Lauren at cafe table enjoying waffles that are nut free in italy.

How To Eat Nut Free in Italy | Your Guide to Navigating Every Meal

Can you go to Italy with a nut allergy? If you are looking to travel the world with a nut allergy, whether peanuts or tree nuts, Italy is a great first country to explore. Even though there is a language barrier, Italians are more aware of allergens and take precautions. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to eat nut free in Italy as well as give you great options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

If you’re looking for more information on traveling to Italy with food allergies, check out this blog post. I also have a complete guide on eating gluten free in Italy


Traveling Nut Free in Italy

Traveling nut free in Italy (which includes peanuts and tree nuts) is a top allergy concern for many people. I’ve worked with several families to help them plan memorable trips to Italy while navigating their nut allergies. While Italy might seem like a daunting destination due to the language barrier, it is entirely possible to enjoy Italian cuisine with the right preparation and knowledge. That’s exactly what I’m going to share with you today, as we discuss how to navigate every meal in Italy with a peanut allergy or tree nut allergy. 

Navigating Italy with a Peanut Allergy

If peanuts are one of your allergens, you’ll be happy to know that they aren’t a huge staple in Italian cuisine. However, it’s important to remain cautious, as there are areas and dishes where they can be present. Peanut oil can be used in fried items in particular, so it’s always best to double-check with the restaurant and chef and ask about cross-contamination. Olive oil is the most primarily used oil in Italian cooking.

Peanuts can occasionally be found in bars as a snack, so be cautious of this if you’re enjoying happy hour drinks. 


Navigating Italy with a Tree Nut Allergy

Tree nuts are more commonly used in Italian cuisines and dishes, such as nuts on salads, mixed nuts at happy hours, nuts in gelato, nuts in bakeries, nut oils for cooking, and of course pesto if you are allergic to pine nuts. It can seem like a lot to steer clear of. However, it’s essential to note that nuts on salads can often be separated in kitchens. As always, double-check with the restaurant and chef on kitchen protocols for the presence of nuts or cross-contamination. 


Pesto is a main concern, as it is made with pine nuts. Make sure the kitchen has protocols in place to avoid cross-contamination, as this will be key for your safety and enjoyment. In Southern Italy, almonds can be found in pesto, so don’t think pesto will always only include pine nuts. 


Nut oil is even less common than peanut oil, but it is still a best practice to double-check with each restaurant and chef on their cooking, allergen, and kitchen protocols. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and more can be found in dressings, so sticking with a simple olive oil or vinegar may be a safer route. 


When it comes to getting your food allergy chef card for communicating your food allergies to chefs or restaurants, I highly recommend listing out all the individual tree nuts in Italian instead of just listing the word “tree nuts.” This is key for clarity and to prevent confusion. Plus, then you aren’t relying on a waiter to think of all tree nuts off the top of their head.


How To Eat Nut Free in Italy

Now that you have a better idea of where nuts may show up in Italian cooking, let’s take a look at how you can eat nut free in Italy at any time of day!


Nut Free Breakfast in Italy

If you are staying at a hotel, choose one that can provide a sit-down breakfast. This will  allow you to order à la carte instead of relying on shared buffets. While peanuts are not popular at breakfast, cross-contamination with ingredients is still a concern and one to not take lightly, especially from items like bread, pastries, egg dishes, and more. Hotels typically offer pastries that will have tree nuts included, from hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and more. 

drinking latte for breakfast in italy at cafe.

If you are staying in an accommodation such as an apartment or Airbnb, you can prepare your own breakfast using groceries such as eggs, fruit, and omelets. Bakeries are typically a no-go due to nuts being in the kitchens for pastries and breads.


Nut Free Lunch in Italy

If you’d like to have an authentic Italian lunch, you’ll start with a primo (a pasta, soup, and risotto), followed by a secondo (usually a meat or fish-based dish and a side dish), and lastly, a contorno (a vegetable side dish). Sauces, dressings, and soup can all contain hidden elements not seen to the eye, so pay close attention. Meat and fish dishes can be made simpler and easier to manage being grilled or pan seared.

When dining out for lunch, the main areas of concern would be tree nuts used in the pesto or as a topping on salads. Inquire about the oils and whether nut or peanut oil is used. It’s best to stay away from fried items, as you never know what oils or breadings are used. Finally, if you are avoiding lupin, be sure to ask about lupin flour. 


Nut Free Dinner in Italy

Italian dinner menus can be very similar to lunch menus in terms of dishes and things to be aware of for your nut allergens. However, dinner is typically when the pizza oven is heated up and ready to go. However, due to tourism, you will see places serving pizza for lunch as well. Always double-check the same aspects as lunch, but with more pizza on the menu, confirm the flour and oils being used, as well as keeping pesto separate if it is a pizza topping or in pasta dishes.

A cafe serving nut free pizza in italy.


Nut Free Gelato in Italy

While gelato is a popular and traditional Italian treat that everyone wants to indulge in, it unfortunately poses a high risk for cross-contamination with peanut and tree nut allergies. You can find gelato shops that have the sorbet in a separate case from the gelato flavors, but there is still a high risk of cross-contamination. If you do decide to go in and talk to staff about your allergens, make sure to ask if the gelato scoops ever cross to the Sorbet, although this is definitely risky. You can try asking if they’ll scoop from a new container if the flavor is almost finished, but that is never guaranteed. I recommend bringing your favorite safe treat with you in your suitcase, whether that is cookies or candy.


How Does Lupin Relate to Peanut Allergies?

Above I talked about lupin in relation to peanut allergies, but what does that mean, and what is Lupin? Lupin is a legume that is common in Mediterranean cuisine, especially in the form of lupin flour, lupin bran, or as an alternative for milk or soy. It can be found in pastas, chocolate spreads, vegetarian sausages, sauces, salads, hummus spreads, ice creams, breads, rolls, biscuits, baked goods, and more. Per the EU food labeling laws, lupin is considered one of the 14 major allergens that must be listed on pre-packaged food labels, so keep an eye out for that.

A lupin allergy can present itself in those that are allergic to peanuts and those that are not, as lupin and peanuts belong to the same legume family. Not everyone with a peanut allergy reacts to lupin, but it may pose a risk for some. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with your doctor so you can be aware of how your body may or may not react before traveling. 


Italy Nut Free Allergy Laws

While there is use of peanuts and tree nuts in Italian cuisine (more so tree nuts than peanuts), Italy follows the labeling laws of the EU. 

EU Regulation 1169/2011 requires food establishments such as bakeries, butchers, ice cream parlors, restaurants, hotels, clinics, etc, to declare allergenic ingredients in non-prepackaged foods. This may be provided orally or in writing. If it is provided orally, then restaurants are supposed to have a written version for review.

While allergen labeling and knowledge continue to grow in Italy, it will always be best to do the work ahead of time, research restaurants, and communicate with chefs to ensure that you have a game plan you’re comfortable with when your feet hit the ground in Italy. 

Learn more about how I can help you with this with my restaurant research service, or if you’re looking for more support, visit my contact page to inquire about my full-service travel planning. I’d love to help you make a plan to indulge in the tastes of Italy while remaining nut free. 


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