Italian may not be to go-to choice for those of us incapable of efficiently processing wheat. However no one, and I repeat no one, should have to eat Italian in fear, or settle for an alternative that is more closely related in consistency and flavour to cardboard than dough.
As self-elected gluten-free guru here at HCS, I’ve taken it upon myself to source the best gluten-free Italiano in Melbourne, so that us coeliacs can dine in digestive peace. While there are an increasing number of venues with Coeliac Australia Gluten-Free Accreditation, there are also some places where traces of gluten are present. A problem for the especially sensitive and the vigilant (I admire and respect you).
So, to my fellow coeliacs and their chaperones – sit back and enjoy the gondola ride. I will navigate these treacherous waters for you. Prego.
132 Wood St, Preston
Holy cannoli, when it comes to Italian dessert, this adorable little café bakery has it on lock. From their new Preston digs, Eat Cannoli are serving up this delicious traditional Sicilian dessert with a Melbournian twist.
Their gluten-free shell recipe has been workshopped to crispy perfection and is Coeliac Australia credited, making it the perfect guilt-free, gluten-free treat. They fill them with classics such as ricotta, vanilla and chocolate crema, candied orange and honey from their beehive, and more exotic variations such as Aperol Spritz and Lemon Cheesecake.
Their current Christmas seasonal fillings include strawberry & fennel, lemon cheesecake and candy cane, with peppermint pannacotta and crushed candy cane! You can even take home a pipe your own pack for $35, with 10 shells and one flavoured bag of filling.
All products sold on site, such as Italian tortas and piadinis, are 100% gluten-free and 100% delectable. The menu is vegan-inclusive, and they even do bespoke flavours under special request for events.
15 Gordon St, Elsternwick
At 48h, they are serious about their dough – they’ve even named themselves after their dough-rising time. Using hemp-flour, they’ve created an award-winning pizza base that is fluffy, chewy, toasty, and imperceptibly senza grano (without wheat). All of their incredible pizzas (including the national award winning Di Parma, a must try), can be made with this base, setting you back an extra $4 (it’s worth it).
The gnocchi menu is expansive compared to other Italian restaurants with similar fare. It consists of gluten-free flour classics, and a Con Carbone Vegetale (activated charcoal) selection, for something a little more adventurous. While not gluten-free, the third gnocchi variation is made with a variety of spelt, buckwheat and durum wheat flours, making it easier to digest.
With their signature air-freighted buffalo mozzarella and sweet but perfectly tangy tomato sauce (available for purchase in store) leading the taste cavalcade, this may well be the best gnocchi you will ever taste.
48h Pizza e Gnocchi Bar also have a South Yarra location on Malvern Rd.
2/337 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Pentolina (Italian for little frying pan – so cute!) is Melbourne’s new laneway haven for fresh, homemade pasta.
Like stepping off a little Roman backstreet, you are greeted by their signature terrazzo floors and burgundy-grain marble bench top. Owner Matt Piccone who worked at Pelligrini’s for 19 years was inspired to recreate that classic Italian-style hospitality, with bench stool-style seating ans top-tier service.
The gluten-free pasta is ordered fresh from Ardor Food Co, and for an extra $2 can be subbed into any pasta dish. As well as classics such as the ricotta gnocchi, the menu has some pastas you may never have heard of, such as the “swallows nest” Nidi di Rondine made with wholemeal flour, and the Casarecce with green banana prawns. The “mini cheese ravioli” Spoia Lorda with braised oxtail and broadbeans is a favourite.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, never fear – the menus have a “Fat Chef” and “Skinny Chef” Feed Me menu with a selection of small bites, entrees, pasta mains and desserts, so you can either all-in indulge, or indulge in moderation (pff).
Talk to the wonderful staff about their entree and small bite GF options, which include the beef carpacchio and the burrata cheese (fresh Italian cow’s milk made from mozarella and cream).
162 Greville St, Prahran / 224 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Having set up camp in two of Melbourne’s most buzzing suburbs, Ladro’s offers an abundance of chill vibes and molto bene, crispy, chewy gluten-free bases for each of their pizze, as well as some cheeky gluten free sides and starters (so thoughtful) for brunch, lunch and dinner needs.
