Gluten-Free Italian Food: A Complete Guide

Italian food is often full of gluten so here’s a complete guide to gluten-free Italian food. Including which Italian foods to watch out for. What Italian restaurants in the USA you can visit. Plus the cross-contact precautions to ask for when dining in Italian restaurants with celiac disease.

We’ve got a lot to cover so grab a snack and a drink and let’s dive in!

BUT before we dive in, don’t forget to grab my FREE Gluten-Free USA Restaurant Cheat Sheets to help simplify dining out for you. Visit this webpage to download them!

Table of Contents

Gluten-Free Italian Food A Complete Guide_ - celiac dietitian

What is Gluten?

When talking about gluten-free Italian food, it’s important we know what gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, contaminated oats, and wheat. It may be helpful to remember the acronym “BROW” when trying to remember what foods have gluten.

In baked goods, gluten holds things together working as a binding agent. It gives texture and chew to foods.

Most people can safely eat gluten. However, some people have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease which means they need to avoid gluten. It can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and nausea as well as nonintestinal symptoms such as rashes, headaches, or joint pain.

What is Italian Food?

When understanding which Italian food is gluten-free, it’s important to understand the Italian cuisine as a whole.

Italian cuisine originated in Italy and can be tracked as far back as the 4th century BC. Most Italian dishes that we’ve all come to love and enjoy, including carbonara and lasagna, were created due to the Italian landscape and climate.

Produce like olives and wheat grow well in many of Italy’s cities, including Rome and Sicily, due to the warm mediterranean weather. Wheat is typically grown in northern and southern Italy. Northern Italy grows soft wheat which is used to create flours for baking while southern Italy grows durum which is used to create a variety of noodles for pasta.

Essentially, because wheat grows well in Italy, it influenced a lot of Italian cuisine to contain gluten. Which brings us to the important question of…

What Italian Food Contains Gluten?

When it comes to ordering gluten-free Italian food, it can be difficult because a lot of it naturally contains gluten. Afterall, most Italian foods that come to mind are pizza, pasta, and bread. All of which contain gluten in some form.

Fortunately in the 21st century, most of Italy has adjusted to offer gluten-free alternatives to gluten-filled traditional foods.

With a large awareness of celiac disease in the country and an increase in diagnosis, the country has moved to be more accommodating of people with celiac. So let’s talk about those accomodations

Gluten from Italy is NOT Celiac Safe.

Gluten-Free Food in Italy

There are many Gluten-free Friendly Italian Restaurants in every city of Italy that offer celiac-safe options, the first being Rome. When in Rome, Mama Eat’s is a highly rated gluten free restaurant that should be visited. Mama Eat’s not only has gluten free pasta and bread, they have gluten and lactose free versions of every menu item including desert. 

Another celiac friendly city is Venice. While visiting Venice, Grom, is another highly rated gluten free restaurant that should be visited. Grom is a 100% gluten free italian gelato parlor, including their biscuits and cones.

These are just two examples but if you want a complete guide to gluten-free food in Italy, check out this travel guide by my dear friend Jen from the Nomadic Fitzpatricks.

Does Italian Pasta Have Less Gluten?

When talking about gluten-free Italian food it’s important to discuss common myths that arise around the topic. One of which is the myth that European wheat has less gluten and thus, is safe for people with celiac to consume.

Technically, when it comes to gluten content of wheat, it depends on where the wheat was produced.

The wheat that is typically produced in America is a hard wheat which contains more gluten than the type of soft wheat that is produced more so in Italy.

But what’s important to note is that even though Italy grows a lot of wheat, 447 million USD is imported from Canada and 242 million USD is imported from the United States

So even if you’re eating wheat products in Italy, there’s still probably some American wheat mixed in.

But also… none of that matters when it comes to celiac disease because both forms of wheat contain gluten which is unsafe, period, for people with celiac.

So if you have celiac disease, it doesn’t matter if it’s a soft wheat from Europe or a hard wheat from America, wheat is wheat, and you should not consume it.

Is There Gluten-Free Bread in Italy

There are plenty of gluten free bread options in Italy just the same as the availability of gluten free pastas and pizza. Some dedicated gluten free bakeries include the Leopoldo Cafebar and Pasticceria BELLAVIA in Naples and Bacio Di Cioccolato in Lazise.

Again, if you’re planning a trip to Italy and want a list of gluten-free restaurants to check-out, read my friend’s complete guide here.

Gluten-free Italian Recipes That Will Make You Think You're in Italy

Ready to make your own delicious gluten-free Italian food? It’s actually not as hard as you’d think to do at home. With the right technique and a little passion, you can make delicious Italian dishes. Below are some recipes to try!

