by Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Food is such an integral part of the travel experience. And when you have celiac disease, you may sometimes “miss out” on trying new foods, traditional dishes, or even cooking in the destinations you visit. And that can make traveling not feel as fun or unique as it used to.
Luckily, there are three destinations where you can actually enjoy the iconic foods that are synonymous with a destination, in safe gluten-free form. Places where celiac disease is better understood, and where you can be included in the smells, ingredients, and tastes of a destination’s food scene - in a celiac safe way.
New York City
When you’re a native New Yorker like me, you grew up on slices of pizza, bacon egg and cheese bagels, and Chinese-American takeout food. And that doesn’t have to change when you have celiac disease if you’re in NYC.
Home to thousands of restaurants, New York City is one of the best places to visit on the east coast if you have celiac disease, due to the sheer volume of restaurants. These include actual sit-down restaurants, bakeries, and sweet shops. A multitude of 100% dedicated gluten-free facilities exist throughout Manhattan, including Modern Bread and Bagel, a Kosher deli with the most incredible bagels, Senza Gluten, a classic Italian eatery with trattoria vibes, and sweet shops like Posh Pop, Erin McKenna’s, and NoGlu, all serving pastries, cookies, and cakes that will make you forget what gluten even is.
There are also restaurants with strong celiac protocols in place, including Keste Pizza, serving up classic Neopolitan pizzas, and Lilli & Loo, with dedicated fryers for dumplings, noodle dishes, fried rice, and more. There’s no shortage of food to enjoy as you explore the Big Apple.
Contrary to popular belief, the land of pizza and pasta is a very easy destination to navigate with celiac disease, especially in large cities like Rome, Milan, or Florence. Children are screened early for the disease in Italy. With food being such an integral part of family and community life, they’ve gone to great lengths to ensure celiacs feel included. Having visited Italy both pre and post celiac diagnosis, I don’t feel I missed out on any of the typical “foods” you hope to enjoy when visiting, including pizza, pasta, and of course, gelato.
The AIC Mobile App, available for iOS download, is $2.99 for 2 weeks and has listings of celiac safe restaurants verified by the Italian Celiac Association (AIC). Between the large selection of “senza glutine” products in grocery stores, pharmacies, and even some airports, restaurants with menus that include more than just a side salad or a potato, and even gluten-free cooking classes available in cities around the country, it’s a treat for celiac travelers.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for Grom gelato, 100% gluten-free and located all over Europe. In Rome just a few blocks from the Vatican, visit La Soffitta Renovatio for celiac safe pizza and pasta dishes. In Milan, Peperino e Milano’s gluten-free menu is an entire book, and they bake fresh gluten-free bread to serve with your dinner as well.
Madrid’s food scene is strong in small plates, known as “tapas”, traditional dishes of paella and special treats like chocolate con churros. When I studied abroad in Madrid in 2009, awareness of celiac was minimal and I had to eat at home with my host mother. But in the last decade, there’s been a large shift in the food culture of Madrid.
FACE stickers appear in restaurant windows, indicating the restaurant has been endorsed by the Spain Celiac Association (FACE). Dedicated gluten-free bakeries like Sana Locura and Celicioso have popped up around the city. A stronger understanding of “sin gluten” can be found throughout Spain’s capital city, including more products in grocery stores like Mercadona and El Corte Ingles as well.
In La Latina, visit La Lina for patatas bravas and a glass of wine. And for the true chocolate con churros experience, check out Chocolateria 1902 or Maestro Churrero. While not dedicated gluten-free, they have celiac protocols in place for these tasty Madrid treats.
Celiac disease doesn’t have to stop you from having exciting travel adventures that involve food. These three destinations continue to get better and better for celiac travelers and those who follow a gluten-free diet.
NCA thanks Jennifer for contributing this article!