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The Gluten-Free Success of Marcella Navarro of Mama Eat

Our contributor shares the story of Marcella Navarro who built a Gluten-Free pizza empire in Rome with Mama Eat.

The gluten-free Margherita pizza at Mama Eat in Rome.

The gluten-free Margherita pizza at Mama Eat in Rome. Photo courtesy of Mama Eat.

Gathering at a restaurant for a meal with family and friends is a sacred pillar of the Italian lifestyle. But for celiacs, this often isn't the case given the risks posed by cross contamination. As a celiac herself, Marcella Navarro could relate to the social implications of this condition. That’s why almost 20 years ago, with her brothers Roberto and Giovanni, she set out on a mission to break longstanding barriers faced by others like her. Today, she's lovingly known as Mamma Marcella and is the mastermind behind the Mama Eat restaurant brand.

Reputed for its delicious, gluten-free food, this chain currently boasts six locations in Italy. But with daily requests to expand abroad, Mamma Marcella and her team hope to open in the United States soon. Until then, if you've never eaten at a Mama Eat restaurant before, you'll need to make it a stop on your next visit to Italy!

At the core of Mamma Marcella's philosophy is a commitment to sourcing the right ingredients. This came after years of researching and studying alongside chefs specializing in gluten-free cooking. But the most important ingredient to her success is a generous dose of maternal love! Despite many people having celiac disease, their options remain limited when dining out. This often leads to marginalization, something Mamma Marcella was adamant to eliminate. Never one to shy away from a challenge, her primary goal has been to bring a smile to everyone's face, regardless of their dietary needs.

Marcella Navarro of Mama Eat.
Marcella Navarro of Mama Eat.

Mama Eat is a place where families and friends (celiac or not) can gather for a meal without the fear of illness. It's based on a unique model that can please every palate and meet everyone's needs. This means that every restaurant hosts two of everything. From separate kitchens and pizza ovens, to two chefs and their crews, it's a risk-free environment. Here, celiacs can eat in peace without feeling different from their gluten-eating counterparts. All locations are certified by the Associazione Italiana Celiachia (AIC), an organization that trains and certifies restaurants to offer safe dining conditions for celiacs.

After winning over the hearts and palates of the people in her hometown of Naples, Mamma Marcella has grown her brand with locations in Rome, Florence, and Milan. And while she's an ambitious woman, she never foresaw the level of success that she's reached. But given the amount of love she puts into her restaurants, it should come as no surprise.

Assorted Antipasti at Mama Eat.
Assorted Antipasti at Mama Eat.

Inspired by her heritage, the menu at Mama Eat features classic Neapolitan dishes like pasta, patate, e provola. This happens to be Mamma Marcella's favorite, evoking memories of her own childhood with her mother and grandmother. To the delight of pizza lovers (gluten-free or not), Mama Eat offers an extensive pizza menu. But beyond mouthwatering food, you’ll also find a single menu with each item available to order gluten-free, epitomizing the idea of inclusive dining.

Transforming a personal challenge into her greatest victory, Mamma Marcella is an inspiration for celiacs. She took what many would consider to be an obstacle and turned it into a successful brand that has changed the lives of many. Both locals and tourists flock to Mama Eat as a meeting place that allows everyone to feel welcome and eat safely in unison.

RELATED: Where to Eat Gluten-Free Pizza in Rome

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