Some of the members of the House of Savoy you were introduced to in the prior post get credit for additions to Turin’s distinctive flavors. Grissini, thin crispy Italian breadsticks, were invented to meet special dietary needs of Vittorio Amadeo II (1666-1732). Perhaps most significant to Italians, Emanuele Filiberto (1553-1580) brought the first chocolate to Italy.
As in Spain, the earliest ways to consume chocolate imported from the New World were in a liquid form. This has survived through the centuries in Turin in the form of bicerin, a rich triple-layered beverage (more like a dessert to me) consisting of thick hot chocolate, espresso and foamy cream. Numerous major chocolate factories are found in the city. With hazelnuts the most popular nut, it is not surprising Nutella was created there. Vermouth and Campari originated in Turin; the city is home to the Slow Food movement; and the first Eataly opened there.
The region’s lean grass-fed beef, fassone, seems most popular when consumed ground and raw. Locals eat huge patties of the meat tartare. I was happy my sampling of it was restricted to a petite amuse bouche. Which is partially why I expected the area cuisine to be dominated by head-to-tail meat offerings.
Much to my pleasant surprise, Turin residents prize their locally grown vegetables. There were a remarkable number of vegetarian restaurants, such as the highly regarded somewhat pricey Soul Kitchen. But even our humble homey neighborhood restaurant, Trattoria Alla Locandina, offered several vegetable dishes, including grilled eggplant and fried zucchini blossoms filled with cheese.
Da Cianci Piola anchovies
Ristrot Guviol roasted red pepper
Caffe Mulassano bicerin
Ristrot Guviol risotto with raw salmon
Flower Power veggie burgers
E Cucina Torino vegetables
Ristrot Guviol spaghetto with crab and grape tomatoes uncovered
Da Cianci eggplant
E Cucina Torino seafood pasta
Ristrot Guviol asparagus with egg and parmesan foam
Ristrot Guviol dessert
Street Fish fish ceviche taco
Trattoria Alla paella
Ristrot Guviol spaghetto with crab and grape tomatoes
E Cucina Torino seafood gnocchi
Da Cianci Piola pasta dumplings
Ristrot Guviol spring green gnocchi with Provencal herbs
Ristrot Guviol amuse bouche fassone
E Cucina Torino chicken
Da Cianci Piola Caffe
E Cucina Torino pasta with salmon
Street Fish ceviche
Trattoria Ala grilled eggplant
Street Fish Korean seafood rice
Ristrot Guviol tagliolini with squid and mullet roe
Trattoria Ala cheese-filled zucchini blossoms
Soul Kitchen gourmet vegetable burger
Ristrot Guviol buttons with pecorino cheese and broad bean sauce
Our go-to lunch spot in Turin, E Cucina Torino, was like a reunion with an old friend. We first encountered Chef Cesare Marretti’s concept of providing limited-menu fixed-price meals in Bologna three years ago. Expect locals to be lined up here for the 10-euro special: a starter; a choice of a meat, seafood or vegetarian entrée; a small dessert; a glass of wine; and an espresso. I found myself always falling for the vegetable platter which included a side salad, a mountain of fresh vegetables hiding a vegetable flan underneath and a ball of fresh mozzarella too massive for me to ever conquer. The Mister was more apt to explore the other options.
Then there is the featured photo above, perhaps my favorite dish in Turin: a layered vegetable tian with a gorgonzola and almond sauce at Ristrot Guviol. We encountered wonderful creations emerging from this kitchen. An impressive crab shell arrived atop a dish of spaghetto with crab and grape tomatoes. A ribbon of raw salmon made a bright stripe across a rich risotto, and there was a tagiolini with squid and a crown of mullet roe.
The food of the Piedmont region is without a doubt among the best in Italy.