Archive for the Piedmont Category

Turin – the Roman Quarter

Posted in Italy, Piedmont, Roman Quarter, Turin with tags , , , , on June 16, 2013 by gannet39

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.

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The quarter has an alternative feel to it with lots of students and hipsters hanging out in the bars.

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20130511_195449The 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+).

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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.

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A nice glass of Gavi (La Meirana from Broglia 2011) went well with this.

Next a non-descript onion soup (C)…

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…and some ‘sweetbreads’ (thymus glands) on dry toast, also unremarkable (C).

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However the glass of 2010 Nebbiolo called Mirafiore went happily with these dishes (B).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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From the grappa trolley, I chose a Grappa di Brachetto from Morolo which was wonderfully aromatic (B+).

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I couldn’t manage a dessert but still received a complimentary glass of Zabaglione to finish (B+).

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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.

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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-).

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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 .

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To finish Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce, both individually very good but I’m not sure about the combination (B-).

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With this a Nebbiolo da Barolo grappa from Villa Manzoni which was fine (B).

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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.

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Turin – Piazza San Carlo and around

Posted in Italy, Piazza San Carlo, Piedmont, Turin with tags , , on June 16, 2013 by gannet39



Piazza San Carlo is one of the most famous squares in the city and a mecca for coffee lovers as it has two of the most beautiful cafes in town, both dating from the nineteenth century.

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Caffe San Carlo (Advanced B+), 156 Piazza San Carlo, Tel. 011 532 586 caffesancarlo.it/en

A temple to Art Noveau, this is basically a single room with lots of gilded mirrors and a beautiful chandelier made from Murano glass.

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20130513_125952It’s  the older of the two (since 1822) and very formal with snooty waiters in black and white tuxedos.

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It was apparently a meeting place for non-conformist intellectuals and was closed by the authorities on a number of occasions. It was also the first place in Europe to have gas lighting.

Nowadays the coffee is fine (B) but less well presented than below.

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Caffe Torino
(Advanced A), 204  Piazza San Carlo, Tel. 011 545 118 www.caffe-torino.it

Being larger it’s the most visually impressive of the two with its displays of confectionery and chocolate. I preferred the coffee here as well (B+).

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It too is very formal and staffed by some less than friendly baristas. It’s considered good luck to step on the balls of the golden bull inlaid in the pavement outside.

Both cafes serve the local blend from Lavazza.  You can read more about them, and cafes in Turin generally here.

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Just up the road is the Mole Antonelliana at 20 Via Montebello. It’s a symbol of the city and one of the strangest buildings you will ever see (more pictures here).

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It’s a tall spike dwarfing all the other buildings in the city and with what seems to be a mock Greek temple near the top (actually the viewing deck).

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First conceived as a synagogue, the controversial construction was acquired by the city council in 1889 and at the time was the highest brick building in the world. It features on the reverse of Italian two cent coin.
The Mole is now the National Film Museum which has an entry fee but you can also just take the elevator to the top (for €5) to get great views of the city.

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Not that Turin is especially interesting from the air, but you can see the foothills of the Alps, which were still snow-covered when I was there in May.

Grand Torino

Posted in Piedmont, Turin with tags on June 16, 2013 by gannet39

I first came to Turin (capital of the Piedmont region) in 2001 on my very first work tour and hadn’t been sent back since. I have fond memories of that visit, especially the chocolate shops and cafes for which the city is justly famous.

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As well as creating gianduja (the classic combination of chocolate and hazelnut paste) which is then used to make individual Gianduiotti, Turin also gave the world vermouth (fortified flavoured wine), grissini (breadsticks), and zabaglione (a sweet dessert custard that includes sweet wine).

Perhaps the most famous chocolatier is Guido Gobino, whose factory is located at 15B Via Cagliari. It’s a little out of the way (on the east side of the river) but it has a shop where you can buy presents for the choco dependenti (chocoholics) in  your life who will love you forever (or at least till the end of the box) when you bring one of their presentation packs home.

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The building can be spotted by this big mural on the side wall also by the rich smell of chocolate will hit you first as you come down the street. You have to ring the bell to get into the shop, perhaps a few times till someone answers. There are free samples to help you make up your mind and the nice lady who served me answered all my questions in English. I also bought this book there.

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The most famous producers of vermouth  also all hail from Turin, including Martini,  Cinzano,  as well as the original creator of the drink Carpano who make my favourite red vermouth, the Antica Formula |(since 1796). It makes a killer Negroni, particularly in combination with Heston Blumentahl’s Early Grey gin from Waitrose.

The headquarters of the Slow Food movement (motto: ‘buono, pulito e giusto’ or ‘good, clean and fair’) are also here. A few years ago they opened a new shop, cheesily named Eataly, which is actually located in the old Carpano factory on Via Nizza (the street down the east side of the main station. It’s basically a large covered market where you can buy great food related produce and products from all over the country, or eat at one of several quality food outlets. It’s a gourmet’s paradise and a must visit if you’re into your grub. It’s best to take a taxi to get here though as it’s not really walkable as I found out after pounding pavement for about an hour from the station.

In Italy 5 till 7pm is aperitivo time and the Torinesi have turned this into an art form, accompanying their Negroni’s with a huge selection of ‘stuzzichini’ or plates of nibbles such as canapés, mini-sandwiches, tiny sausage rolls etc. These mini feasts can be a meal in themselves so I try to avoid  them if I’m going to eat out as they have ruined my appetite more than once.

A few facts about Turin:

For four years it was the capital and home of the parliament of the fledgling Italian republic which celebrated 150 years in 2011.

The city also has a fantastic Egyptian museum, the Museo Egizio on Via Acdemia delle Scienze, with a collection of mummies and sarcophagi to rival the Cairo Museum.
There are over 18km of porticos, covered walkways along the main streets, which were first built to keep royal heads dry from the rain.

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There are many kilometres of tunnels under the city, some of which were dug during the siege of the city by the French in 1706 as a way of detecting the enemy themselves digging under the walls of the citadel. You can go on a tour of these if you’re interested.

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