Home Away From Home in Cusco

When you have celiac disease, one of the toughest things about travel is finding the stamina to dine out day after day. At home, going to a restaurant can feel like a luxury, particularly when you’re confident that the staff will take care of your needs. It’s tough to find places like that when you’re on the road and you need to explain your dietary restrictions before every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Before I went to Peru last fall I spent hours researching restaurants that could prepare gluten-free meals. I couldn’t find a single place mentioned in a guidebook or online. When I got on my flight to Peru (which you can read about here), I was nervous about what I would be surviving on for the next three weeks.

It turned out that I had nothing to worry about. This was partly because the traditional Andean diet is based on three staples — corn, potatoes, and quinoa — that are all celiac-safe. More importantly, I found that the Peruvian people were incredibly kind and took painstaking care of me, sometimes checking ingredients three or four times before bringing my main course to the table.

This wasn’t only true of the more expensive restaurants, but in the most casual eateries. A perfect example of this is the Moni Café-Restaurant in Cusco, the city that every traveler passes through on the way to Machu Picchu. Moni is an unpretentious, inexpensive spot that’s well away from the tourist crowds in the historic Plaza de Armas, and its specialty is vegetarian cooking. The recipes are very simple (my starter was a pumpkin soup made only with pumpkin, garlic, and cream) but the food is incredibly delicious. My main course involved all of the Andean staples: called the Sacred Valley Curry, it was a combination of giant-sized corn kernels with potato and quinoa in a tomato-and-onion sauce.

The staff was incredibly kind and helpful… so much so that I went back for another meal later in the week. That’s the thing about finding a restaurant you feel confident about while you’re on the road — it makes you feel right at home.

Moni Café-Restaurant [address] San Agustin 311, Cusco, Peru [tel] 51-84-231-029 [web] www.moni-cusco.com

2 thoughts on “Home Away From Home in Cusco

  1. Hi Hilary

    We’re glad that you liked our food and loved our people at Moni, we will pass your kind comments onto them. They are lovely people and will be delighted that you enjoyed our time in our restaurant.

    Michael and Esther Scott

    Owners – Moni Cafe Restaurant – Cusco, Peru

  2. You missed another Cusco restaurant which you would have surely loved!
    It is called El Arbol and can be found in the San Blas area, just down to the left on Carmen Bajo from Plaza San Blas.
    It is a vegan restaurant with daily set menus for 8 soles (cannot beat that!) My brother is intolerant to gluten, and the only thing with trigo on the menu was the side of delicious whole-grain bread. No problem, my brother just got a side of brown rice or quinoa instead!
    The food is extraordinary and the atmosphere is very comforting.
    El Arbol also sells delicious vegan cakes for 2 soles each. Quite a good find!
    Do not miss this experience!

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