A trip to Torino (or Turin as we English speakers call it) is a Franco+Italiophile dream come true. Wide boulevards, neighborhoods that feel like the Marais and lots of chocolate are just a little bit of what I discovered on a recent trip to this town that sits at the foot of the Alps.
My pal Saskia invited me along on a trip with promises of visiting the historic cafes of Torino, plates of agnolotti and glasses of barolo. I booked the super fast Frecciarossa 1000 and headed to Italy's northwestern corner. I am happy to share our discoveries of where to eat in Turin with you.
No trip to Torino can be had without a few stops to some of the towns historic cafes. These are old school places, all wood paneling, starched tablecloths and sparkly chandeliers. Grand spaces to have a morning cappuccino, an afternoon bicerin (more on that below) or a pre-dinner spritz. A quick visit to the bar or leisurely spell at a well appointed table, both are essential Torino experiences.
Piazza San Carlo
The Belle Epoque style and the excellent cappuccino are what I loved about this cafe. While you are here make sure you snap a pic of the iconic Martini sign, sparkly in the daylight and glowy red after dark. It is also legend that you should spin on the brass inlay of the town's iconic symbol of a bull for good luck.
Piazza Castello, 29
It was at this very formal of cafes that I finally had a Bicerin.( After we heartbreakingly mixed up the closing day at the Cafe Bicerin) This famous Torinese coffee drink consists of a layer of espresso, a layer of hot chocolate and a layer of hot frothed milk, served in a particular broad shaped glass. I could drink a thousand of these.
Piazzetta Reale, 1
Piazzetta Reale, 1
Walk through the palace gates and head to the far left corner and you will find one of the most elegant and tranquil cafes in town. The eggshell blue lined floor to ceiling cabinets are filled with burnished silver and fine china. You can take a seat at one of the marble topped round tables and embroidered linen slipcovered chairs or have a quick espresso and a foil wrapped gianduja chocolate at the bar.
Piazza Carignano, 2
Piazza Carignano, 2
In a space that feels more like a chic boutique than a cafe, the former pharmacy shelves are stocked with beautifully packaged salts, herbs, grissini and cookies. The refrigerator cases have light lunch offerings, (I had a delicious onion soup) and intricate pastries. There are also bottles of juices and pre-mixed cocktails and exquisite chocolates.
Pasta and Truffles and Stars (and a snack)Via San Tommaso, 4/a
My coffee and sugar buzz were wearing off and it was not quite lunchtime. I spied a slow food snail and went to investigate. One of the really great things about Italy is how strongly regional the country is. Remember Italy as a country is just barely 150 years old. Nowhere is this more apparent than in regional food. In Rome when I need a quick snack I get a piece of piazza bianca, in Naples, a flaky sfoigatelle, in Sicily, an arancino. I had no idea what a quick snack this far would be. The sign said Gaufreria, which from my long buried french and a line drawing I translated as some kind of waffle. We asked the chef to make us what he recommended and a few minutes we were eating crispy, wafery, savory waffle filled with wild deer stewed in Barolo and creamy tomo cheese.
Via Sant’Agostino, 25
This large space with scrubbed gray walls and vintage posters is in the Quadrilateral Romano part of town which feels more like the Marais in Paris than Italy. Our meal began with a sublime plate of delicately smoke guanciale laced with local Alpine honey. I went with the traditional Torinese dish of agnolotti, a meat filled ravioli type pasta topped with a meat ragu. Saskia was more modern in her choice of gnocchi with Bra sausage, a raw beef sausage that is a Piedmontese specialty.
Corso San Maurizio 61/b
Saskia and I had plans to meet up with a Facebook pals, Silvia. and Valeria. I anticipated a quick aperitivo or a plate of agnolotti at a traditional trattoria. I wasn't expecting a multi-coursed Michelin starred meal. I like these kind of surprises. The evening started with a cocktail made with Torino produced vermouth and an array of tastes artfully presented on slate, granite slabs, bricks of crystal and a delicate bone china plate. Eight more dishes arrived with their details enthusiastically described by the chef, Marcello Trentini.Via Montebello, 9
The Art Deco sign, the clean mid century design, the fabulous vintage posters for punt e res would probably almost have been enough for me to love this hushed elegant place literally underneath the famous Mole Antonelliana. And then we were presented with the Alba menu. The everything comes with white truffles menu. We ordered a chilled (half) bottle of a locally produced white and plates of Tajarin (think thin egg ribbons) pasta drenched in butter and a flurry of truffles shaved on top. Since it was all about the indulgence we had a rich chocolate mousse for dessert before we ambled across the road to spend the afternoon at the cinema museum.
Guglielmo PepeVia della Rocca, 19f
After a stunningly pink sunset after a long walk along the Lungo Po, the temperature dropped as quickly as the sun and it was aperitivo time. Just a block up from the river is the warm and friendly Pepe. We settled into a cozy spot and ordered Campari spritzes and talked for so so long that we missed dinner entirely. Luckily the aperitivo spread was so generous and delicious we hardly even noticed.
Lights and Film
While this trip was all about cafe lounging and long pasta filled dinners we did find the time to squeeze in a few cultural highlights.
Via Montebello, 20
This is my dream museum. We began by taking the incredible glass walled elevator up to the top of the Mole Antonelliana for a 360 view out over Torino. We then ambled through the museum learning about the history of film from exhibits that explained complicated optics, featured intricate magic lantern slides and zoetropes. The film poster collection is entertaining for a graphic design aficionado and language buff. We took advantage of the comfy lounge chairs on the ground floor in the center of the museum and watched reel after reel of Italian Neo-realist film clips.
Stairs worth Climbing
Stairs worth Climbing
We made a quick Grand Tour stop at the magnificent Filippo Juvarra staircase inside the Palazzo Madama, which was home to the royal house of Savoy.