Vichenzo Sin Tacc

Last year, I made my bi-annual pilgrimage to Buenos Aires – also known as the Europe of the south. This beautiful, hectic city was my home for almost three years in my twenties and will continue to draw me back every so often, not least because some of my bestest friends in the world live there. A huge part of my time in Argentina revolved around food – cuisine which is traditionally gluten-heavy. Yes, steak is the main act but when Argentines aren’t eating steaks, they’re usually tucking into amazing fresh pastas and milanesas – a tradition passed down from the Italian community that settled there at the turn of the 20th century. So, returning to this city has often made me nervous, for obvious gluten-related reasons.

What I discovered upon returning was a complete surprise however. The city’s gluten free scene in the last three years has totally exploded, with a long list of 100% gluten free eateries and bakeries sprouting up in multiple areas. Luckily for us, that explosion includes the 100% gluten free bakery and pasta factory Vichenzo, tucked away in the Montserrat neighbourhood, which is a hop skip and a jump from Avenida de Julio.

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Vichenzo opened its doors to the public in October 2015, primarily as a pasta producer. “The original idea was to create a high quality and delicious product that would, in addition, be gluten free and safe for coeliacs or those intolerant to gluten,” Vichenzo co-founder Gaston told me. “We saw the gluten free market as a challenge, and one that would make us grow,” Gaston said. The pair therefore put their learnings from their pasta maestro and store namesake Vicente Fabiz to use and created a range of fresh, gluten free pastas using traditional methods and machinery. The range of traditional pastas on offer in store quickly expanded beyond spaghetti and gnocchi to delights including spinach tagliatelle, beetroot ravioli, salmon casoncelli and more. Today, the store acts also as a bakery, offering a huge array of fresh bread, pastries, cakes and beyond.

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“Many of our products came about because of what particular customers requested of us and they became permanent,” Gaston said, who told me when I visited the store that the store’s only enemy is time and the limitations that it creates. The duo have successfully overcome the trials and tribulations of creating gluten free dough for their pastas and pizzas. However, as everyone and anyone gluten free will know, this is a science, given that a change in the humidity of a kitchen or the slight over-pour of an ingredient can leave the dough unusable. Having tried and tested a multitude of the store’s offerings I can vouch for Vichenzo and the success it has had in creating top notch gluten free products, not least the ready-made pasta dishes and fresh Milanesa sandwiches on crusty bread that you can take to go and eat right then and there in the street.

Discovering that neither Gaston nor Pablo were themselves gluten free makes the story of Vichenzo all the more exciting. In my experience, gluten free businesses come about because of health issues in the owners or founders themselves and so having the opportunity to visit a shop where gluten free is just considered normal in the eyes of two non coeliacs really was an eye opener. Luckily for the people of Buenos Aires, Vichenzo will continue to grow as a business. While plans are still not finalized, it looks possible that the north of the city could be home to a new shop in the future. In the meantime, those reading this from outside of Argentina: get on a plane to Buenos Aires and head straight to Vichenzo. You will not be sorry and I can say with confidence you will never have had a gluten free experience like it!

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Vichenzo Sin Tacc (Closed on Sundays)
Salta 529
C1074 Buenos Aires
Argentina

Ardiciocca: A 100% Gluten Free Trattoria Experience in Fulham

London’s ever-expanding gluten free scene is full of Italian food. Pizzas, pastas and more can often be found in gluten free form at restaurants across the city. Italian restaurants that cater entirely to gluten free diners are however, still a novelty. 100% gluten free trattoria Ardiciocca opened up shop three months ago in Fulham and has since remained a hidden gem – well until now.

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Ardiciocca is the latest project from Roberto Costa and the group behind Macellaio RC, which owns four other Italian restaurants in London and one in Milan. The goal for the new Fulham eatery was simple – Costa wanted to make the “comforting, homely” recipes of his childhood available to everyone – not just gluten eaters. The menu lends itself to simple and delicious flavours, many of which will instantly make you feel like you’re on vacation in Italy, as opposed to southwest London.

