(More) Gluten Free Shopping in Italy

When most people think about going shopping in Italy their mind conjures images of gorgeous shoes, handbags and designer clothes. Me? It’s all about the gluten free food shopping.

Am I alone in returning home from a holiday with a bag heaving with piadina not Prada, Tuscan focaccia and not Ferragamo?

The trouble is, shopping senza glutine in Italy is really rather good.

If you’re heading for beautiful Italy soon I recommend you search out the nearest branch of the Coop. These stores range in size from tiny village corner shop to cavernous hypermarket and can be found all over Italy.

The Coop have their own excellent and extensive range of own brand gluten free products. In addition their carry products from DS (Dietary Specials), Agluten and many more.

Here is the vast product range found in one Coop supermarket in Poggibonsi, Tuscany.

Breads, foccacia, rice cakes:

Cakes, biscuits, breakfast items:

Various types of pasta and assorted flour mixes:

Frozen section including pizzas, baguettes, cornetto’s…and:

…the holy grail of missing gluten free product in the UK, it’s only puff pastry!:

Gluten free Daura at approximately half the price I pay in Waitrose:

But it’s not just about the processed foods, Italian supermarkets and markets are heaving with local produce which is naturally gluten free:

You can also read an earlier post here on gluten free shopping in Italy.

Gluten Free Italy: Dario DOC, Tuscany

There were many fun aspects to planning a wedding in Italy but a weekend spent viewing potential venues and villas was certainly one of the most enjoyable. On our sunny Spring-time whistle stop tour of Tuscan rolling hills and central Florence we visited a villa near to the village of Panzano. The wedding planner had told us in somewhat revered tones that Dario Cecchini owned a butcher’s shop and restaurant in the village and it might just be possible to persuade him to come with his wonderful meats to the villa to cook for us and our wedding guests. She told us Dario was unique, and a real character (and if you don’t believe it, check out his website…). The villa was beautiful but we found somewhere we loved more which was located further away. Thoughts of Dario and his mighty meats were put on hold.

On our recent visit to Tuscany I was reminded of Dario when I saw how close our villa was situated to Panzano. We decided to visit for lunch. As well as the butcher’s, Dario has several eateries in Panzano.

DOC Dario (aka MacDario’s) operates at lunchtimes offering two set meals. For a bargain EUR 10 you get all of the following:

half pound burger in a crisp crumb crust
garlic and sage roasted potatoes
vegetables and sliced onions
our sauces
Tuscan bread (NB not gluten free!)
water with or without bubbles

For EUR 20 the Accoglienza menu is all of the following:

raw garden vegetables to dip in olive oil
Chianti sushi (steak tartar)
Chianti tuna (a pork dish)
pork roasted with herbs and garlic
meatloaf with sweet bell pepper sauce
Tuscan bread (NB not gluten free!)
water with or without bubbles

Having settled at the communal table, we went for the simple EUR 10 menu. The burger is cooked to a choice of only rare, medium or well done (no medium rare here!).

The meal is served with a choice of three sauces; Chianti ketchup (my favourite), sweet spiced pepper jelly a mustard dressing.

For meat eaters, this meal was fantastic; soft beef patty expertly cooked and exceptional value, all the while sitting under a huge parasol protecting us from the scorching Tuscan sun. Vegetarians would find slim pickings here; the menu didn’t list any vegetarian options and I didn’t ask (perhaps there are some).

The menu states that all dishes are lactose free but I’d checked beforehand and the meal is also gluten free (excluding the Tuscan bread, served separately) but including the delicious sauces.

In the evenings DOCDario transforms into Officina della Bistecca. Also in the village is Dario’s Solo Ciccia restaurant offering a six course meat extravaganza chosen by Dario and served at a communal table. Click on the links to see what meaty treats these restaurants offer.

As we walked back to the car park, we wandered into Dario’s butcher shop where he was standing behind the counter, big band jazz music blaring out of the macelleria. Truly, one of a kind.


Address and opening times below. These vary for each restaurant so please double check on Dario’s website here to avoid disappointment.

Via XX Luglio, 11 Panzano in Chianti Firenze
tel. +39 055 852020 fax +39 055 852700

Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday /
Thursday /Sunday 9 – 14
Friday /Saturday 9 – 18

tel: +39 055852727
Monday / Tuesday /Wednesday : CLOSED
Thursday / Friday /Saturday : 19.00 o 21.00
Sunday 13.00

Monday / Wednesday / Sunday : only upon reservation
Tuesday / Thursday / Friday /Saturday : 20.00
Sunday 13.00

Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday /
Thursday /Friday /Saturday: 12 – 15
Sunday : CLOSED

Gluten Free Isle of Wight: The Royal Hotel, Ventnor

It was touch and go whether we’d actually make it to the Isle of Wight for the weekend. Our highly organised plans had been thrown into complete chaos the night before we were due to travel when Tom Jones (who we’d been planning to see on a R family weekend away) contracted bronchitis and cancelled his show at Osbourne House. After much discussion, we went (minus one R) and consoled our missed opportunity to sing Delilah with Tom over Sunday lunch at The Royal Hotel, Ventnor.

