I was directed to this joint by looking at what Tripadvisor had to say about gluten-free dining in Padua. Ristorante Al Carmine got plenty of good write-ups so I was eager to try it for myself. And it didn't disappoint.
It was slightly tricky to find, away from the bustling city centre, down a side street and in a zone seemingly dominated by high-rise and student accommodation, a few minutes' walk from the Ferrovia station and also from the Cappella della Scrovegni. But this didn't stop its being very busy at lunchtime with lots of walk-ins, me included, presumably because it's well known locally as a good place to eat and hungry people converge on it from all directions. I certainly formed the impression that several tables were occupied by office-workers who'd come out together and were doing business over lunch.
The restaurant staff were friendly and helpful and there was an English as well as an Italian version of the menu. But the star of the show was the gluten-free offer, all very clearly indicated on the menu in a way that's still not so common in Italy. In particular there was no doubting from this that they effectively had managed to provide an alternative version of most things, including pizza, and since a decent gluten-free pizza isn't often encountered over here I thought I'd give it a go. What I got, after some nice gluten-free pseudo-bread nibbles which I'd not seen before and were a pleasant bonus, was a Siciliana which turned out to be a pretty good simulacrum of the real thing: a crisp base topped with tomoato sauce, mozzarella, capers, anchovy and pepperoni. All in all, it was better than many I've had and worth the walk to find it.
Since it was lunchtime and I'm not keen on going overboard in the middle of the day, especially when it's warm, I exercised some restraint in what I consumed. But this shouldn't stop me mentioning that the menu not only listed several tempting-looking dessert variations which would cater to the coeliac guest (if I could have managed it I'd have gone for the pancake flled with Nutella) but also the widest range of gluten-free beers I've seen anywhere in Italy (roughly a dozen, I think).
In short, Ristorante Al Carmine really pushes the boat out in its attempt to cater to this problematic dietary requirement and embrace those who suffer from coeliac disease and it really does deserve top marks for its efforts.
And, yes, I'd definitely go back if I were in Padua again.
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