Not irregularly hailed as the best pizza in Melbourne (including by the likes of the Herald Sun and The Weekender), Ladro’s prices are delightfully reasonable, and the GF base will only set you back an extra $2.
Ladro’s are socially and eco-conscious, recycling 100% of their organic waste, and serving 18 drinks on tap, including wine and soft-drink (beer also, but I assume this to be an irrelevant feature at this point). On Mondays, $5 of all corkage fees are donated to charities to help feed the homeless in Fitzroy and Prahran.
HARK severe sufferers; while delicious, Ladro’s GF pizzas are cooked in the same wood fire oven as the regular pizza bases to get that same smokey flavour. While care is taken, some traces of wheat may be present.
225 Melville Rd, Pascoe Vale South
Round up ye coeliac faithful, for gluten-free pizza, pasta and dessert does not come better than this. Shop 225 were the first officially Coealic Australia gluten-free certified restaurant, specialising in Italian fare with vegan and gluten-free focus.
Their gluten-free casarecce, spaghetti and gnocchi are available as alternatives to their pasta dishes (including the classic Rigatoni Alla Norma, with Napoli sauce, fried eggplant, basil and salted ricotta).
Their delicious GF pizza base is crispy and bubbling in classic Neopolitan style, and can be swapped in with any their pizzas for an extra $4. The inclusivity doesn’t end here, with the menu delightfully littered with ‘V’s – they have even developed a vegan Nutella substitute (!!) truly the stuff of a vegan’s dreams, and the incredible Nutella pizza can also come gluten-free, topped with icing sugar and strawberries for bloody good measure.
Whether you be of north or south origin, search for the signature mosaic wood-fire pizza oven for an abundance of tum-friendly delights that will have you returning for more, pronto.
145 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
This cosy little Fitzroy Street cafe was one of the first to build rapport with the gluten-free community. Dating back to WW2 when the site was used as an American army barracks and the Banff was a galley, this eatery is now firmly ingrained in local food folk culture. The atmosphere is like stepping from the metropolitan buzz of St. Kilda into an old mountain cabin in the depths of Canadian wilderness, with its open log fireplace and snow paraphernalia.
The Banff is well-known for its great prices and all-day happy hour prices. Monday and Tuesday have $6 pizza all day until midnight, and Wednesdays and Thursdays from midday until 5:30pm. But don’t let the affordability fool you – the pizza is to die for here. The pumpkin, feta and caramelised onion is a stand-out, along with several other great vegetarian options. My personal favourite has to be their olive, salami, roasted tomato and napoli. Try it (or not).
They’re all available with a GF base, which will set you back a reasonable $2.50. Clamber into apres-ski snugness inside, or enjoy their outdoor seating which spills onto the wide Fitzroy St footpath in a distinctly Parisian style.
720 Chapel St, South Yarra
PIZZA IS SEXY – So we are told by A25 as we saunter into their front door, emboldened on the wall in pink neon. A25’s gluten-free pizzas and pasta dishes are certainly worthy of this accolade.
All pizzas can be made gluten-free (with the exception of the calzone) for a neat extra $3, and they have GF pasta alternatives for their gnocchi napoli and pesto, pappardelle ragu and fettucino al nero, all rich and tasty modern takes on Italian classics.
The GF star of this menu is the buffalo ricotta and sauteed spinach lasagne, cooked up with parmesan and fior di latte. Go for this alone, trust me! They’ve got all their dietary bases covered, with 11 different vegan pizza options and a vegan vanilla coconut icecream. If enjoying a GF pizza base, it’s best to inform the staff of any dietaries so that caution can be taken in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination.
The self-proclaimed most instragrammable pizza in Melbourne, A25 have certainly found a way to jazz up their pizzas with fresh ingredients that speak for themselves on wacky favourites such as the Bim Bum Bam, with porcini mushroom crema, chill prawns and pancetta peas. The A25 with basil and walnut pesto and buffalo mozarella and proscuitto is a must-try.
A25 Pizzeria also has venues on Lonsdale St. in the CBD and Collins St. in the Docklands.
So there you have it! Go forth and gorge, and put those fears to bed with a babysitter while you escape to Italy for a night in pizza/pasta heaven.
By Victoria Gillett