Don’t worry, Sparty will still eat that famous MSU Dairy Store ice cream when he gets back to East Lansing, but for now he’s made an exception to help me overcome a challenge here in Rome.
Being vegan at home, AKA back in Michigan, is easy because I simply cook most of my food. Also, I know which restaurants to go to that have suitable options for me and how to “veganize” food at any other restaurant. There’s also the fact that the term “vegan” is widely known in America. In Italy, it’s a completely foreign concept. They put cheese on everything and they eat cheese with everything. All of their desserts are dairy-based, as are most of their homemade noodles and sauces, but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my trip.
I did my research. I found a slew of vegan restaurants in Rome and even some that are just veg-friendly. I made a collection of these restaurants on Yelp and use them as a reference guide for whenever I want to go out to dinner. However, not all restaurants in Rome are on Yelp. Most are small family-owned places that aren’t connected to social media of any kind and you discover them by just sort of stumbling upon them. These are the restaurants that are a bit more challenging. Luckily, my mom thought about this ahead of time and suggested I make a little cheat sheet guide to show waiters. This guide has written in Italian that I’m vegan and the list of foods I can’t eat. Although it feels burdensome to ask a restaurant to accommodate, it can be done and I don’t have to sacrifice the tasty Italian food experience everyone dreams of when they come to Italy.
My advice to anyone that’s going to a foreign country with a food restriction is to research, research, research. Learn the proper phrases to explain your restriction and how to order food based on it. The most important research I’ve found is to ask for help. I joined a “Vegans in Rome” Facebook group and I reached out to vegan Instagrammers in Rome. Luckily, the people I reached out to were more than happy to help me out and gave me their favorite recommendations for where to eat in Rome and what to get. By doing so, I get to experience the real flair of the city, not just the curated Internet reviews-based experience. Never be afraid to ask for help and never be afraid of your food restriction.
By Meghan Kuhr