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With a chilled glass of Prosecco in our hands, we took our pick from the eclectic selection of starters, settling not on one, but three small plates to share between us. The mussel and potato croquettes instantly caught my eye in the typical way that a gluten free person is drawn to breaded, deep fried treats after lengthy periods without. While the croquettes were crispy, warm and bursting with flavour, I couldn’t help but think how a light aioli would have completed the dish. We also chose the salami, broad bean, pecorino cheese and fresh bread plate – the star of the show of which was most certainly the salami, dominated by a strong truffle flavour. I was incredibly impressed by the homemade bread, which was served warm from the oven. My dinner date Mateja also insisted on trying the brain – a delicacy which came fried in light crispy batter.

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Ardiciocca has a wide array of main dishes to choose from, which go way beyond the traditional pizza/pasta offering of many Italian eateries. These range from pickled fried mackerel to sausage stew and homemade hearty minestrone. However, we simply could not resist giving the Sardinian gnocchi and sausage ragú a go, as well as the Nduja pizza – the dough of which is made with gluten free flour and Ferrarelle water before it is left to rise for 72 hours. The ragú was perfectly seasoned and incredibly moreish, leaving me wishing for a second bowl. The pizza crust was thin and light, and topped with flavourful passata, creamy mozzarella and spicy sausage, the kick from which was neutralised softened slightly by the addition of fresh lemon and rocket.

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While we had next to no room left for dessert, I could not pass up the opportunity to sample the basil infused panna cotta – a flavour combination I had never seen on a menu before. It was tangy and refreshing, served with a drizzle of Italian honey on the side. The homemade chocolate torte is also definitely worth a try, only lacking in a side dollop of creme fraiche or gelato, which I’ll be sure to request next time I go.

Anyone in Fulham and beyond must not miss out on the opportunity to eat here for a meal full of flavour, tradition and excellent service to boot. Don’t forget to try a different glass of Italian wine with each course – you won’t be sorry!

Ardiciocca

461-465 North End Road

Fulham

London SW6 INZ

020-3848-6830

(Tables Bookable via email or telephone)

Gluten Free Pasta by Mamma Flora

Where From? Mamma Flora
Available Directly Via the Company Website

Despite the wide range of gluten free pasta available on the market today, finding a brand that cooks properly and does not fall apart is still incredibly difficult. Cue Mamma Flora – an Italian start-up based in London and run by the wonderful Maria. Maria has worked hard with Italian farmers and manufacturers to create the perfect gluten free pasta recipe, which comes in three different traditional Amalfi coast varieties: Mezzi Paccheri, Casarecce and Gnocchetti Sardi. The texture is fantastic and perfect when mixed with some of Mamma Flora’s Sundried Tomato Pesto or Pumpkin Pesto – both of which are 100% gluten and dairy free. Order online via the company website and prepare to be wowed!

Coori Free From

As my favourite gluten free brand Coori gets ready to open its new shop in Richmond, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you more about their story and how they came to be the household name that they are today. Many of you will know Coori from their 2013 pop-up in Selfridges Food Hall, which was the pioneer for gluten free space in the famous London department store and is now occupied by London bakery Beyond Bread. Coori closed its concession after several months, leaving customers eagerly anticipating its next move after almost ten years on the gluten free market in various shapes and forms. Others may remember Coori from the large scale Allergy and Free From Show which comes to London’s Olympia every year, where the team would prepare fresh stonebaked pizzas for the masses.

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I first came across Coori (which means heart in Sicilian dialect) when I moved to Tooting in south west London, several years ago. One day walking through my new local market I did a double take when I saw a small hand-written “100% gluten free” sign and realised that fresh pasta was being cooked and arancini being rolled, ready for the fryer. It was then that I met founder Julia, a gluten free scene veteran and cook, who was testing Tooting out as a pop-up space.

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Born and raised in Italy, Julia had always been exposed to good, simple cooking. However, when her sister was diagnosed with coeliac disease and Julia discovered she was gluten intolerant, her interest in food took a different turn and she leapt on what she saw as an opportunity to fill a huge gap in the market. “I wanted to take things back to the basics and start over with gluten free food,” Julia told me in an interview, as we sat enjoying a classic, and naturally gluten free Italian dessert: affogato. “Not only would creating good simple food for coeliacs make people happy, but it would help change perceptions of gluten free products, which for a long time were lacking in flavour and yet packed with additives and excessive amounts of sugar,” Julia said. This mindsight, as well as help and support from Coeliac UK, led Julia to open up a restaurant in 2008 – Bruschetta – in Kingston. The restaurant specialised in Italian classics like pasta and pizza, which back then were still a huge novelty.

