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Jul 8, 2007 05:13 PM

Teenage Vegetarian in Italy

My family and I are going to Italy in August. My 14 year daughter is a vegetarian and my wife does not eat red meat. I already have some recommendations from these boards but was wondering if there are any restaurants that can accomodate a wide range in tastes (my son and I eat everything).

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  1. Where exactly will you be staying/traveling in Italy? That would help to narrow down some specifics for you.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      We're going to Rome, Florence and Venice. Thanks

      1. re: lrom728

        Most restaurants will offer something that a vegetarian can eat, especially if the person is not vegan (if that is the case your daughter will have truly slim pickings. For example, in florence, the delicious tuscan tomato/bread soup, pappa pomodoro, ribollita (bean and veg soup), the ricotta and spinach gnocchi called strozzopreti and would be very good. Florentines also make a summer bread and tomato salad. Most restaurants in Italy will offer grilled vegetables and similar non-meat antipasti. Many risottos and pastas would be suitable, including those with mushrooms. There is seafood in Florence and Rome though perhaps not the top specialty. I remember fondly a smoked salmon and cream-sauced tagliatelle I had on my first visit to Florence a long while ago - nothing fancy but very tasty.

        In the height of summer there are likely to be lots and lots of pasta prepared with zuchini and other vegetables, eggplant parmigiana, etc. Salads and wonderful fruits, of course. You and they will do fine. Walk through the markets and you will get a sense of the scope of whats on offer.

        Lastly, do have some picnics - the tuscan pecorino cheeses lend themselves to that format.

        1. re: jen kalb

          I went to the website of one of the restaurants that was recommended here for Rome, Armando al Pantheon. The site is in Italian, but I could figure most of it out. Under the menu section, there is an "Il menu vegetariano". Click on that and you'll find a decent choice of dining options.

        2. re: lrom728

          Vegan would be a total pain if the rest of the family wanted to eat at decent places. Hopefully she likes cheese. If so, not much of a problem to settle on pasta courses and salads. However, didn't see much in the way of secondi that were meatless in most places we ate last month.

          OTOH, maybe this trip will get her to at least try some seafood when the rest of you are oooohing and aaaaahing over every bite!

          1. re: Panini Guy

            Thank you all for the suggestions. She's not vegan (yet) and I think I might be able to get her to try some seafood. I also checked out the Armando al Pantheon website and it was encouraging. I'll report back at the end of summer! BTW, I'm new to this but...I'm celebrating my wedding 21st anniversary in Florence (with the kids). Should start a new post for recommendations? We'd like to make this the one real "splurge" dinner while in Italy.

      2. I just returned from Florence and can recommend a couple of splurge places and one that your daughter will appreciate. The splurges are Vin Olio where we had a delicious, not too expensive meal with great service and wine. (Angolo Via Delle Ruote, 055 489957). The other splurge is Taverna Del Bronzino on the same street (Via delle Ruote 27R, 49 5220). I didn't go, but a local said it was great and had the best steak in Florence. For your daughter, and yourself if you like vegetarian fare and great desserts, is a place called Le Vegetariania--something like that. It's on the same street as the others. Wonderful. I stayed in a hotel nearby. The man at the desk suggested the places, adding that some of the city's best food could be found on the block. After eating some truly mediocre meals around town, I found that he was right. Give them a try. Enjoy. Florence is a great city.

        1. I would say that, generally speaking, your wife and daughter will have more options at most restaurants in Italy for vegetarian and non-red-meat foods than in the U.S. (or wherever you're coming from). I'm not vegetarian, but don't eat a lot of meat, and have never had a problem finding something delicious on an Italian menu!

          Almost every (possibly all?) Italian menus will have pastas, and a number of those will be vegetarian (the "primo" course). Usually, at least some appetizers (the "antipasto" course) will be vegetarian as well. And many restaurants list vegetables separately ("contorni"). Generally, people get a contorni to share, but often my husband and I each get our own, and those items are served with the main course. At many Italian restaurants, the main course ("secondo") comes out by itself, so if you want vegetables, you order them separately. It's perfectly normal to order only two courses (or one, I guess, depending on the restaurant, and which meal it is, but I don't think I've ever ordered just one course!). So you might order an antipasto and a primo, or a primo and a secondo. Or a secondo and a dessert. Or all the courses, if you want!

          Also, restaurants always have a menu in the front window. So your family can review the menus to make sure there are items that each of you would be interested in ordering.

          For another example of a menu where you could all find something in Rome, check out Il Bacaro, It's a lovely mid-range restaurant in Rome, near Piazza Navona. More than half of the pastas are vegetarian, though only the last antipasto is (though I'm sure you could ask them to leave off the salmon from antipasto #2 or the bottarga (mullet roe, as I recall) off antipasto #3. Many of the salads are vegetarian, there's a cheese selection, and of course there are the desserts! And a very good selection of fish and meat courses. We enjoyed our meal at Il Bacaro very much, and eating outside on a warm fall evening was as picture-perfect as you could imagine.

          We also ate a fun meal at Settimio, near the Pantheon, on via delle colonnelle 14. It's a Tuscan place, and sees few tourists, but the two times we've eaten there, it was full of Italians. Here, I wasn't in the mood for meat (though they have great Tuscan meats), so after a delicious plate of tagliolini with white truffles, I had polenta with gorgonzola as my main course.

          Pizzas are another wonderful option. Pizzas are generally more thin-crusted than in the U.S., and are served one per person. Most pizzerias will have many options that don't have meat - in fact, I've never had a pizza with meat on it in Italy (just a personal preference). Some of the pizzas or ingredients that I or my husband like are: eggplant, artichokes, zucchini, porcini (mushrooms), squash/zucchini blossoms, all sorts of different kinds of cheeses. For fun, look at the menu at the website for Antica Sacrestia, a pizzeria and restaurant in Venice (I haven't been here, but have info on it for an upcoming trip), I notice that restaurant has a number of vegetarian pastas, and even a vegetarian menu.

          Another possibility for Venice is La Zucca,, which I'm looking forward to going to myself. It's not vegetarian, but has a lot of vegetarian options. Their website says: "La Zucca isn't a vegetarian restaurant, but it can satisfy people looking for a place where to eat fresh vegetables courses made with natural ingredients." What more can you ask for!

          In terms of a "splurge" restaurant, what kind of costs do you have in mind, and what kind of atmosphere? More formal?

          1. In Rome, check out BIBLIOTHE sure to please everyone in teh family, central location near Victor Emanual , Gesu, and the Pantheon