper cup. And in Venice, I found a place that had gluten free cones. I think I had a total of four gelatos in a month.
I did have a couple polenta dishes (corn), a couple risottos (rice), some GF bread and GF pasta (once), but I was at least 80% primal, probably more.
The biggest challenge was getting enough saturated fats. I didn’t feel that I got enough, even with the salamis and steaks. I ended up wolfing down butter pats at a breakfast bar a couple times.
In short, it was a terrific trip. Being primal in Italy wasn’t as tough as I’d imagined. In fact, it was probably easier than it is here in North America (considering that I couldn’t source and cook my own foods.) I was able to relax and enjoy my vacation and eat some really good food, in a beautiful country.
Ciao, and stay tuned for Primal in Mexico!