Eating Turin

We spent Christmas in Italy this year. Needless to say we stuffed our faces, from my mother-in-law’s scrummy fritto misto (fried thin slices of beef, chicken, aubergine, artichoke, mushroom and courgette) on the first day,

to the Christmas day spread including insalata russa, prawns in pastry and stuffed ham rolls,

to vitello tonnato (thin slices of veal in a creamy tuna sauce) on January 1st (sorry, no photo).

But we also drove a couple of hours north to Turin for two days (with baby but without kids, who stayed with their grandparents). I’d heard that Turin was an elegant, pleasant city to walk around, kind of like Vienna with its smart boulevards and wide squares, but I was also attracted by the idea of visiting Eataly. If I was disappointed when I finally got there, it was only because I’d got slightly the wrong idea about what kind of place it was. For some reason I was expecting something more along the lines of a permanent exhibition with stands, demonstrations, tastings and so forth. What it actually is is a large, very classy and well stocked supermarket with the best produce from all over the peninsula, both fresh

and tinned

Each different section (meat, fish, cheese, pasta, fruit and veg) also has a ristorantino where you can order from a small selection of featured products to eat then and there.

I ordered a fiorentina steak which was tender and juicy and enormous.

I also had probably the best hot chocolate of my life. It was dark and thick and velvety and I wanted to marry it.

Eataly is also home to a Michelin-starred restaurant which we were keen to visit. What the website had failed to tell us was that it was closed until mid-January. We bought several books for ourselves, friends and children, plus a handy guide to seasonal eating.

Another of Turin’s claims to gastro-fame is its café culture. Many of the central squares are home to palatial coffee houses serving coffee, hot chocolate and bicerin (a local recipe mixing coffee, cream and chocolate) to the beautiful people (and me).

The place where bicerin was invented, Al Bicerin, was a little hard to get into

so we opted for the larger and more central Baratti e Milano.

I also bought some of their chocolate liqueurs

and we were honoured to sit at a table near famous Italian politician Piero Fassino (at far right).

One final culinary curiosity: Genoa is full of bakeries selling its famous focaccia. So what did we find when we went north to Turin? Almost every street had a bakery selling “Genoese focaccia”, as if it were some exotic foreign delicacy.