Make Gluten-free Pasta by Hand with a Celiac in Italy

Want an authentic gluten-free Italian pasta experience? Catalin will show you how to make your own delicious and fresh gluten-free pasta from the comfort of your own home.

All while entertaining you and sharing fun stories and facts about Italy to really immerse you into the experience. And don’t stress, it’s easier to do than you’d think!

So if you want authentic gluten-free Italian pasta, sign up for this awesome pasta making class with Catalin here!

Gluten-Free Pasta Al Forno

Looking for a delicious gluten-free Italian dinner to make? This Gluten-free Pasta Al Forno by Only Gluten-Free Recipes is perfect for you to try.

Al Forno means baked, so this is a baked pasta dish that has vegetables, meat, cheese and best of all, gluten-free pasta. The winning combo an delicious and filling dinner features.

Simple Parmesan Gluten-Free Noodles

Want a simple gluten-free Italian dish that lets the pasta speak for itself? This Gluten-free Simple Parmesan Buttered Pasta by A Day in the Kitchen is perfect for you!

Make sure you’re using your favorite gluten-free pasta for this. Or even better, use the fresh gluten-free pasta you made with Catalin to really be transported to Italy!

Gluten-Free Italian Food A Complete Guide_ - celiac dietitian -Cross-Contact Questions and Gluten-Free Considerations When Ordering Celiac Safe Italian Food

Gluten & Cross-Contact Precautions to Take at Italian Restaurants

Don’t feel like cooking and rather order gluten-free Italian food instead? Before we get into gluten-free Italian food options in the USA, it’s important to discuss cross-contact with Italian food. In this case, we’ll be talking cross-contact specifically with pasta dishes.

Questions to ask when screening an Italian restaurant for gluten-free pasta options include:

  • are the sauces gluten-free? do you thicken any of them with flour or a roux?
  • can you serve the sauce with a fresh ladle
  • can you boil my pasta in a freshly washed pot with fresh water?
  • can you strain my pasta with a freshly washed pasta strainer?
  • can you serve my pasta with freshly washed utensils?
  • do you coat any of your meat in your dishes with meat?
  • can I order plain, unseasoned meat to be cooked and added to this?
  • are your meatballs made with bread crumbs or oats?

Ordering to prevent cross-contact after checking for gluten-free menu options might look like:

“Hi, I have a severe gluten allergy, can the cook change their gloves before preparing my order and can I get buttered noodles boiled in a fresh pot of water and strained in a clean colander topped with chicken that’s been cooked in a freshly washed pan? I know that was a lot so I’m happy to repeat it. I just need them to do all of that so that I don’t get extremely sick. Thanks!”

Speaking of gluten-free pasta and noodle orders. If you like pasta, you might enjoy my Gluten-free Pho guide too.

If you found this helpful, I’ve got more scripts and guides in the Gluten-Free Dining Course to help simplify dining out safely with celiac disease. Including other Italian foods like how to order gluten-free Pizza. Check it out here!

Italian Restaurants in the USA With Gluten-Free Food

On to what most of you care most about, gluten-free Italian food you can order in the USA! There are a lot of Italian restaurants in the USA and I can’t possible cover them all BUT below are a list of common Italian restaurants that have gluten-free options.

As always, when dining out, always assess suitability and safety for yourself. If you need more help with learning how to enjoy dining out at restaurants with celiac disease in the USA safely, check out my Gluten-Free Dining Course.

And please remember, no restaurant I discuss or recommend serves as a guarantee or endorsement of safety. The restaurant industry changes quickly and a large part of dining out successfully when gluten-free relies on location, staff, individual skill, and knowledge.

Make sure before you dine out that you’re properly trained on cross-contact safety with celiac and how to dine out safely so you can appropriately assess and minimize risk for yourself.

And no, a Nima gluten sensor won’t save you here. One of the many limitations of the device is that it can’t accurately detect gluten in pasta! So you’ll need to make sure you’re confident in your ability to keep yourself safe. Which, trust in your celiac safety and knowledge is essential anyways. (Again this is all stuff I cover in the Gluten-Free Dining Course if you want my help!)

Gluten-Free Italian Food at Buca Di Beppo

If you’re looking for gluten-free Italian food at restaurants, look no further than Bucca Di Beppo. They’ve got an entire dedicated gluten-free menu which includes appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, and even dessert.

Gluten-free menu options include Mussels Bianca or Marinara, Mozzarella Caprese, Chopped Antipasti, Chicken Marsala, Baby Portebello Mushroom Risotto, and even Ice Cream to polish it all off with.

While their menu does state that there is a risk of gluten cross-contact, they did confirm that you can ask for the kitchen staff to change their gloves, cook gluten-free food separately in freshly washed pots and pans, and more. Also be sure to ensure your dish does not get dusted with flour when they serve it.

