Tales of Turin

February 23, 2023

I met my friend Fulvia on social media, on Instagram. I can’t recall exactly how it all began, but we followed each other and she would often leave a kind comment under my posts. And I’d always reply.

I was living in Rome at that time, a few moons back, and one morning I got a message, that she was travelling to Rome for work commitments.
We met at the Termini Train Station, it was already late, almost past dinner time and her train was delayed. But we both wanted to meet, and time didn’t matter. We only spent a couple of hours together, but it turned out to be enough to connect and start a long term friendship. It would be the only time we saw each other in Rome. Venice was next.

We lived in Venice for a year, in a red palazzetto with a terrace on top. A few months after we had managed to settle in I received a fabulous text that Fulvia, her husband Michele and son Ruggero, a cute little boy, would be in town for a weekend. Michele loves sailing and he can navigate through the floating city with great ease. His father used to work in Venice as a professor and Michele would come to see him very often. Now it was his turn to show Fulvia and Ruggero around, and take them sailing too. This way, they would have a fun and exhausting day out, the humidity in august can be really tiring. The last dinner we had was in our palazzetto. I quickly came up with an idea of what to cook and rushed to the market. Fulvia and Michele come from Turin, and they love their meat, fish so so. I cooked a mix of Italian dishes, from Bucatini all’Amatriciana (a Roman pasta dish we love) to Sicilian Caponata. Having been initially slightly apprehensive about cooking an Italian feast for Italians I didn’t know that well yet, I decided to relax and just let it be. Some prosecco for an apreitivo always helps to put everybody at ease. The dinner turned into a terrific evening with lots of laughter, good food (we all truly enjoyed it), lots of wine and making plans to go to Turin. Ruggero by that time was already asleep in the room next door and the Dégustateur was finally convinced to go. „It’s a grey and industrial city”, he used to say, but now some curiosity sparkled in his eyes. Since then our friendship with Fulvia evolved and grew stronger, even without seeing each other for a very long time. A good test of a friendship is to be close when things turn difficult. And she was, more than I could imagine.

In January 2023 we made a decision: we are going to Turin, sooner rather than later.
We have a little pied-à-terre in London now and it was more convenient for us to fly from London rather than to go back to Florence first. We took an early flight and we left for almost ten days.

Once we arrived to a sunny and very cold Turin, I was in desperate need of a good coffee and a cornetto. I didn’t sleep very well that night and I needed a little pick me up. The hotel room was ready and we got a little surprise in a form of superb accommodation on the top floor with views over Turin and the white Alps in the background. It was almost midday and I had no idea where to go in a search of a coffee shop that would still serve breakfast. I walked into the first place that looked promising, had my cappuccino, orange juice and a cronetto alla crema for myself, and one alla gianduia for the Dégustatur, who stayed in the hotel for a work related matter.

After having warmed up a little we set off to search for a place for lunch. We didn’t know Turin at all. We just decided to discover it whilst being there, trust our observations and our own judgment, and we did well. It was already getting quite late and we had to move fast. After a few turns here and there, a few „no” to certain places, we stumbled upon Galleria Subalpina, with its iconic Caffé Baratti & Milano, the city’s institution, where ladies and gentlemen meet to talk, sip hot chocolate and immerse themselves in a Turin of other aristocratic times. Café Baratti & Milano, however, is also an excellent spot for lunch and our pasta dishes were just divine. After a lovely lunch accompanied by a glass of Barolo we completed our first meal with a coffee and the very first bicerin at Caffé Mulassano (IG), another well known and frequented establishment. Our first taste of Turin didn’t disappoint.

Italian breakfast, where it’s all about coffee, sweet pillowy soft freshly baked pastries and conviviality has become our favourite. We’ve been eating cornetti alla crema together again and enjoying this little pleasure in life more than in the past.

Our morning routine in Turin varied slightly: after a couple of coffees, la spremuta di arancia and cornetto we would walk to Guido Gobino for a rich and thick hot chocolate. Usually we would order a classic hot chocolate with whipped cream, or with a dollop of home made gianduia spread.

Another way of starting the day in Turin was to begin with a glass or two of bicerin, and then make our way to Farmacia del Cambio for a cappuccino and some of the best pastries we ever had. I’ve tried bicerin at a few coffee shops so far, and the one I’ve enjoyed the most belongs to Caffè Al Bicerin, exactly where it was born. The recipe is a safely treasured little secret. In order to obtain a good bicerin you have to combine three main ingredients: caffè, hot chocolate and crema di latte, all of which have to be of a very good quality. The hot chocolate is cooked patiently for hours in particular copper pots according to the „ricetta antica”, a special light and aromatic blend of the coffee must be selected to follow the original recipe, which has been passed down through the generations. Once the bicerin arrives on the table, the instructions will follow: don’t stir it, just sip it as it is. And that is exactly how we had two generous bicerin to start „our breakfast alla Torinese”. It may seem marginally excessive, but Turin is the city of chocolate, of traditions that I love and greatly enjoy. It wasn’t the time to count calories or feel guilty, moreover, it was very cold in January, we walked a lot only building our appetite for more.

We truly had a wonderful stay. On the first evening we were warmly welcomed by Fulvia, who started by giving us a tour around the historic centre and drove us to beautifully lit Monte Dei Cappuccini across the river Po, to admire the fascinating panorama of Turin. Slightly chilly and with red noses we all came back to our hotel for a super quick change into black dresses as we were meeting Michele for an elegant aperitivo followed by a birthday dinner at Arcadia restaurant (right next to Caffè Baratti&Milano). A very elegant venue with high ceilings, a timeless atmosphere and a very curated local cuisine. Perfect start to savouring Turin.

