When I get back from pottering around Italy, I plan to write a proper post: restaurants, groceries, grandfatherly shopkeepers who offered me cookies, experiences with my Italian gluten-free dining card, the whole deal.
That’s a few blissful weeks away, though, and I can’t wait that long to tell you about gluten-free Bologna. So far the gastronomic highlight of my trip, it’s also a wonderful city for your eyes and ears and other organs too.
There is one main reason why Bologna has been so good to me: the magic of the internet. I was able to connect with a gluten-free Italian who studies there, and he made sure I was well-fed.
There are three Ps in Italian glutendom: Pizza, Pasta, Piadina. I had all three – the holy trinity, as it were – in Bologna, gluten-free.
First, the pizza. Nicola took me to La Pantera Rosa, which only recently got its celiac-friendly certification. They have two locations, each slightly outside the city’s main center. The one we visited was unassuming, friendly, affordable, and tasty. With the added benefit of a gluten-free beer, I was in cheesy carbohydrate heaven.
Next, the pasta. I’m sorry to tell you that I ate too quickly to photograph the gnocchi we cooked up – but I’m happy to tell you that you can buy your own at supermarkets and pharmacies all across Italy. It should come as no surprise that there are plenty of options, and you’ll have access to gluten-free pasta of all shapes and sizes should you come for a visit.
Finally, the Pièce de résistance: Piadina. I’d never heard the word before, but it’s a sandwich shop staple. A flatbread from the north of Italy, it comes loaded with anything and everything and seems to be on offer everywhere. In Bologna, at L’alternativa Piadina and Kebab, I was finally able to taste what all the fuss was about.
The kebbabare is located in the tangle of streets that makes up Bologna’s historic center, at via Mascarella 44. You’ll know you’re at the right place by the sandwich board outside that says “Senza Glutine” in gigantic letters.
It looks like any other quick food joint: a couple of tall tables, a counter, a refrigerated case of sodas. The menu spans continents, and you can get your gluten-free piadina filled with prosciutto, döner meat, vegetables, nutella, pretty much anything. There’s also a small selection of Indian dishes if you’re not in a sandwich mood.
They take special care to keep the gluten-free piadina away from any cross-contamination, heating in tinfoil on the grill. The result is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and has a nice light taste to it. As for me, I liked it so much that I ate it twice in three days. That’s what vacation is for, no?
If you’ve been to Bologna, how was your experience? And if you’ve had a piadina, what’d you think?