Eating out in Tuscany is one of the pleasures of visiting this part of Italy. Happily, with a vast array of fresh ingredients at hand and an inate sense of quality dining, most restaurants do not find it difficult to provide for customers with dietary restrictions. In fact, the Italian spirit of hospitality spurs them to making sure you find something digestible and delicious.
Food allergies and intolerances are not at all to be taken lightly, but as some Italians themselves are also lactose-intolerant or celiac, strides have already been made in Italy to provide alternatives for those needing to avoid certain ingredients. Gelato can be with rice or soy milk instead of dairy and breads are also made of flours that exclude wheat.
when and how to say something
Nowadays many Tuscan menus will indicate dishes that are vegetarian or vegan and may warn you if they contain certain allergens. But if you do not see these indications, rather than sitting flummoxed at the menu wondering what might be hidden in a dish you are tempted to order, take the lead – speak to the waiter and be as direct as possible. Rather than using a label that the waiter might not understand, indicate what you need to avoid. Come armed with a few useful phrases or perhaps some printed restaurant cards
If Vegan or Vegetarian… the gardens of Italy provide you with great choice. Sun-ripened tomatoes and basil on toast are drizzled with oil in Bruschetta. Vegetables have a starring role on pizzas – if you need to avoid dairy, try a Marinara with anchovies and garlic. Similarly, many pastas feature vegetables, e.g., Penne all’arrabbiata, with tomatoes and chili doesn’t need meat or daily to spice it up. And of course under Contorni, or side dishes, you will find salads and grilled vegetables aplenty.
If needing to be gluten-free… you have many options. Polenta, creamy or fried, is made of corn meal; Farinata comes from chick-pea flour. Rice in the form of Risotto or Insalata features various vegetables, as do Tuscany’s delicious lentils, often served as Zuppa di lenticchie. For those who miss pasta, Gnocchi, usually made of potatoes, is an excellent substitute, though now gluten-free pasta options are available.
But if you have life-threatenting allergies, it is always best to:
- Carry a translating card explaining your food allergies
- Order simple dishes with few ingredients
- Avoid fried foods
- Avoid stuffed pasta
- Avoid buffets
- Be careful about ice creams and cakes
Useful phrases to utilize in restaurants
I’m allergic to… Sono allergico a……
I can’t digest …. Non posso digerire….
I’m vegetarian Sono vegetariano / a
Is this made without….È senza …..
- Nuts: Noci (NO-chee) g., Peanuts: Arachidi (ah-RAK-ee-dee)
- Gluten: Glutine (GLOO-tee-nay)
- Dairy: Latosio (lah-TOE-see-oh)
- Cheese: Formaggio (for-MAH-jee-oh)
- Milk: Latte (LAH-tay)
- Alcohol: Bevande Alcoliche (bee-an-day al-COL-ee-kay)
- Sulfates: Solfati (sol-FAH-tee)
- Soy: Soia (SOY-ah)
- Shell fish: Crostacei (croh-STAH-chay-ee) or Molluschi (mol-OOS-key)
- Tropical Fruit: Frutta Tropicale (FROO-tah troh-pee-KAH-lay)
- Wheat: Grano (GRAH-noh)
- Eggs: Uovo (oo-OH-voh)
- Red Meat: Carne (CAR-nay)
- Chicken: Pollo (POH-loh)
- Pork: Maiale (my-AH-lay)
- Fish: Pesce (PEH-sheh)
restaurants that cater to special diets
If you would rather not have to investigate on your own what has gone into the dish, there are an increasing number of Vegetarian and Vegan places to eat that have taken care of that for you.
what can help if you feel badly
To alleviate the effect of food allergies, or even just sensitivity, here are some products you can pick-up at the local farmacia.
Head Aches: Mal di Testa (mal dee TES-tah)
- Aspirin: Aspirina (ass-pee-REE-nah)
- Ibuprofen: Ibuprofene (ee-boo-proh-FEE-nay)
- Tylenol: Acetaminofene (ah-CHET-ah-mee-noh-fen-ay)
Nausea and diarrhea: Nausea (NOW-zee-ah) e Diarrhea (dee-ah-RAY-ah)
- Immodium (same name brand in Italy as in US)
- Biochetasi (bee-oh-kay-TAH-see), like US Alka-Seltzer
Skin Rashes and Hives: Sfogo Cutaneo (SFOH-go COO-tah-nay-oh) e Orticaria (OR-tee-car-ee-ah)
- Antihistamine: Antistaminico (an-TEE-stah-min-ee-coh). Brands include Loratadina, Fristamin, and Clarityn. May require a doctor’s prescription.
- Cortisone: Cortizone (cor-tee-ZOH-nay). Can be administered by pills, shots, or creams. Requires a doctor’s prescription.
getting immediate medical help
Call the health emergency number 118 immediately if the you or a member of your group is having an anaphylactic reaction. Give them the name, address and phone number and explain what brought on the shock due to food allergies, as well as information about symptoms and conditions. Keep the person in an upright position, and do not give them anything to drink.