I must confess, after having lived in Rome, Venice and Florence, travelling a fair bit across Italy, it was so refreshing to eat in a restaurant and hear no other language but Italian. It didn’t happen in every single place we went to as you can imagine, the most „international” restaurants were the ones listed in the Michelin Guide, and they made their way onto the list for all the right reasons.

Turin is known to have been one of the greatest capitals of Italian industry. Whilst the memory of Fiat is slowly fading away, the name of Ganni Agnelli, a perfect example of discipline, charm and sprezzatura is still alive and growing stronger. La sprezzatura is an Italian word for something that is actually hard to categorise or define fully: it’s an elegance without showing almost any effort, nothing is overdone as if it always comes naturally, a nonchalance, that very few posses, and many want to achieve.

Nowadays the city tries to find its perfect balance between tourism, attracting new investment, creating employment, maintaining high levels of culture and education. It’s also extremely rich in green public spaces and by being located at the foot of a hill, it’s lazily cuddled by the longest Italian river, the Po.

Turin is a city of arcades, a historical and architectural heritage, made in different styles and of different materials. An 18 km stretch of the history, grandeur and elegance (12.5 km are interconnected). With the play of lights and shadows they make for a majestic setting of the salotto-like city of Turin. Just take a walk along Via Roma, then cross Piazza San Carlo (where the iconic red lit Martini sign hangs) all the way up to Piazza Castello. Next turn on Via Po and walk straight to the vast Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to be able to experience the sheer scale of this symbol of Turin and to feel like if almost entering a bygone era.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Piedmont and we’ve travelled to this region during various seasons of the year. Without a shadow of a doubt colder months are the most magical for me. Perhaps by paying a visit in January, and experiencing both sunny and very cold days as well as misty, sombre and atmospheric ones, I’ve found myself to be the happiest. I absolutely love the hot chocolate and sipping bicerin culture, the most suitable time for me to do this are the colder days of the year.

But my soft spot goes beyond the hot chocolate and coffee, it’s the wine and the manicured hills that make the wine alive and of a distinctive character, it’s my firm favourite vitello tonnato, thinly sliced cooked veal with lashings of tuna sauce (the version I make at home you can find here), brasato al vino– slowly cooked beef in a local red wine, then there are the peppers served with anchovies or an anchovy sauce, decadently rich in egg yolks tajarin pasta, or silky smooth panna cotta, or a creamy rich amaretti and cocoa custard called bunet. To name just a few. Oh, then there are the hazelnuts, the best ones in Italy. I have brought a new supply of hazelnuts back home with me and I’ll be baking (I think as soon as I finish this post) my forever favourite chestnut cream and hazelnut tart.

Before I list a few restaurants that we truly enjoyed and are hoping to dine at again, let me tell you a few words about „Fulvia’s risotto”.

One Sunday afternoon we drove with Fulvia and Michele over the hills of Turin up to Basilica di Superga. Our friends now live on one of the hills in their lovely family house with frescos, little church (yes, a church, not a chapel) and a red brick cantina below the house. We had our Sunday dinner at their house with Fulvia’s deft cooking, Michele’s wine entertainment and Ruggero’s help to lay the table. A fabulous meal with great food, wine, Michele mother’s hazelnut tart and each others company, all the main ingredients of an unforgettable evening. I definitely will not forget about the pumpkin and sausage rice dish (almost like a risotto but not quite) seasoned with cinnamon that Fulvia made.

When possible I bring back home a very particular Bra sausage, produced only in the city of Bra. It’s thin and rolled in circles, sold per weight, and it’s meant to be eaten raw, consumed within a two or three day window. I brought 1 kg of the sausage back. I used roughly three quarters of it, combined with minced veal, for a ragù to be tossed with tajarin or tagliolini pasta, and the rest I left for the risotto, my interpretation of Fulvia’s dish.

First I baked in the oven delica pumpkin sliced into half moons.
I opened a brand new pack of carnaroli rice and proceeded as with any risotto: I fried finely chopped onion in a mixture of olive and butter until it softened, then I added the rice and waited, until every grain of the rice got warm. Then I poured in some white wine and waited, until it almost evaporated but not completely! Next I tossed in the crumbled Bra sausage, started adding small quantities of warm light chicken stock along with pieces of the baked pumpkin. Somewhere in between I was adding ground cinnamon (be generous) and waited until the rice turned al dente and the dish creamy enough. You could stop here, but if you choose to follow the risotto making process fully, turn the heat off and energetically stir in some cubed cold butter and grated Grana Padano cheese, the process called mantecatura.
Wait two minutes and serve the risotto, always alla onda (a dense creamy consistency) and accompanied by a glass of red wine.

Find your favourite raw sausage and have fun in the kitchen, make it your own risotto with personalised ingredients.

When in Turin try:


-Guido Gobino



Bicerin at Caffè Al Bicerin

Before dinner have an aperitivo, usually presented with a delightful array of nibbles.

Eat at:

Ristorante Consorzio, a very particular and creative journey through the regional food of Piedmont, I also loved the stripy pink-red tablecloths

Magazzino 52, an informal but of great quality and style eatery, with a vast and particular, well curated wine list

Tre Galline, a traditional and sophisticated establishment in Torino. I’ve wanted to eat there since my friend in Rome told me about it years back, and it was so worth the wait. Their famous bagna càuda is a must try, and it’s best shared: it comes almost overflowing with a generous selection of cooked and raw vegetables, as well as carne cruda (raw meat)

L’ Ancora– for the seafood lovers

Arcadia, next to Barrati & Milano, for an elegant and traditional meal as well as an impeccable old fashioned Italian service