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Julia commened that when she launched, she did not initially advertise the restaurant as gluten free, to test out her food on doubting customers. “I invited restaurant critics, journalists and bloggers to try my food without saying it was gluten free. After they ate it, I revealed that what they had just feasted on contained to no wheat, barley or rye and they couldn’t believe it,” she said. Julia continued to work on products and food that not only appealed to those unable to eat gluten, but to a wider audience who simply craved good food made from high quality ingredients. Julia soon became well-known in the gluten free community and after several years, switched her focus to manufacturing, which aided the launch of the company’s online business.

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Coori online began to ship pasta, flour mixes, sweet treats and more across the UK, quickly becoming a booming venture not only in London but in the north of the UK, where a staggeringly high percentage of coeliacs live. Julia still remains dedicated to working with a range of manufacturers, both in the UK and in her home country, to keep the company both localised and true to her own heritage. What makes Coori individual however, is that all recipes are created by Julia herself and then recreated by the manufacturer, as a means of keeping the business, which is headed up by Julia and her two close friends and business partners, “very much a family affair.”

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As business boomed, Coori was able to grow its customer base and venture into new fields, including the catering industry and department store scene. The pop-up at Selfridges was revolutionary. It drew in both gluten free customers desperate to try tantalising fresh pasta with a range of sauces or pizza slices fresh out of the oven, but also people without any particular dietary requirements. “The queues were always made up of a mixture of people, most of whom I quickly recognised as returning, happy customers,” Julia told me, adding that working in a customer facing environment is her real passion. “Seeing people come in on a daily basis and almost cry at the array of safe food they could choose from was really the highlight for me,” Julia said.

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However, after several happy months it was time for Coori to move on and focus on securing its own space again, now that it had so much backing and a fantastic reputation to boot. The new store, which will occupy an old local dairy dating back to 1980, will have a very similar offering to the Selfridges stall. Customers will be able to take their pick from an array of hot and cold snacks, meals and packaged food both prepared by Coori itself and by collaborating brands, including Italy’s Nutri-Free. Please join me in supporting this wonderful company, as it embarks on an exciting and utterly delicious new chapter.

Coori’s Richmond Cafe will open its doors to the public on June 2, 2018.

84 Hill Rise
Richmond
TW10 6UB

Photo Credits: Ilmi Perez-Stubbs

 

Amsterdam: The Gluten Free Suitcase Guide

If canals, culture and good gluten free food are your thing then you will not be disappointed by Amsterdam. Every time I venture to the Dutch capital I count myself lucky, not least because of the spiffing public transport which allows me to hop from gluten free destination to gluten free destination with relative ease. Feast your eyes upon the diverse options in my guide which I have pulled together after several trips to this gem of a city! From traditional Dutch fare to vegan Italian delicacies – Amsterdam has it, so eet smakelijk!

Mastino V

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Vegans and gluten free eaters alike will rejoice when they realise that coming to Amsterdam can include delicious, wood fired pizza. The team behind De Pijp’s trendy Mastino pizzeria decided to open Amsterdam’s first 100% gluten free and vegan restaurant in 2017, when they noticed a gap in the market. Mastino V serves up pizza to-go or eat-in in a completely no frills environment, with 12 tantalising options on the menu to choose from. I can highly recommend the “Love” pizza, which features a sensational vegan pesto. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Bilderdijkstraat 192 H
1053 LE Amsterdam

Luza’s Caffeine Club

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Forever searching for the perfect sandwich, I was delighted to come across Luza’s – a new gluten free friendly café – on my most recent trip to Amsterdam. This gorgeously quaint café will serve you Parisian vibes with your sandwiches and tea and is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet moment in the Dutch capital. While most sandwiches can be made on homemade gluten free bread, you may wish to try one of the gluten free quiche options, which alongside a number of free from cakes are proudly displayed in the café window. All food is prepared in an open kitchen in the corner of the restaurant and could not be fresher!

Where?
Van Woustraat 47
1074 AC Amsterdam

DeLepel

Another fairly new addition to the gluten free scene, DeLepel’s mission is simple: serve authentic Italian gelato to the masses in a 100% worry-free zone. Gelateria owner Massimo opened up shop in De Pijp just last year and produces all-natural ice cream which can be served in either a cup or gluten free cone. Yes you read right! Even better, not a single ingredient containing gluten is present on the premises so ice cream fans can eat in peace without worrying about cross contamination, which is a fear in so many ice cream shops across the globe. Pick from up to 24 different gelato and dairy free sorbet flavours and be sure to look out for the six weekly special flavours. Not in the mood for ice cream? No problem – Massimo even offers freshly-made tiramisu and other chilled desserts to customers. Closed on Mondays.

