For a city known for pizza and pasta, Rome is stunningly accessible for diners who avoid wheat or gluten. Because of a chronic illness, I don’t tolerate wheat very well, and a recent week of dining out in Rome was not just easy — it was awesome. Italy has a long-lived and robust awareness of celiac disease — as the New York Times notes, the country’s celiac disease association was founded in 1979, years before gluten allergies were well-understood elsewhere. This means there are great gluten-free options around the city, especially when it comes to pasta. More importantly, while most of the world regards gluten-free diners with confusion or annoyance, those who can’t have wheat will find genuine compassion in Italy.
Nancee Jaffe, a registered dietician who specializes in celiac disease and food intolerances, and who has celiac disease herself, says Italy is a dream dining destination. For clients who avoid wheat but don’t have celiac, Jaffe says, Italy is a great place to experiment with naturally leavened breads, since they are often made with a longer rise using natural yeasts, making them easier to digest. For celiac clients, Jaffe recommends due diligence — research options, inform the restaurant, and ask questions as needed — but to ultimately trust the kitchen. “We want as little cross-contamination as humanly possible [for celiac patients], but when dining out all the time on vacation, if you’re constantly worried you won’t enjoy it.”
Here’s a breakdown of how to find gluten-free versions of Rome’s most essential dishes.
To find good gluten-free pasta in Rome, just ask. Almost every newer restaurant, including trattorias, will have a gluten-free pasta available, and the kitchen will be happy to substitute. At boundary-pushing Mazzo in Centocelle, the chef swapped in a gluten-free spaghetti for another pasta shape, even as he joked about the imprecise substitution paining him; at more traditional hotspot Roscioli, gluten-free penne made for a heavenly carbonara. Because dry pasta, rather than fresh, is standard in most of Rome, and Italian gluten-free pasta is of high quality, I never felt like I was missing out on an essential part of a Roman meal — a rare and welcome feeling.
If you’re at a restaurant with a pasta course but no gluten-free pasta, know that it’s perfectly acceptable to just skip the primo and jump straight into the secondo. If you find an especially delicious gluten-free pasta dish you want to eat every last bite of, it’s okay to just skip the secondo, too. At least some secondi will be gluten-free, and even at family-run trattorias the staff will most likely be well-versed in the ingredients.
Finding gluten-free pizza takes a little more effort than finding pasta, as it’s much rarer for a kitchen to substitute a gluten-free crust. Centrally located Voglia di Pizza makes a solid and satisfying pizza tonda, the crispy, round pie that’s the city’s other well-known style besides the square pizza al taglio. Voglia’s menu is also full of non-pizza gluten-free options like fritti and bruschette. La Soffitta Renovatio, near the Vatican, also features a full gluten-free menu with pizza.
If you’re avoiding wheat rather than gluten and can tolerate sourdough bread, the famous sourdough crust at Pizzarium ferments for up to 72 hours. It’s some of the best pizza al taglio in the city.
Most gelato in Rome is mass-produced, thickened with wheat products, and not very good. Gelato from scratch is worth seeking out and, incidentally, likely to be gluten-free, or at least to have some flavors made without wheat (standouts from our gelato map include Gelateria dei Gracchi). Check if the gelateria has plastic-wrapped cones on display — those are gluten-free, and if you ask for one, staff will usually guide you to appropriate gelato flavors as well.
Of special note is Fatamorgana, a gelateria which is entirely gluten free, since the owner has celiac disease. The gelato here is light and flavorful, and available on delicious housemade cones topped with tiny meringues.
If you want to try any of Rome’s famous fried foods and are sensitive to cross-contamination, consider one of the locations of Mama Eat, with one of two kitchens dedicated to gluten-free versions of their dishes, and an extensive gluten-free menu that includes fried seafood and vegetables.
Rome’s growing craft-beer scene is, counterintuitively, fairly friendly to gluten-free diets. Many beer bars will have at least one gluten-free beer, and larger gastropub-like establishments are likely to label menus with icons to indicate what does and does not contain gluten, which can be a relief after many days of having to ask about ingredients.
Breakfast in Rome is usually a pastry and an espresso, if that. Both supermarkets and pharmacies in Rome carry quality gluten-free products; duck into one to pick up some gluten-free baked goods for breakfast in your hotel or apartment. At a hotel, the concierge should also be able to prepare a list of gluten-free-friendly destinations nearby, and many will be able to offer gluten-free options at breakfast with some warning.
For a comprehensive gluten-free guide to Italian food, as well as Italian language cards that can be handed to servers, visit Legal Nomads.
Nancee Jaffe calls the Italian Celiac Association “the most reputable in the world.” They maintain a listing of guaranteed gluten-free-friendly destinations as well an app. Jaffe also recommends emailing them for their latest recommendations at specific destinations.
Voglia di Pizza, Via dei Giubbonari, 33, 00186 Rome
La Soffitta Renovatio, Piazza del Risorgimento, 46/a, 00192 Rome
Pizzarium, Via della Meloria, 43, 00136 Rome (for those with wheat sensitivity, not celiac)
Mama Eat, Via di S. Cosimato, 7/9, 00153 Rome
Meghan McCarron is Eater’s special correspondent.