I’ve always thought Rome was my kind of city ever since I noticed that they provide daily horoscopes on the screens of the metro, but after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance earlier this year, I glumly thought that my love affair with the eternal city was over.
The idea of pizza and pasta now sending shivers down my spine and bubbles in my belly. As gorgeous as my suite was at the Anantara Palazzo Naiadi, I had no plans to spend the day in bed with stomach ache.
Surprisingly, close to 1 per cent of Italy’s population, or around half a million people, are diagnosed as coeliac and even more are gluten intolerant, so what initially appeared to be a seemingly murky prospect of doing Rome gluten-free became clearer. Turns out Romans have been doing this health and wellness thing the whole time.
If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be eating a lot of Caesar salads. Thankfully, the menu system in most Roman restaurants is easy to understand: if it has a tiny number 1 next to it, avoid it or ask if they can do it senza glutine. However, if you are going to eat one Caesar salad, do it at Ristorante Pancrazio dal 1922 (in the shadow of the ruined Theatre of Pompey where Julius Caesar reportedly was assassinated).
At the Pantheon, stop by Pandalì for thick-cut gluten-free focaccia sandwiches. Any restaurant where they give you a small table so that your Loewe basket bag doesn’t have to touch the floor is alright with me and for a gasp-inducing fine-dining experience, try Ineo — created by Heros de Agostinis, former executive chef of London’s Lanesborough Hotel. I’m still salivating over the memory of the red Sicilian prawns and succulent sea scallops, which arrived in an artful puddle of gazpacho. Our waiter told us the best place in the city for gelato was Otaleg in the rowdy Trastevere district, so we skipped dessert and joined the queue to order two scoops: one salty pistachio and one 75 per cent dark chocolate on a gluten free cone, of course.
Another day and duty called. This time was to sample the Risotto Al Nero at Sabatini in Trastevere, jet black with squid ink and full of juicy and tender squid legs, topped with gold leaf. For those feeling especially greedy, add a side of thinly sliced Cacio e Pepe potatoes.
Shockingly, Italians don’t eat Italian food every day so a lunch at Seen by Olivier’s sushi bar — underscored by the satisfying crack of an ice-cold Aqua Panna being opened in 35 degree heat — at the Palazzo Naiadi’s rooftop pool was a welcome palette cleanser. Of course, no trip to Italy is complete without pizza and as any GF person knows, bread products usually tend to arrive tiny and full of holes. At Pizza in Trevi, imagine my delight as a fluffy dough version arrived with huge porcini mushrooms and a mozzarella pull that would seriously impress Michelangelo. The Ninja Turtle obviously, not that other one.