Slope off for dinner in Turin

Truffles, cream, tender beef, pasta dumplings... Turin has it all. Caroline Stacey says the most important thing any visitor can take to the Winter Olympics host city is a hearty appetite

The Fiat Cinquecento, Martini, Nutella, Barolo, Lavazza coffee, white truffles, Ferrero Rocher, the Slow Food movement, a holy shroud and Antonio Carluccio: when it comes to great inventions and exports the north Italian region of Piedmont and its capital, Turin, beat entire countries hands down.

The most important thing any visitor to Turin should take is an appetite. Like every other region of Italy, the birthplace of the Risorgimento - the movement that united the country - has its particular culinary specialities. Turin is almost as far from the sea as anywhere in Italy, yet anchovies, preserved for travelling inland, are one of the ingredients of Antonio Carluccio's regional favourites, bagna cauda. Anchovies, garlic and butter make up the pungent hot dip for raw vegetables, uniting winter diners together round the flame that keeps the dip hot.

Risotto alla Piemontese consists of nothing but rice, butter, white wine and white truffle, the fabled fungus that nestles in tree roots in Piedmont's high woods. Nothing more perfectly illustrates the Piedmontese art of combing comforting sustenance with simple luxury. Another fortifying winter dish is the local fondue: cream, egg yolks and fontina, one of several cheeses from the Valle d'Aosta, all, again, scented with truffle.

At the splendid 18th-century Ristorante del Cambio, couples murmur appreciatively over the classical Piedmont cooking - exceptional agnolotti pasta dumplings, and the tenderest beef - in the mirrored dining room. And there under a glass dome on a table in the centre of the room sits a trophy truffle, unprepossessing but displayed as if it had the dazzle of a priceless diamond.

Magnificently baroque Turin, the region's smoothly running engine, doesn't have instant charm. The way to warm to it is by discovering its historic cafés, sanctuaries from the coldest winter days, tucked under the porticoes of the Piazzas Castello and San Carlo.

As well as the fortifying portions of food, cups of hot chocolate help keep out the cold. Turin is famous for chocolate, especially combined with the hazelnuts that grow in the Piedmont woods - hence Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and at the top end, the exquisite gianduiotto pralines. Guido Gobino is a backstreet chocolatier where, behind the chic display of hand-made chocolates, hoppers of hazelnuts and vats of the molten stuff combine into gold-foil wrapped giandujottino tourinot. The truly chocolate-fixated can follow several city trails, taking in shops such as Gerla and Peyrano on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. In March the Cioccolatò chocolate festival takes place all over the city.

Al Bicerin is where the thick hot chocolate drink, bicerin was born. The wood-panelled café in the cobbled medieval Piazza della Consolata could be the backdrop for all those movie moments when a priest downs an espresso then takes off on his Vespa. Antonio Carluccio heads to Al Bicerin like a homing pigeon when he returns to Turin. The choice of heavenly cafés is, in fact, so great that if you're determined to fit in as many of them as possible, time spent looking for Marilyn Monroe's shoes in the Museo Nazionale del Cinema might seem extravagant. Nip into the museum, in the Mole Antonelliana, just to be awe-struck by the lift and the scope of the exhibits - film sets, cameras, props, posters. But it's just as impressive from the outside; the slender spire on what was originally built as a synagogue is Turin's highest monument.

The city has more than its share of contemporary art. But the one gallery I wouldn't have missed is the Pinacoteca Giovanni and Marella Agnelli, housed in architect Renzo Piano's container-like eyrie suspended above the former Fiat factory at Lingotto. The collection of only 25 works includes Canalettos, Manets, a handful of Matisse paintings, and fittingly, Italian Futurists like Balli. Le Corbusier considered the 1930s building, once Europe's largest factory, a masterpiece of industrial architecture; now it's a hotel, mall, leisure complex, and exhibition space. There's still a test driving circuit on the factory roof.

Before motor industry testosterone kicked in, Al Bicerin was run by women. Another of the most famous cafès, Baratti & Milano, was also where young ladies felt at home. With its orange tablecloths, flowery painted glass panels, and the counter selling coloured sweets called rosolio, it remains far more feminine than Cafè Mulassano.

At Caffè San Carlo, statues of nymphs in flowing gowns survey a white table-clothed buffet table laden with antipasti. Many of the cafés turn into bars come the evening. Another buffet table at the art nouveau Caffè Platti, stomping ground of the haute bourgeoisie, is known for its stuzzichini, an antipasti selection offered free with aperitivi.

