Turin – the Roman Quarter
My favourite area in Turin is the Quadrilatero Romano, or Roman quarter. This is where the city was originally founded but there are few visible ruins to see except the Porta Palatina which was once the northern gate of the town.
The quarter has an alternative feel to it with lots of students and hipsters hanging out in the bars.
The streets are narrower and the street grid is less rigid here with occasional curves and bends, indicating the presence of older boundaries beneath.
Piazza Emmanuele Filiberto is a cool little square that was buzzing on a Sunday when other parts of the town were very quiet.The food at Trattoria Pastis in the square is supposed to be good and it looks like a nice spot for an aperitif, but I went to this place just around the corner to eat:
Ristorante Tre Galline (Advanced B+), 37 Via Bellezia, Tel. 011 4366 553, www.3galline.it, closed on Sundays and Monday lunch.
It looks formal but the staff are very friendly and speak good English. It’s the kind of place where they have trolleys with lots of selections, such as cheese, grappa, dessert etc.
I only meant to have a couple of dishes but the food was so good I ended up going for the full works! With hindsight I should have gone for the actual Menu de Degustazione.
After an amuse bouche of a giant caper fixed to a slice of roast duck with a spoon of hummus (B+).
I love fresh ricotta so couldn’t resist getting the Ricotta Fatta in Casa con Misticanza di Erbe di Stagione. The ricotta was fantastic (A) but I could have happily done without the mini salad it came with (B-), or at least had it separately.
A nice glass of Gavi (La Meirana from Broglia 2011) went well with this.
Next a non-descript onion soup (C)…
…and some ‘sweetbreads’ (thymus glands) on dry toast, also unremarkable (C).
However the glass of 2010 Nebbiolo called Mirafiore went happily with these dishes (B).
Given the quality of what had already been served, I decided that this was the place to try the ultimate local dish, Bollito Misto Piedmontese.
Not for the faint-hearted, this involves several kinds of boiled meat, including offal, in my case cuts of beef, cotechino sausage, liver, tongue and chicken, carved at the table from the trolley and served with a scoop of mashed potato. I enjoyed most of it (B) and was glad I’d tried it again (much better than last time) but it was pretty heavy and I couldn’t eat it all.
The meats are classically served with Mostarda which is glace fruit (quince, pears, apples, cherries) in a mustard sauce. Quite an unusual combination for an English palate but it worked well (B).
I was also given a tray of other condiments including salsa verde (a parsley based sauce), salsa rosso (mild red peppers), mayo, horseradish and some kind of chutney.
I needed a full-bodied red to go with this and a 2008 Barolo called La Foia from Marco Curto hit the spot beautifully (A).
From the grappa trolley, I chose a Grappa di Brachetto from Morolo which was wonderfully aromatic (B+).
I couldn’t manage a dessert but still received a complimentary glass of Zabaglione to finish (B+).
Because I showed interest in what my neighbours were drinking I also received a free shot of Barathier, a wonderfully smoky amaro, quite unlike anything I had tasted before (A+) and not available on the commercial market, the restaurateur having apparently procured it from a local producer in the nearby hills. Must try to get a bottle.
Just before I left, I was given a little tour of the cellars by the friendly head waiter. We went down two levels where he showed me a hole leading to a third level. He told me many of the houses in the quarter use these deep cellars as cold rooms for storing food and they often make use of old Roman walls.
Tre Galline is definitely somewhere I’d return to next time I’m here. They also have a sister restaurant/enoteca called Tre Galli www.3galli.com around the corner at 25 Via San Agostino, just off Piazza Filiberto, where you can sit outside. Although I haven’t been it was explained to me that the food served here is more modern/experimental. It seems to be open every day.
Osteria Al Taglieri, (Intermediate B), 9 Via Bellezia, www.osteriaaltagliere.com
No particular reason for choosing this place, just that it was open on a Sunday (when Tre Galline wasn’t). Also it sells local cuisine and you can sit outside.
To start, a local selection of cured hams and cheeses with honey which went down well (B+) with an average bottle of their own brand house red (B-).
Next I went for the classic local dish; Agnolotti al Sugo d’Arrosto which was fine (B). Agnolotti are small raviolis filled with a roasted pork and veal mince and doused with the sauce from the roasting .
To finish Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce, both individually very good but I’m not sure about the combination (B-).
With this a Nebbiolo da Barolo grappa from Villa Manzoni which was fine (B).
In short the food and the ambience is good but the youthful service, although English speaking, didn’t know much about the food they were serving. Good to try for a one off, but there are other places to try so doubt if I’d go back.
Walking home one night I spotted a couple of very cool little shops on nearby Via Santa Chiara, Neo Chic for the ladies at 26C and Moroccan home wares at Hafa 18A.
If you have a free morning, it’s nice to have a look at the market at Porta Palatina. It’s apparently the largest open air market in Europe and you can see fantastic produce from all over Italy on the stalls.