Gluten free Sicily

Gluten Free Pizza: Palermo, Sicily

I found Palermo to be a somewhat challenging city. It’s blessed with beautiful old buildings, full of interesting architectural details. But they’re crumbling, many beyond the point of repair. I guess you could call it a development opportunity but I found it incredibly sad. The city seemed to be completely neglected, not just in the condition of many of the old buildings but rubbish was overflowing out of bins and covering the streets. Even the parks which are usually kept so well in Italy were littered with stray plastic bags, cigarette ends and other discarded bits of rubbish. Like I said, really sad. I hope Palermo’s Mayor or Municipal administration give Palermo some TLC soon because it could be great, it’s just not right now.

A couple of photos of Palermo.

A church built in 1580.


There were lots of street markets all over Palermo selling fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as stalls selling a veritable pile of tat! I really liked this Ape van piled high with artichokes.

After a day of watching the fabulous Royal Wedding, we asked the concierge for a recommendation on a gluten free pizza restaurant. The concierge called around all of the best pizzerias in Palermo but unfortunately none could do a gluten free pizza. Eventually they suggested Ristorante Pizzeria Naif located at Via Vann’anto 21, Palermo. This is just out of the centre of town in a nice residential area but was easy for us to reach from our hotel. When our taxi pulled up outside Naif, I was not sure it was for us. There was graffiti everywhere. However, having been in Palermo for a couple of days this had become normal, every wall space seemed to be covered in graffiti.

The restaurant was empty when we went in just after 8pm but quickly filled up. The waiter brought the menu:

They had another gluten free beer for me to try, Celia:

I had a bit of a half Italian / half English conversation with the waiter about gluten free options. He was quite animated about one of the starters that I could have so I decided to go with enthusiastic recommendation and that we’d share it. It seemed to me that it was a plate of chips but hey, what do I know? I barely speak any Italian. With a flourish, our starter arrived and it was…..

….. a plate of CHIPS!! We looked around and half the restaurant were also tucking into chips as their starter. I have no idea if this is a Palermo thing but when we ate dinner the following day we noticed the chips for starter thing going on then too. Most odd.

I chose the “Naif” pizza which included sausage, bacon and pepperoni in the topping.

The home-made  base of this pizza was quite interesting. It was the most bread-like of all the gluten free pizzas I’ve eaten.  It was extremely filling because it was very thick and it tasted quite sweet. I liked the pizza and IF you’re in Palermo (but frankly unless you’re visiting your family / roots I’m not sure why you would be) then if you’re near to Naif, I’d recommend giving it a try.



Gluten Free Pizza in Malfa, Salina: If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get…

Our Italian adventure continued by overnight train from Rome to Sicily. Mr D was very excited. We were going the whole way by train because the carriages were going to be loaded onto the ferry from mainland Italy to the island of Sicily. As a veteran of both the Russian Trans-Siberian “Express” and a return from honeymoon on the Orient Express, I also love the relaxation of an overnight train travel. Our 1st class 2 berth compartment also cost us just over €100 it was good value.

After a strong coffee in Milazzo we boarded the hydrofoil bound for the Aoelian Islands, the volcanic outcrop of islands north of Sicily.

Malfa ferry

Two of the islands, Stromboli and Vulcano are still active. We decided to stay on the island of Salina and stayed at the wonderful Hotel Signum. The hotel had views from the terrace towards Stromboli and we were hoping to see some of her nightly eruptions.

The population of the island of Salina is approximately 4,000. In the pretty town of Malfa, where we stayed, it’s under a 1,000 people. And that’s what makes this gluten free tale so surprising.

A couple of evenings we ate in the hotel’s restaurant and the food was delicious but one night we just wanted something a bit more simple. We wandered up to the Pizzeria U Cucunciu located at 81, via Roma, Malfa. Mr D was in the mood for pizza and I wasn’t fussed as long as it was gluten free. Let’s face it, titchy island chances of getting a gluten free pizza were going to be zero. I was so sure of this, I didn’t even bother perusing the menu for pizza options while we enjoyed a bottle of the local red wine.

gluten free Malfa

The waitress returned and to take our food order and – ever the optimist – I thought I’d ask if they had pizza senza glutine. She gave me a thoughtful look and scurried off to the kitchen. A few moments later she emerged beaming from the kitchen. They couldn’t have, could they? The sure did! Malfa, population under 1,000 a tiny spec of a volcanic island had a gluten free pizza. I love Italy!

So my next problem was choosing a pizza since I’d not even bothered reading the pizza menu and had settled on the usual steak and salad combo.

My pizza arrived.

gluten free pizza sicily

The pizza base was a pre-packaged Dietary Specials type they’d probably bought in case a random Coeliac came in looking for a gluten free pizza. OK, so the quality of the base didn’t match those I’d eaten elsewhere but I didn’t mind at all. I enjoyed it!

For dessert the waitress kindly went through all their ice creams in their freezer to find a suitable one for me. I went for the lemon sorbet which seemed appropriate given the number of lemons hanging off trees all over the island.

gluten free dessert sicily

What I learnt was that even though the menu did not list any gluten free items, the restaurant did have them. In Italy, it’s always worth asking if they have pizza and pasta senza glutine.

A few photos of Salina