Where?
Ceintuurbaan 320
1072 GP Amsterdam

Stroom

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In case you fancy a brunch or a sandwich on delicious, homemade gluten free bread you should definitely head to Stroom. Located in the De Pijp area, this Brooklyn style coffee shop come sandwich bar has one of the most gluten free friendly menus in Amsterdam. Almost all sandwiches can be prepared on free from bread, including toasties, which can be paired with a variety of soups too. Perfect spot for a lazy or working lunch.

Where?
Ferdinand Bolstraat 151
1072 LH Amsterdam

Loetje

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Famous Dutch steak restaurant Loetje knows its stuff when it comes to gluten free dining, and lists all allergens in its clearly marked and accessible menu. As this eatery is known for its meat, staff will urge you to try the traditional Dutch beef steak, which comes swimming in a rich and delectable gluten free gravy. French fries, naturally, are the perfect accompaniment to this meat fiesta, and here they are fried in their own oil to avoid any risk of cross contamination with other fried items served onsite. Vegetarians needn’t shy away however as they will be catered for too. Loetje now has several locations across the city but my favourite is listed below.

Where?
Ferdinand Bolstraat 188A
1072 LV Amsterdam

The Meets

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Another new spot to add to your De Pijp list, The Meets is a gluten free, vegan haven with plenty of free from options which not only are delicious but healthy too. It’s the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch with incredibly allergy-aware staff who triple check everything for you according to your allergy or dietary requirement. Take your pick from the clearly labelled menu from a selection of soups, salads and wraps or if you’re feeling something sweet opt for a vegan twix bar and wash it down with a beautifully instagrammable turmeric latte.

Where?
Cornelius Troostplein 3,
1072 JJ Amsterdam

Puri Mas

Many say that the Netherlands is responsible for introducing Indonesian cuisine to northern Europe. For that reason alone, no one should miss out on a proper Indonesian culinary experience when they’re in Amsterdam, even the gluten free crowd. Puri Mas is located in the centre of the city and immediately feels like a fine dining restaurant as soon as you step in. The staff are wonderfully accommodating and take allergies seriously. Given the style in many Indonesian restaurants is sharing plates, I was naturally nervous. However, say you’re gluten free, and the chef will prepare almost single dish without any gluten containing ingredients. I was able to share with the entire group and felt like a regular diner. Puri Mas serves up a mixture of meat, fish and vegetable dishes which are all fragrant and perfectly seasoned and needs to be shouted about!

Where?
Lange Leidsedwarsstraat 37-41
1017 NG Amsterdam

Pancakes Amsterdam

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With three Amsterdam locations, gluten free tourists won’t have to skip the quintessentially Dutch pancake experience when they are in town! Here, most pancakes on the menu – both sweet and savoury – can be made using the house gluten free batter, which is buckwheat-based. Gluten free pancakes are prepped in separate pans, according to staff, and so risk of cross contamination is very low. I can never resist a savoury pancake when I am here and often leave no room for dessert so sharing is highly recommended! Get ready to queue – Pancakes Amsterdam is highly popular with gluten free and non gluten free patrons alike!

Where?
Berenstraat 38
1016 GH Amsterdam

Prins Hendrikkade 48
1012 AC Amsterdam

Prinsengracht 277
1016 GW Amsterdam

Omelegg

Never have I seen such an homage to eggs! Omelegg (if you hadn’t guessed from the name) serves up everything egg-based and has a humongous menu to boot. While this institution of a restaurant does not have any gluten free bread, the omelettes are so generously sized that you won’t miss it. Just about every omelette combination can be served with delightfully dressed mixed leaves on the side instead of toast to make a delicious breakfast, brunch or lunch. The restaurant also serves Shakshuka and fry ups for those egg fans wanting something a little different to the traditional fare. Luckily for us, Omelegg has two locations. Go early to avoid disappointment!

