Eating at an Italian restaurant and a plant-based diet are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they come hand in hand, if you know how to order. Become familiar with the commonly found plant-based dishes on an Italian menu and enjoy ordering fantastic food that doesn't break all your good eating habits. By using the Go Healthy app, discover where to find these dishes, and which ones come recommended.
Let’s look at a few examples...
The menu snippets below highlight some of the most popular dishes on a standard Italian menu (all of which are naturally and traditionally, free of animal produce). Remember, as long as you are keeping mainly plant-based the odd dish with a little cheese or cream is nothing to worry about. Small steps in the right direction are better than none at all! Note that the dishes in Italics are the ones we recommend to those trying to lose weight.
Bruschetta … an Italian staple of crusty, fresh bread piled high with beautifully ripe chopped tomatoes, basil leaves and crushed garlic (make sure to mention no added olive oil on top!)
Focaccia … Their take on a bread basket. Red onions, rosemary, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes and olives embedded and slow-cooked into warm, fresh dough.
Minestrone and other soups … Hearty vegetables, beans, potatoes and herbs for a filling, nutritious starter is at the core of many Italian menus.
Salads with an Italian twist. Tomato, rucula, basil and other typical Italian ingredients make for delicious fresh salads paired with good quality balsamic vinegar dressings.
Pizza Marinara... the original Nepalese pizza was designed without cheese. Instead, a rich tomato sauce, garlic, basil and oregano make up the base of this tasty dish.
Rigatoni a la norma (without the cheese) is a delicious tomato and eggplant pasta dish.
Spaghetti Pomodoro... a simple but charming tomato and basil sauce available almost everywhere.
Pesto Pasta uses arugula, basil, olive oil and black pepper to produce an iconic Italian sauce to go with all types of pasta. Try to order without dairy!
Pasta Primavera includes varied green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, green beans and peas with lots of black pepper and fresh herbs.
Risotto of many sorts. Mushrooms, truffles, saffron or spring vegetables are all popular in this slow-cooked rice dish to enjoy as a starter or main.
Classic sides include roast potatoes, broccoli rabe, sauteed mushrooms and slow cooked tomatoes.
**Other great ingredients to look out for on an Italian menu are: orzo, lentils & other pulses (especially in stews and soups), grilled vegetables and potatoes cooked in different ways.**
Get into the habit of talking to your waiter before you order restaurant food to make clear exactly what you can and cannot eat. Explain that you are plant-based and cannot eat animal products including dairy and eggs with your meal. This is just as important for them as it is for you because of the many hidden ingredients found in sauces and seasonings. Once alerted of these dietary requirements, ingredients can often be removed or altered to make it plant-based friendly.