Rome is a magical place. Although I grew up in Europe and lived there for 24 years of my life, I had never been to Italy. I traveled all over Europe, both with family and friends and I lived in different countries but for some reason Italy was never really on my radar. Maybe because there are so many Italian restaurants in Luxembourg…I’m kidding, it’s a shame I had never been before.
October is a great month to go to Italy, that’s what I heard. And I agree, although tourists probably never diminish in Rome, the weather was mild, with the occasional rain shower but lots of sun too.
Lots of people think that Italy must be hard for vegans because of the omnipresence of cheese and egg pasta. But when I think of Italy, I think of bread, tomatoes and lots of fresh veggies, herbs and fruit. And that’s what I found to be true in Rome.
Not only did I find a large number of restaurants that were 100% vegano but every place seems to have veggie options, no matter what. It’s also easy to find organic grocery stores in Rome, as well as vegan options at regular grocery stores. Fresh fruit stands are abundant and so are chestnut vendors – and honestly, I’ve never had such delicious chestnuts and it became a daily afternoon snack ritual. So here are some of my vegan adventures:
I had never been to a cat café before and didn’t know if I should expect the little fellows sitting right next to me during lunch. I absolutely loved my experience. Romeow has 4 friendly, beautiful and quite independent kitties that mostly hand out in their baskets, boxes and a tree that is part of the restaurants decoration. Nina, the owner, and vegan for 10 years, is a lovely lady that explained to me that Italians don’t love the concept of vegan food but they adore cats. That’s how she gets them hooked on a plant based diet. Honestly, the food was out of this world creative and flavorful. We starred with a carrot cake with pistachios, followed by a tomato terrine and homemade buckwheat noodles with a creamy shiitake sauce. A fresh papaya salad on the side and a cheesecake with berries for dessert made the meal complete. The ingredients were so refined and high quality and the service was impeccable. If I lived in Rome, I’d probably move right in!
I went there 3 times! It’s ridiculously delicious and not too expensive. The way this entirely vegan place works is that you make your own plate at the buffet – which offers at least 30 different dishes – and then you pay by weight. You can easily get full for less than 13 euros, make it 20 with dessert and coffee. I had to hold myself back not to get more food because it was just addictive…
Brac is located in Florence (an easy 90 minute train ride from Rome) and it’s a hybrid between bookstore and veggie restaurant. The atmosphere and design is beautiful, clean and relaxing. The restaurant offers an extensive menu of vegan and vegetarian pasta, flatbread dishes and salads, as well as freshly made desserts. We both ordered a combo platter of each a pasta, a pane caracau (= traditional flatbread from Sardinia) and salad and were blown away. The pane caracau came with a cannelini bean hummus and beets – it was sweet and melted in my mouth. I also loved the homemade pasta – both the potato tortelloni with pesto and the eggplant based pasta were divine.
If you are looking for refined, sophisticated, vegan desserts and treats, Grezzo is the place to go. The raw chocolate bar offers a selection of pastries such as different raw cheesecakes as well as brownies and little tartes. They also have delicious gelato (we tried pistachio and almond) as well as raw chocolate (from 60% to 80%) sweetened with coconut sugar. If you are more in the mood for a drink, try one of their cocoa based ‘smoothies’ that are all made with homemade almond milk. Their handmade truffles make a wonderful gift as well.
This is the first and only vegan grocery store, yep entirely vegan, in all of Italy. The place has a lovely selection of sweet and savory snacks, all types of meat substitutes, breakfast foods, non dairy cheese and yogurt as well as local chocolate. I stocked up on all of these items and was impressed by the amount of Italian brands that make vegan products.
This organic grocery store is another wonderful place with tons of vegan options across all aisles. I loved their tea selection as well as the vegan beauty products. I discovered a wonderful German makeup brand that is super affordable and 100% cruelty free.
Although we have an Eataly in NYC, it’s totally worth it spending some time in the Rome location. On 4 levels, you can find a vast selection of Italian specialties from all over Italy. Not only is it cheaper than in the US but there is also more choice. I got totally hooked in the pasta aisle, where dozens of different pasta shapes and flavors caught my attention. Their produce and bread section is delicious as well and you can sit down for lunch, dinner or a snack at one of their multiple different stands.