Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Gluten Free in Rome: Mama Eat Lab Review

Hi all! If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I've been in Rome two months now, and I have another month to go. Sooo, not much sewing... but if you are interested in the wardrobe I brought with me, I've been posting on Instagram and I'll probably do a round up here soon. 

However, I have been doing a lot of great eating... gluten free eating!

Do you remember back when the lockdowns started, how we all stocked up on comfort food like bread (or tried to bake it, emptying out stores of baking products!) Well... I did that. For a couple weeks I ate more bread products than I have for many years, and felt terrible. I've always tried to deny that gluten was my problem, but this experience seemed to make engaging it unavoidable. 

So I tried avoiding gluten... and it was amazing. Within weeks, I felt like my digestive system had reverted the kind of normal function that I remember from my early 20s. For me, it was more effective than all sorts of other diets and supplementary regimes I've tried over the years. I've been practicing a gluten free diet ever since. 

I don't have an official diagnosis, and I'm not really interested in one. My symptoms are not serious enough to really warrant long and arduous discussions, testing and isolation diets. I'm also very open to the idea that I'm not really allergic to gluten and it could be some element of the mass production and continuing refinement of wheat in our culture. I found it very interesting that on one of our trips, I ate a whole meal of ancient wheat grown, harvested, and prepared on a farm in Umbria with no noticeable intestinal effects. Alternatively, during a recent cooking demo, I consumed a commercial wheat pasta masterfully prepared into some of the most delicious Carbonara ever tasted and paid a price afterwards. 

In any case, my body is happier when I forego gluten, so I have been seeking out places to enjoy Italian cuisine gluten-free and I've had some wonderful culinary experiences that I'd love to share!

Today after an incredible 3-hour tour of the Vatican Museums, we stopped to refuel at Mama Eat Lab, Borgo Pio, 28.

This is a small place, a few outside tables and about eight 4-person tables. This was my second visit, and we had no problem finding a lunch table with no reservations, although occupancy rose and fell over the time we were there. Clearly, people had heard about it and were seeking it out! There are English menus and servers are comfortable speaking English, but they are also happy to speak Italian. Prices are pretty reasonable, about what you'd find at a comparable non-gluten free restaurant.

This is a sister restaurant of Mama Eats Trastevere, which is an old standby of the gluten-free crowd. The Borgo location has a smaller menu and focuses on "street food" which can be take out or served at the table. You can also get pizza or pasta and various other primi piatti, all gluten free. They have gluten free beer and reasonable wines available, as well as the usual soft drinks and sparkling or still water. 

The appetizers are amazing, you could definitely make a whole meal of them. This time we got two of the 25cm Arancini, Pistachio and Rago. 

Usually arancini in Rome are round, fist-sized affairs. The long format is sort of unusual, but it does seem to maximize the delicious crispy gluten-free crust. Inside there is perfect risotto around a cheesy filling. Just right for two to share! Our family of four rapidly consumed the two long arancini down to the last crumb. 

Also on the appetizer menu are Crocchè (very similar to the long arancini, but with a potato base and delicious fillings like mushroom) and fried pizza, both of which we tried last time and were wonderful. 

For main dishes, we sampled a few different items. 

Polpette al Formagio, meatballs  with cheese and french fries.

Frittura di mare: fried calamari, anchovies, and shrimp.

And the old standby, the Margherita Pizza.

I especially enjoyed the pizza, the crust was light and fluffy in an almost Naples kind of way that I have yet to enjoy in a gluten-free pizza. 

For dessert we had Scunizielli Nutella which are fried pizza strips drizzled with chocolate hazelnut. Delicious! You can get them in a paper cone to go or on a plate. A single serving was more than enough for our family to eat their fill of sweet fluffy fried dough. Last time we had fresh donuts with hazelnut sauce... these were out of this world, but they weren't on the menu today. I'm going to have to keep a watch on the menu, they are worth going back for!

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