Ciao Italia, Orlando, FL - Gluten-free + vegan family-owned dining - Restaurant Raves & Reviews - Can I Eat Here
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Ciao Italia, Orlando, FL - Gluten-free + vegan family-owned dining

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I might have already told you that finding gluten-free and vegan food on Florida’s Gulf coast in the land of the chain restaurants was no easy task.

I asked one waitress at a crab-shack if they had a gluten-free menu, to which she responded ‘Is that the same as dairy-free’? Oh crap. This means I’m ordering a garden salad….again. Don’t get me wrong, I love salad and eat at least one big bowl of greens a day, but when this was my only option and I couldn't even add fresh veggies, potatoes, avocado or beans – this left me very unsatisfied. Pass the lemons.

During our trip on the Gulf coast we headed out to a resort near Sea World in Orlando for a few days. I was craving a big, filling, Italian meal after living on salad for three days, so I did a quick Google search for ‘gluten free Italian’. Maggianos (another chain) and Ciao Italia popped up. I called Ciao Italia and asked if they had a gluten-free menu. Yup, ‘I’ll be there in 20 minutes!’

Ciao Italia is in a strip mall, which to some people, can be a turn-off. I’ve had enough amazing meals in strip-malls to know that some of the best restaurants are the strip malls best kept secrets, so I held my judgment. The décor inside featured warm yellow walls, tiled floors (a parents dream) and simple but beautiful table scapes with fruit patterned table linens, sturdy dishes and dark wood chairs.

 Our waiter Carmen handed me a gluten-free menu, apparently they only whip these out about four times a month! I was surprised. I was also pleasantly surprised that the gluten-free menu was a page long and wasn’t full of meat-only options.

I was ready for a big bowl of gluten-free pasta with fresh veggies and marinara. My plate was HUGE! I would have eaten the whole thing, except when I was changing Talia’s diaper in the bathroom, Ry figured I was done. Grrrr…guess he didn’t realize how hungry I was.

The gluten-free pasta had the perfect texture; I asked the waiter where they get it from. He brought out a box for me to inspect. Organic corn based pasta, imported from Italy. This was definitely a brand I haven’t seen in grocery stores.

Everyone else ordered desert. Jacob ordered some lemon sorbet that came in a frozen lemon. I had a bite and it was the perfect blend of sweet and tart, with a side of brain freeze. After dessert Talia thought it would be fun to knock over hubby’s port on my white dress. It was just one of those evenings! Also, I know, who wears a white dress when going out with kids? Regardless, our waiter Carmen was super-helpful bringing over a glass of club soda and a warm cloth to get the stain out, and it worked! They were also kind enough to pour hubby another glass of port.

I would definitely recommend this place to anyone visiting Orlando. Ciao Italia is a family-run restaurant, excellent and attentive service and fresh allergen-friendly food that doesn’t come from a restaurant chain with pre-made food. 

For more about Jacqueline, click here