If verb forms can have their moment, the gerund “trending” is definitely having its 15 minutes of fame. I see references to it everywhere. It’s not just Twitter that’s chattering about it. All the social media sites are full of it (no pun intended). There are trending global brands. Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Versace are trending in Saigon. Banana Republic and Gap in Kuala Lumpur. In America the transgender population, cat videos, and selfies are trending. In food it’s slow cooking. And in Rome? What’s “trending” in Rome (#trendinginrome)? OMG, it’s Gluten-Free Pizza. What? No. Yes, it’s true. It must be a joke. Gluten-free pizza in Rome? Yup, not kidding. Here it is folks. Up close and personal.


After being turned away from a trendy (not trending) restaurant because we didn’t have a reservation, M and I started walking up Via dei Giubbonari toward the market square at Campo di Fiori. On the next corner, a block away, we spotted Voglia di Pizza (translation “craving for pizza”) a little pizza joint. Perfect. We were craving pizza and sat right down.

Only then did we notice the “Gluten Free” decal on the window. We were aghast at the remarkable discord. Gluten-free pizza in Rome? If there was ever a surprise trend this was it. First of a series? One of a kind? We’ll be watching. It will be interesting.

So when did celiac disease (#celiacdisease) reach its tipping point and become the disease of the decade? How in the world did it find its way to Rome the worldwide center of gluten? Could Romans really be worried about celiac disease or is this just a smart marketing ploy for American hypochondriacs? I’m highly suspicious.

 Voglia 2I shouldn’t be so jaded. Of course there are people who can’t digest gluten and celiac disease is a reality for them. Novak Djokovic, the world’s number one tennis player, struggled with health issues for several years before switching to a gluten-free diet and then claiming the world number one ranking. It was real. I’ve known one or two others for whom the change to gluten-free was liberating, but I also know several trendsetters who bought into it and wear it like a badge of honor. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) puts the celiac population between .4 and 1%, but a walk down the aisle of your local supermarket would make you think it was taking over the country. I know it’s real but I believe it’s trending way beyond the celiac population.

So how was it – the pizza? Here’s the kicker; it was amazing. Last night’s pie might be the best pizza I’ve ever eaten – thin crackly crust with four cheeses and topped with arugula. Sensational. Complimented with a big, fresh salad of mixed greens, corn, celery, bright red plum tomatoes, and shaved carrots, and washed down with two glasses of white wine and a large bottle of sparkling water it was to die for. I don’t know what went into that crust, but it was memorable. I’m going back. Pronto! Molto bene!

Thin Crust

Pizza, gluten free, gourmet, or down-and-dirty is trending everywhere. In Seattle, for instance, Tutta Bella, a local restaurant, is the Pacific Northwest’s first certified purveyor of Neapolitan thin crust pizza. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napolitana (VPN) in Naples sent some consiglieri in double-breasted suits to visit Seattle a couple of years ago and, poof, Tutta Bella’s pies were “certified”. I don’t know if remittances to Naples were part of the deal, but Tutta Bella is guaranteed certified. Capisce?

When I lived in New York I used to buy a slice or two from an Arab guy on York Avenue as I was returning to my apartment from a Pan Am trip. The slice was big and greasy and tasted delicious standing at the take-out window of his tiny shop. Like politics, maybe all pizza is local. I do know that pizza has come a long way since I bought my slice from the Arab on York Avenue.

Pizza’s long history makes good reading. The ancient Greeks had a flatbread that was similar, but the first mention of the word pizza was in 997A.D. according to Wikipedia. Pizza Margharita, the basic modern version, was created to honor the Queen Consort, Margherita of Savoy, in 1889 and incorporated the colors – red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil) – of the Italian flag.

The spread of pizza worldwide is equally interesting. Often, a first wave of Italian immigrants, eager to make a living, but with little capital, opened pizzerias. Since pizza is basically flour and water with a thin layer of sauce on top, it doesn’t require a large investment to get started. I watched it happen first hand in Berlin. I saw Italian immigrant entrepreneurs build their businesses and then watched the second generation open small upscale restaurants serving more complicated food with more expensive ingredients to an appreciative, well-heeled clientele.

Now we’re on to gluten-free. I’ll be curious to see if it catches on. When I was making pasta for a living I had customers who wanted theirs made with egg-whites only. I complied but the market was small. I imagine gluten-free will have a similar small audience – especially in Italy. I’m not so certain about America. Remember it’s trending #foraglutenfreeamerica.

Pizza in Italy is like the hamburger in America. It’s a one of the basic food groups. And, like the hamburger it’s gone viral worldwide. There’s thick crust, thin crust, deep dish (Chicago-style), round, square, oblong, and triangular, and it comes in small, medium and large. It’s way beyond “trending.” It’s an establishment food item. Maybe gluten-free will catch on in Italy, but I can’t imagine Italians driving around town looking for a pizzeria that only serves gluten-free products.

For now, I’m leaving gluten-free behind and checking my Twitter, Facebook, and Tinder for new trends. Are you with me?

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