But as always, be sure to contact your Buca Di Beppo location before dining in, to verify they can take the exact cross-contact precautions you need to stay safe

Carrabbas has GF Italian Food

Another restaurant with gluten-free Italian food options is Carrabbas. In fact, Carrabbas also has an entire gluten-free menu.

Gluten-free menu options include Minestrone Soup, Johnny Rocco Salad, Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Sirloin Marsala, Pana Cotta and more.

Again, they do state that cross-contact is a risk in their kitchens but when calling the Carrabbas near me, I was assured that Carrabbas take food allergies very seriously and they do their best to keep everything separate.

This includes food being pulled from separate containers, gloves being changed before allergy orders, and more. Of course, never solely rely on a restaurants cross-contact protocols and always make sure you’re verbalizing the steps you need to taken to stay safe.

However, the fact that they take allergies so seriously is a good sign that when you ask for your cross-contact precautions, they will be receptive. I do still encourage you to call your local Carrabbas to verify they are on the same page.

If you need help with doing this and generally staying safe when dining out, again be sure to check out my Gluten-Free Dining Course.

Piada Italian Street Food May Have Gluten-Free Options

A little more risky of an option, Piada may have gluten-free options as well. At Piada you can get a a salad bowl with some of their proteins, many of their toppings, and some of their sauces. Check their allergen menu here for a full list.

It’s essential to note that Piada has zero standardized cross-contact protocols beyond washing their hands and changing their gloves for your order.

That said, when calling them, I verified some precautions you can ask for. This includes having them change their gloves and use fresh serving utensils when serving your food. They said to put in an online order and in the notes list your food allergy and cross-contact requests. I would also call after you place your order to make sure they take these steps.

All of that aside, if you have celiac, Piada is a huge cross-contact risk given gluten is such an integral part of their menu and serving line.

Olive Garden Has Gluten-Free Options

Another gluten-free Italian food option in the USA is Olive Garden and I know, I know, a lot of you may be cringing for various reasons so let’s talk about it!

First, Olive Garden does have a “gluten sensitive” menu. This menu features gluten-free Zuppa Toscana, Grilled Chicken Parmigiana, Rotini Pasta with Marinara, and more.

They also now have cross-contact protocols that include an allergen button the serve presses that alert the cooks when creating the order. Once notified, the cooks will change their gloves, and pull new pans and utensils for the order. They will also boil the pasta in fresh water.

That said, with every restaurant you go to, call ahead to make sure your location is aware and accommodating of these practices. And be sure when you order to specify the exact precautions you need taken and ask the server to verbalize this to the kitchen as an extra verification of safety.

Gluten-Free Menu at Brio Italian Grille

The Brio Italian Grille hase gluten-free Italian food available! The downside? Their gluten-free menu is only available in the restaurant. Options include Salmon Griglia Salad, Roasted Vegetables, Primavera Pasta, Pasta Carbonara and more.

What’s great about Brio Italian Grille is they have cross-contact protocols. Just be sure check with the location you want to attend to verify they are aware.

These protocols include changing their gloves, using clean cookware and utensils, and cooking pasta in new water. Be sure to verbalize ALL of the precautions you need when ordering too, to make sure everyone is aware of the steps you need taken for safe food.

Order Gluten-free Pasta from Noodles & Company

Last on my Gluten-free Italian Food from restaurants in the USA list is Noodles and Company. While they do not have a gluten-free menu, they do list what is gluten-free on their menu. This includes Pad Thai, Gluten Sensitive Pipette Mac, Zucchini Pesto with Grilled Chicken, Mexican Street Corn Salad with Chicken, and Tomato Basil Bisque.

They also have cross-contact protocols in place that involve gloves being changes and new water being used for gluten-free noodles. You’ll also want to specify new cooking utensils to be used.

Gluten-Free Italian Food A Complete Guide - celiac dietitian

Ordering Gluten-free Italian Food is NOT Im[pasta]ble!

Whether you’re touring the streets of Italy or you’re enjoying Italian food in the USA, ordering gluten-free Italian food is possible! Don’t let celiac disease rob you of delicious italian food served to you by chefs!

Just make sure you’re verifying cross-contact precautions can be taken before arriving to the restaurant. AND make sure when you order you specify exactly what cross-contact steps need to be taken with your food.

If you’re not sure how to do all of this and you want more help and a safe space to practice, don’t forget, I help you do all of this in 4-simple steps in the Gluten-Free Dining Course.

Gluten-Free Dining Course - How to Dine Out with Celiac in 4 simple steps - Tayler Silfverduk, Celiac Dietitian

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