Last week Shawn and I went to Italy! He was the best man in a friends wedding that took place in the town of Cortona. It was an amazing trip, a beautiful wedding and an awesome experience all together. I love Italian food as much as the next person but I have to say I was a bit worried about getting meals that were totally vegan especially since I don’t speak any Italian whatsoever. Quite the contrary to what I had feared, I had some truly unforgettable vegan meals.
The wedding was a full two day event with multiple five course dinners, not to mention lots of wine, hor d’oeuvres, and breakfast treats. Lucky for us, we had our own special vegan menu. The majority of the meals were vegetarian to start with and minor adjustments were made to accommodate us. Everything was insanely delicious. All the vegetables were so fresh and delightful. The tomatoes were like nothing I have ever had before and courses dressed with olive oil were to die for. I still can’t get over how delicate and fresh everything was and how well all the flavors complimented each other.
After the wedding, we spent the remainder of our time in Rome as neither of us had ever been before. We managed to see a great deal of the city by foot, on bicycle and on a brief Smart car tour (which I’ll get back to later). We walked through the Colosseum, hiked through the ruins of the Roman Forum, drank beer on the Spanish steps and threw coins in Trevi Fountain. It was a bit unreal. And of course we sampled some of the city’s vegan offerings. Our first stop was the Beehive Cafe. This small vegetarian restaurant, located inside the Beehive Hotel, is cute and comfortable. They have a handful of vegan options and a very accommodating cook who helped us put together our meal. They use a sliding pay scale and no set portion size so you only get what you want to eat and only pay what you feel you should (of course there are recommendations).
We started with a large vegetable soup filled with zucchini, peas, tomato and orzo. This soup was unbelievable. This could possibly be one of the best soups I’ve ever had. It was hearty and rich, full of vegetables but not overly heavy. There was a touch of sweetness to it and each vegetable was able to shine. I could eat this soup for days. In fact I could go for some right now. Paired with some fresh bread this stuff was like heaven.
We also got a plate of hummus, vegetable patties, salad and some mixed vegetables. The hummus was also superb. There were two different veggie patties available the day we went and we chose one with chickpeas, nuts and spices. They were a little bit crunchy on the outside but soft and perfectly spiced on the inside. I really enjoyed the flavor of these but they were a bit dry on their own. I would have preferred these as actual veggie burgers but they were quite good mixed with everything else on the plate.
I highly recommend trying this place if you’re in Rome as it has a really nice atmosphere and they are very helpful and speak English too so that’s a plus. The food is unique and well thought out and is a good alternative to traditional Italian meals.
We also tried the only other vegetarian restaurant that I new of: Il Margutta. We stopped here for lunch, where instead of their normal menu, which has it’s own vegan section, they have a buffet with options of how many add-ons you’d like. While I enjoyed the food here and thought it was well crafted, I wasn’t blown away. Looking back, I would have preferred to order one dish than sample a bunch. I will say the seitan in one of my dishes was really great, but I only had a small serving. We decided to get the dessert option (despite the fact that I was convinced they weren’t going to have a vegan cake) and they did in fact have both a chocolate and carrot cake. These cakes were obviously made of quality ingredients and were overall pretty good but they were a bit grainy and oily. I was happy to have them anyway but they weren’t amazing either. I will say this place was packed for lunch and it was a pretty good deal overall, whereas the dinner menu is much more pricey.
Just for a second though, let’s talk about my favorite thing in Italy: ESPRESSO. I am without a doubt a caffeine addict. I make myself a soy latte every morning and usually can’t get through the day without something in the afternoon as well. I also have a fairly sensitive stomach, which means me and coffee don’t really get along. Through the years I’ve found ways to manage this like drinking espresso instead of coffee, always having it with soy milk, etc. In Italy though, I am able to just have espresso with a bit of sugar and I’m set. It’s so rich and delicious and doesn’t have the same caffeine jolt as the stuff over here. It is more flavorful and much less abrasive. It baffles me that people don’t want to drink stuff this good here and instead prefer bitter, watery coffee. It is a mystery! In any case, I had a week of sweet deliciousness and feel so lucky that I did.
But wait there’s more…come back tomorrow for a surprise find of a fully vegan restaurant and adventure tour that ensued…