A plaque on Piazza Castello marks the spot where white wine blended with herbs and spices became vermouth. Martini was followed by Campari, Cinzano, and the driest of them all, Punt e Mes. Even teetotalers can join the aperitivi scene. Alcohol-free Aperol has the bitter orangey taste of a grown-up appetite sharpener.

In Turin, drinking aperitivi and putting away the free canapés that are offered with them, is a tradition that can turn dinner into an irrelevance. Being British, it's hard not to approach the nibbles like a Garfunkel's salad bar, helping yourself to all you can eat because it's included in the price of drinks. Italians would never do anything as unseemly. Vineria Tre Galli, an offshoot of the Tre Gallini restuarant, has beautifully arranged wooden platters of salumerie and cheeses, bruschetta and tramezzini (small sandwiches), even home-made crisps that are a prelude to dinner.

"Italy is parochial," admits Antonio Carluccio, who as a visiting expatriate doesn't always relish some of Turin's culinary innovation. At Combal 0, Davide Scabin turns every trick in the avant garde chef's book. The setting - a glass box on the outer wall of the Castello di Rivoli - is stunning. This, one of the dozen royal palaces in and around Turin, is 12km outside the city and a dramatic conversion with sheets of glass between the castle walls has turned it into a contemporary art gallery. Combal 0 mirrors the castle conversion. Bare tables, Japanese crockery and an endless procession of foams, jellies, seaweed and deconstructed, miniature versions of the familiar dishes like vitello tonnato. Nothing is straightforward. Food comes in containers as varied as a phial and a baked-on terracotta shell, which must be smashed to get at the contents. Those who complete the marathon tasting menu are rewarded with a helium balloon tied to their chair. It is not Carluccio's idea of Piedmontese gastronomy.

For that, go to the lovely Gardenia even further from the city. The Michelin-starred restaurant in an elegantly converted farmhouse in the Canavese wine region. Highlights of a lunch with winter sun streaming through the windows from the vine-entwined terrace included a cardoon soufflé with bagna cauda sauce, truffles and courgette flowers, intensely yellow pasta with duck liver sauce, and a zabaglione. And not far away, on the route up to the Alps, the unintentionally shabby chic Castello di Agliè is reassuring evidence that not everything in and around Turin has been titivated for the Winter Olympics.



Turin is served by British Airways (0870 850 9850; from Gatwick (and, exceptionally for the Winter Olympics, Heathrow); Ryanair (0906 270 5656; from Stansted; and easyJet (0905 821 0905; from Luton. You can buy an "offset" from Climate Care (01865 207 000;; the environmental cost of a return flight from London to Turin, in economy class, is calculated to be £5. The cash is used to fund sustainable energy and reforestation projects. Alternatively, travel by rail via Paris; the journey time is under 10 hours.


Ristorante del Cambio, Piazza Carignano 2 (00 39 011 54 6690).

Guido Gobino, Via Cagliari 15B (00 39 011 247 6245;

Al Bicerin, Piazza della Consolata 5 (00 39 011 436 9325;

Barratti & Milano, Piazza Castello 29 (00 39 011 440 7138).

Caffè Mulassano, Piazza Castello 15 (00 39 011 547 990).

Caffè San Carlo, Piazza San Carlo 156 (00 39 011 53 2586;

Caffè Platti, Via Vittorio Emanele II 72 (00 39 011 506 3056;

Tre Galli, Via San Agostino 25 (00 39 011 521 6027).

Posto, Via LaGrange 34 (00 39 011 566 0709).

Caffè San Tommaso, Via San Tommaso 10 (00 39 011 53 42 01).

Combal. 0, Castelo di Rivoli (00 39 011 956 5225).

Gardenia, Corso Torino 9, Caluso (00 39 011 983 2249).


Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Via Montebello 20 (00 39 011 812 56 58;; 9am-8pm daily except Mon (to 11pm on Sat), €5.20 (£3.70).

Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Via Nizza 230, Lingotto (00 39 011 006 2713;; 10am-7pm daily except Mon, €4 (£3).

Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art (00 39 011 956 5222; Open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Thursday, until 9pm Friday-Sunday; €6.50 (£4.60).

Castello di Agliè, Piazza Castello 1, Agliè (00 39 012 433 0102;; 8.30am-6.30pm daily ex Mon, €4 (£3).


Italian State Tourist Board (020-7408 1254;

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'