Where?
Ferdinand Bolstraat 143
1072 LH Amsterdam

Nieuwebrugsteeg 24
1012 AC Amsterdam

La Viña Experience

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La Vina Experience has become a staple for coeliacs in Amsterdam. It labels itself as a Spanish and Mediterranean style restaurant but most diners going may not in fact realise that the majority of dishes are gluten free. Owner and restaurant sommelier Jacqueline is a coeliac herself and so naturally wanted to cater to the free from crowd and provide them with a comfortable and elegant dining experience. Make sure you try the hot spinach dip with gluten free toast to start and then tuck into the freshly grilled squid or Spanish smoked BBQ ribs with frites and plenty of Dutch mayonnaise.

Where?
Maasstraat 72
1078 HL Amsterdam

Cafe Piazza

In case you’re in the mood for pasta, Cafe Piazza has a number of delicious options on its gluten free menu. Sit down and mention you are gluten free and a long list will be reeled off by staff – something which made me feel immediately at ease in this modest Nieuwmarkt eatery. As well as fresh starters and main dishes starring different types of meat and fish, gluten free diners can tuck into a rustic lasagne or a simple spaghetti with homemade pesto sauce, to name but a few of the heavenly carb-loaded options. Save room for dessert – chocolate lovers won’t want to skip the Tartufo Nero.

Where?
Kloveniersburgwal 5
1011 JT Amsterdam

Vapiano

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Sometimes all you need is a chain to get your pizza fix. International restaurant group Vapiano does exactly what it says on the tin – fast, cheap and tasty pizza in a number of locations across the city. Gluten free pizzas are cooked separately and on their own special foil tray to avoid cross contamination and can be enjoyed straight out of the box with a decently priced glass of wine onsite or taken to go for those not wanting to sit in the middle of the hustle and bustle. For your closest restaurant, check out the company website.

McDonald’sIMG_0204Yes, Amsterdam is one of the few cities that offer the Mcdonald’s experience to gluten free visitors and I can confirm it is fantastic. Most classic burgers can be made on a fluffy, sesame seed gluten free bun, served with the classic french fries which I can’t seem to get enough of. If you don’t want to miss out on the more quintessentially Dutch food options during your stay in the city, save this indulgent stop for your route home and enjoy at the Amsterdam Schipol Airport branch. For your closest restaurant, use the online store locator.

Haesje Claes

Typical Dutch cuisine is known for being hearty, warming and often laced with wheat flour. At one of Amsterdam’s oldest restaurants Haesje Claes however, gluten free folk needn’t feel left out – there is a whole menu for you! From a selection of naturally gluten free fresh fish starter plates to filling stews and fried dishes – this canal side restaurant has it all! I asked the waitress what she recommended last time I went and was not disappointed. I started off my meal with some salted herring, smoked salmon and a gluten free beer, before moving on to a Stamppot stew loaded with meatballs, sausage and bacon. Those wanting lighter fare can opt for pan fried fish if they need to ensure room is left for gluten free dessert pancakes!

Where?
Spuistraat 275
1012 VR Amsterdam

Bagels and Beans

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This long-standing Netherlands chain became accessible to gluten free diners a few years ago when it introduced a gluten free bagel. Bagels and Beans now make breakfast or lunch as a gluten free tourist incredibly easy. Stop by and choose from a number of cream-cheese flavours or more sandwich-like fillings, all of which can be prepared on a toasted gluten free bagel. With over 20 locations in Amsterdam, how can you go wrong? Use the online store locator to find your nearest branch.

Shopping

De Glutenvrije Winkel

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Not only is Oostpoort’s gluten free hot spot De Gluten Vrije Winkel your one stop destination for every single gluten free pantry or frozen item you might ever want, it also offers fresh cakes, bread and amazing sandwiches you can eat in or take away, with a number of dairy free options. Owner Nadia has been passionate about bringing the best of gluten free to her customers ever since her son was diagnosed a coeliac. Wonderful family business which I already can’t wait to visit again! Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Where?
Pretoriusstraat 37
1092 EZ Amsterdam

Meanwhile, general supermarkets in Amsterdam are often fantastic for gluten free options, with the wonderful Albert Heijn firmly in the lead. Here you can stock up on an array of gluten free pantry items, including gluten free caramel waffles or Stroopwafels, which I highly recommend you fill your suitcase with on the way home!

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Marqt, meanwhile, is home to a vast array of gluten free and organic products, including more widely available goods from labels like Schar and Genius. Don’t forget to pick up a packet of chocolate-covered gluten free waffles here by Damhert Nutrition!