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.


14 thoughts on “Eating Turin

  1. Erik R. January 5, 2010 / 1:53 pm

    You forgot to link to me for insalata russa like the Wikipedia article does. 🙂

    I could go for some velvety hot chocolate right about now. I might not marry it though.

    Also, for some reason I’m craving some tinned tomatoes.


    • simonlitton January 5, 2010 / 2:06 pm

      But Erik, this is insalata russa, not ensaladilla rusa. Not the same thing AT ALL. 😉


  2. Laura January 5, 2010 / 2:08 pm

    I’m surprised they let you back into Belgium with talk like that – Chocolate traitor!


    • simonlitton January 5, 2010 / 2:10 pm

      Let’s be clear, Italians will never make pralines or other kinds of chocolates as well as the Belgians do, but up in Piedmont they certainly know how to brew a good mug of drinking chocolate.


      • Laura January 5, 2010 / 2:11 pm

        Nicely saved.

        I quite like Cadburys, myself.


  3. Scott January 5, 2010 / 4:17 pm

    I’m a bit ashamed that I recognize the girl on the tinned tomato label — she’s been lifted straight out of this 1953 Art Frahm painting (probably NSFW).

    I see that the tomato people have changed two trademark elements that show up in most of Frahm’s similar paintings (also probably NSFW): they’ve removed the celery from her grocery bag (replacing all her groceries with more tinned tomatoes, it looks like), and they’ve cropped out her ankles (and the, um, garments around them).


    • Erik R. January 5, 2010 / 4:24 pm

      That’s fantastic!

      Note how Frahm places the mirror and the driver’s eyes so that the driver is simultaneously able to look at the maiden’s crotch and breasts. Brilliant!


    • simonlitton January 5, 2010 / 4:32 pm

      Whoa. The recurrent celery and open purse motifs are fascinating.
      I also wonder how many people will find that photo on flickr through the “upskirt” tag I added…


  4. J January 6, 2010 / 3:34 am

    Looks like you had a FABULOUS time! That steak is big enough to be American! I do love your photos, though they tend to make me hungry.

    You asked about my meal in Paris…I posted on it back in ’05 when I started blogging. The spelling sucks. Did blogger not have a spell check, or did I just not turn it on? I don’t know. Either way, here it is, sans gorgeous pictures.


  5. J January 6, 2010 / 3:36 am

    BTW, I meant to compliment you on being smart enough to marry your wife, with a mother-in-law that cooks like that! Good job!


  6. Di January 11, 2010 / 1:01 pm

    It is an exotic foreign delicacy, one I’d love everyday but I can see the people of Torino know what they’re doing with the focaccia.

    Sigh, shouldn’t have read this at lunchtime.


  7. fionalynne January 11, 2010 / 3:22 pm

    How do you manage to take such good food photos in restaurants and cafes? I am always so (English)embarrassed that it’s usually fuzzy, yellowish and from the oddest angle you can imagine…


    • simonlitton January 11, 2010 / 3:39 pm

      Thanks. I’m not immune to the “fuzzy yellowish” curse myself, as you can see here. In the case of the café in Turin, it’s quite a famous place and loads of people were taking photos, so I didn’t feel too self-conscious. And I’m learning to work wth my white balance settings to get rid of the colour cast. But I still try to avoid using the flash, so as not to call too much attention to myself.


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