We recently took a trip to Italy and sure we discovered great food, sites, people and all the awesome things that come with travel. But there’s one thing about our trip that I’ll never forget.

Look, I’m not one of those people who travel for food. I like food. Food is good. But I don’t lose my mind over food and if our time in a city is limited, I’ll eat wherever quickly, so I can keep seeing the sites.

But being gluten-free, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to eating in Italy, home to pizza and pasta. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be eating fish and salad for ten-days straight, and no one likes salad. But as it turns out, Italy is one of the most gluten-free friendly places I’ve ever traveled. Almost every restaurant we went to offered gluten-free pasta and pizza. In another post, I’ll highlight some of my favourite gluten-free finds in Italy, but for now we need to discuss something very important:

In Italy, McDonald’s has a gluten-free burger. I’ll give you a minute to digest that piece of information, pun intended.

And before we go on, I don’t want to hear any of your “You’re in Italy! I can’t believe you ate at McDonald’s” silliness.  McDonald’s is cheap, reliable and always open, so yeah, sometimes I end up McDonald’s when I travel and I don’t feel bad about it.

It was a late night, we had just finished walking around Rome for 12 hours straight and we wanted to have some late night fast food treats before heading back to our Airbnb. McDonald’s doesn’t normally have many gluten-free options, most fast food joints don’t, so I wasn’t expecting much. But since I was already surprised how easy it was to eat gluten free in Italy, I thought I’d try my luck at the McCafe counter.  The worker said they didn’t have any gluten-free treats, but I could get a burger and pointed to the regular counter.

Now my Italian is rough, basically non-existent, so I didn’t believe what my ears had heard. So I walked slowly over to the main cashier like someone walking through a haunted house: Cautiously, yet filled with adrenaline. Was I about to find out that McDonald’s had a gluten free burger in Italy?!  At the cashier, I asked if there was a gluten-free burger and she said “Si” and pointed to the self-ordering kiosks.

Now, again, my Italian is not good, but I was pretty sure I understood what  “si” meant, but it didn’t mean I believed it. So I walked over to the kiosks, again very slowly, and you guys, look what I found:

I was shocked. I think I still am.

Now, being gluten-free hasn’t stopped me from eating at McDonald’s before:

But an officially gluten-free burger is definitely a lot easier.

The burger is basically a two-patty cheeseburger and comes in a sealed bag.  This is likely to protect it from being contaminated, but also I think to prepare the burger, they microwave it in the bag.  I’m not completely sure, but the bag was very hot.

And do I care that the burger was microwaved? Absolutely not. I was eating a burger in a McDonalds. Of note, the burger is sealed, so you can’t do modifications, which is fine. Beggars can’t be choosers. But I very quickly had to get over my dislike of cheese on my burgers.

Now that I know that gluten free burgers at McDonald’s are possible, I hope that the fast food joints closer to home are paying attention. Especially because McDonald’s poutine is gluten free (it’s true!), we are so close to being able to have a truly gluten-free meal at McDonald’s.

Until then, we’ll always have Rome.


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Mike Morrison

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