Beautiful sub tropical gardens

The weather was wonderful and we opted to have lunch outside in the beautiful sub-tropical gardens. Somewhere off in the distance a band was playing traditional Irish music and the occasional snatched line of a familiar song had us trying to guess what they were playing and where they were.

I’d called the Royal Hotel in advance to talk to them about catering gluten free. They must have made a note of this on our reservation because once the bread was brought for the rest of the table, I was asked if I’d like some gluten free bread. Yes, please!

For my starter I chose the tian of avocado with Ventnor bay crab.

I thoroughly enjoyed the light and refreshing flavours of this dish. You can see my gluten free bread (delicious, by the way) at the top of the photo.

However, the best was yet to come. I chose the pan fried sea bass, with fennel and a citrus quinoa.

The zingy citrus quinoa served with the sea bass was the perfect choice for a summer lunchtime sitting outside in the beautiful gardens. What I particularly liked about this dish was that it got me excited about cooking an ingredient in a way I’d not thought about before. Even just looking at the photo now I recall how fresh and summery this tasted.

As we were driving out of Ventnor, we stumbled upon the source of the music we’d heard. A band was playing Irish songs and sea shanties in the band stand in Ventnor’s beautifully maintained small park near to the Royal Hotel. We sat and joined the picnic-ing crowd, some with flasks of tea and others with bottles of wine, to listen to the music and sang along to The Irish Rover. Who needs Tom Jones after all?

Details: The Royal Hotel, Belgrave Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1JJ

Rating: 5/5 – delicious food, gluten free bread in beautiful surroundings makes the perfect Sunday lunch.

Gluten Free Wells-next-the-Sea: The Crown Hotel

This past weekend saw us visiting my friend E up at her new house in the gorgeous north Norfolk village of Well-next-the-Sea. We were amazingly lucky; not only was the weather scorchingly hot (I fear perhaps our last blast of summer) but – shiver me timbers – Wells was also hosting its annual Pirate festival.

Having zoomed up from London straight after work on Friday night we made our way to The Crown Hotel for dinner, just before they stopped serving food at 9.30pm. Part of the Flying Kiwi independent group of inns in Norfolk, The Crown is a 12 room hotel which offers dining either in the relaxed Orangery or the smaller, more formal dining room.

I noticed at the base of the regular menu was a small note saying they had a gluten free menu. Promising. Even more promising when I was presented with this relatively extensive gluten free menu:

It was too late to eat a starter as well as a main course but next time I’ll arrive earlier so that I can taste the complimentary gluten free bread served with all starters. I’m always impressed with restaurants which make the effort of providing gluten free bread but it’s interesting to see the quality as it can vary.

I was very pleased to see chips on the gluten free menu and checked with the waitress how they were cooked. Happily, they’re not dusted in flour and they are cooked in a dedicated fryer so no chance of cross contamination.

The waitress who served us was extremely knowledgeable about ingredients, cooking methods and, despite the restaurant being very busy, she checked and double checked on my questions without any fuss which also impressed E and Mr D. However, it turned out after her checking that the tartare sauce was not gluten free. The ketchup wasn’t either, “I know Heinz is the only gluten free ketchup”, said the waitress “and ours is not Heinz”. I think this is a bit of shame – my excitement at being able to eat ‘safe’ chips was tempered with not having any ketchup or tartare sauce to enjoy them with. I asked what other sauces I could have with my haddock and chips and the waitress brought me a bottle of sweet chilli sauce. She thought it was gluten free but wanted me to double check. I did, it was.

Since it was Friday and I was beside the seaside, I went for grilled haddock goujons with hand cut chips (£11.95). The fish was chunky and fresh. The chips were lovely, thick cut and a rare treat. Bizarrely the sweet chilli sauce seemed to work quite well.

Somehow I found myself ordering the passion fruit pavlova for dessert (it must’ve been the sea air):

All in all this was a great meal. Delicious gluten free food, friendly atmosphere and impressive service under pressure.

Rating: 4/5

Details: The Crown Hotel, The Buttlands, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk NR23 1EX

Tel: 01328 710209

Email: crownhotel@flyingkiwiinns.co.uk