This is a story that begins with lunch…I could never figure out the Italian breakfast…
Turin is the City of the Aperitivo, the art of drinking and eating before you start eating and drinking. It is the city of Fiat and faded prosperity, the former kingdom of the most stylish man in the history of Italy, the car magnate Gianni Agnelli, known not only for his enormous wealth but for his sprezzatura, a studied nonchalance that is the province of certain Italian men.
Turin is the opposite of flash.
The charm lies in the patina. The well-worn elegance is so unforced, so natural you hardly notice it. It doesn’t have the swagger of Naples or the monuments of Rome. In many Italian cities, you can find a smart-looking cigarette-smoking chap with a fedora walking in the half-light of the old arcades.
If you see him in Milan, he’s probably putting on a show; if you spot him in Turin, he is just being himself, doing his thing.
There is nobody to pose for in Turin.
The tourists are all in Florence and Rome, the fashion set in Milan, and the locals have seen it before. So he walks to the next beautiful café and orders himself a Negroni, then drinks it, unobserved, under the pink light of some old Martini sign.
Turin is a study in the worth of holding on to the old and good, rather than constantly throwing it out for something more contemporary.
In Turin they like their meat
Veal tartare, probably better than you can find anywhere else, or beef marinated in Barolo or Barbaresco, then braised for hours, and like to wash it down with one of their famous wines.
The typical pasta in the region is taglierini, called tajarin: fine strands of egg-dough pasta served with white truffles from Alba, a meat ragù, or a delicious creamy sauce made with the local Castelmagno cheese from the province of Cuneo.
Then there is the panna cotta, or cooked cream.
Outside the historic center of Turin, on a quiet residential street, is a restaurant called Al Gatto Nero ( the black cat). It is mid-century modern decor and old-school touches like white tablecloths and silk curtains. Everything on the small menu is delicious, although it could hardly be called inventive today.
If you ever find yourself in the Piedmonte capital, here are the super places to dine, as follows:
Al Gatto Nero
Founded in Y 1927 as a Tuscan trattoria, then upgraded in the 50’s with a move to a mid-century building, Al Gatto Nero earned 2 Michelin stars in the 60’s, then lost them in the 80’s, not because the quality fell, but because the critics bet on nouvelle cuisine. Dining here (tagliolini with a simple bottarga or pappardelle with duck ragù before pepper steak) is a special experience: understated, modest, delicious. The maître d’, Andrea Vannelli is a grandson of the founder, is as humble, knowledgeable, and commanding, his wine list is reasonably priced.
A voluptuous ice-cream parlor/café with uniformed waiters, marble counters, and salons covered in red silk wallpaper, serving an impressive lineup of aperitivo nibbles, tiny sandwiches and canapés. Long the preferred haunt of artists and politicians, after more than 200 years it emanates a slightly faded glory.
This quintessential Turin hangout is at the heart of the action in the Piazza San Carlo. Its interiors are grand, an endlessly long bar carved out of wood, painted murals and gilded mirrors, displays of pastries and sweets. The clientele is a mix of locals and regulars Most important, they have great coffee and Negronis, and the best vintage Martini sign.
Del Cambio (pictured above)
The Grande Signora of Turin is 1 of the city’s landmark restaurants, with the biggest dining room, the tallest mirrors, and the most impressive army of waiters. Founded in Y 1757, Del Cambio has counted Mozart, Verdi, and even Casanova as regulars and is worth a visit for the room alone. The food is delicious, particularly the finanziera, and somehow stays true to its Piedmont roots.
Porto Di Savona
The room is charming if sparsely decorated, with marble floors, paneled walls, white tablecloths, and a little bar with a nice selection of aperitivi. All the dishes you want in the Piedmont are on the menu (agnolotti, vitello tonnato, braised beef, panna cotta), and all taste the way you would want them to.
A contemporary take on the classics, with decor so minimalist it feels raw yet warm, thanks to the terra-cotta palette and the young, relaxed, and knowledgeable staff. The cuisine is market-based, with great pastas such as the ravioli di finanziera, and a large selection of classic and creative meat dishes, both cooked and raw, and a great wine list.
The location near the train station in the reinvented district of San Salvario, the contemporary decor, and the young business crowd suggest that this might be just like any other restaurant, but it’s not. Scannabue is our grandfather in more comfortable clothing. But he is still the same man serving traditional dishes, sometimes with a tweak that is thoughtful enough not to spoil anything. They have most of the local classics: great raw meats, braised beef, and wonderful pasta dishes.
Tre Galli/Tre Galline
Tre Galline serves Piedmontese fare in a traditional wood-paneled room that serves some of the best raw meat in Turin. Tre Galli is the contemporary little brother on the next corner. The kitchen is more relaxed, serving brunch and even burgers without eschewing its old-world roots. Tre Galline is ideal for a heavy, meat-based lunch, starting with agnolotti, then bollito misto, and ending with a bunet, the chocolate pudding that rivals panna cotta as the ultimate Piedmontese dessert, washed down with a larger-than-life Barolo. Tre Galli is where to go in the evening for a simple pasta or uovo en meurette, and a nice glass of wine.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
Have a terrific week.
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