Monday, 3 January 2011

Naples, Italy

My posting for Naples will be controversial. My cousin, who just returned from an Italian vacation, assured me that she, a celiac, had no problem eating the semolina pasta and the pizza dough in Italy. She spent the first few days being cautious, but after much prompting from Italian family that the wheat products in Italy are safe, she opted to be adventurous. For me, the wheat products in Naples were hit or miss. Since Naples is known as the birthplace of the Pizza Margarita, I was very interested in sampling a slice or two. I found, for me, the pizza was delicious and harmless. Later in my stay I branched out and had a plate of pasta that was wretched on my stomach. So, eater beware! Different levels of gluten affect different people very differently.

My review will focus specifically on gluten free eating.

For those spending time in Naples with cooking facilities, you can get gluten-free pasta! You can scour the grocery stores and never find a thing. But don’t lose heart. The gluten-free bread and pasta products are sold at the Pharmacia. Since it’s a medical issue, specialized foods are relegated to the back shelves of the local pharmacy/druggist. The selection I found was pretty good. Lots of different pasta styles, although almost all of it was corn pasta. I personally didn’t find much rice pasta, if that’s what you prefer.

The Hotel Excelsior
I stayed at the Hotel Excelsior and I knew there was going to be a broad buffet of culinary breakfast options. Much to my delight, I found that they actually had gluten-free biscuits that I had not requested. (sometimes I call ahead to a hotel and ask them to be aware of my dining limitations) They also had hard boiled eggs, bacon, yogurt, wonderful cappuccino

Antonio & Antonio
Via Partenope, 24/27, Via Crispi, 89, Naples, Italy 
Tel: +39 0812451987

There’s a great restaurant along the seaside that’s nestled amongst many other probably equally good restaurants. I found the wait staff to be friendly and comfortable with English. They have a wonderful array of salads. I often feel that choosing a salad from a dinner menu is “defeat” mainly because I want a warm comforting meal. However, I will assure you that the salads at Antonio & Antonio are delicious, hardy, and satisfying. They are served with lemon juice and olive oil as the dressing. It’s a lovely tangy flavor. The photo I have is of a salad I took as “take away.” Picture in your mind’s eye the salad beautifully served on some decorative china. The photo just doesn’t do it justice.

Ristorante Rosati
This restaurant is situated on the first floor of a restored palace overlooking Piazza Plebiscito, Teatro San Carloand Palazzo Reale. This area is the historic centre of Naples. Although this restaurant can be popular with tour groups, I found it to be quaint and charming. We all like to eat at cute little undiscovered bistros, but the big benefit of a tried and true tourist spot for a Celiac is disease recognition! Every waitstaff at Rosati was aware of gluten dietary restrictions and could direct me to the best menu options without hesitation. I liked it so much I went twice.

The first time I had a lemon and shrimp risotto. At first I was hesitant due to prior risotto dishes at other Naples establishments that were underwhelming. But this dish was tasty, tangy, and not mushy.

The second time I branched out to a prawn dish. I had expected it to come with some kind of vegetable or side dish as an accompaniment, however it did not. It was just a bunch of well seasoned prawns on plate. My immediate thought was, “will this fill me up or will I still be starving?” There was no need to worry. It was plenty of food.

I ate at a few other places here and there. They were not noteworthy. If you have any experience with eating either gluten-free in Naples, please share your experiences. Have you been able to eat wheat products in Southern Italy with no ill effects? Thoughts?

Check out my travel photography prints here: