Bordered by France and Switzerland, Piedmont is the birthplace of Slow Food. The regional capital, Turin, exudes charm, elegance and culture, yet it is often overlooked by tourists. Italy’s ﬁrst capital in 1861, home to the royal House of Savoy and the headquarters of FIAT, it boasts outstanding Italian cafès, expansive boulevards, Baroque and Neo-classic masterpieces.
But, there is one particularly indulgent aspect to Turin that no self-respecting food fan can fail to revel in. Turin is famous for its chocolate and cafè-pasticcerie. Much of Italy’s chocolate is crafted here. Whether it comes in bars, bitesize pieces, in liquid form or as works of chocolate art, the renowned gianduia and gianduiotti were invented here. Gianduia, is a silky blend of chocolate and hazelnuts shaped into triangular forms and when wrapped in gold it is called gianduiotti.
Here, you will find chocolate and coffee appearing together in liquid and solid variations, a superb companion to Piedmont dolci. Bignole (cream puffs), full of sweet smelling creams and covered with coloured icing; torta di nocciole (hazelnut cake); baci di dama or Lady’s kisses (bite-sized hazelnut cookies with chocolate filling) and; amaretti (Italian almond macaroons) will strike you with their artful arrangements in shop windows, beckoning passersby to come in and taste.
Strolling through the city centre, under large porticos and along the Po riverbank, there is something of a Parisian feel. You get to soak up an endless number of bakeries, sweet shops and coffee bars sprinkling the cobblestone streets. Not far from the central train station are some of the best venues to indulge in Turin’s culinary delights. What better way to spend a day or two than tasting your way from historic bar to confetteria, immersing yourself in la dolce vita like the Torinesi. But, like anywhere unfamiliar, a little bit of inside knowledge can set you on the right tasting track and ensure a memorable experience.
Bakeries and sweet shops to Visit
Guido Gobino, Via Lagrange,1 Guido Gobino is the DOC of Turin chocolates. This stylish boutique was renovated in 2003. Warm wood accents, sleek packaging and a chic staff greet you with a smile. In-the-know Turinese, nip in for luscious artisan chocolate and specialty coffee. Top ingredients like Tonda Gentile delle Langhe – hazelnuts of Protected Geographical Indication. A selection of the best cocoa, milk and cocoa butter result in the most creamy and nutty gianduiotti to be devoured in Turin. Try its artfully created cousins; smaller in size, the 5 gram “Giandujottino Torinot” and “Giandujottino Torinot Maximo” are the perfect portion of bright sweetness. Call ahead for a private degustazione di cioccolato (chocolate tasting) in the tasting room – an experience not to be missed!
Caffetteria Baratti & Milano, PIazza Castello, 29 Opened in 1875 in the heart of Turin, this caffè-pasticceria, is private and majestic. Attentive waiters attend to a clientele that includes tastefully dressed shoppers, nearby university students and visitors, all sipping espressos and nibbling on freshly made petit fours. Cestini di frutta, minature baskets of buttery pastry cradling cream and topped with bright berries are a fruit explosion.
Stratta, PIazza san Carlo, 191 Situated on the renowned Piazza San Carlo, Confetteria Stratta first opened its doors in 1836. Alluring shop windows showcase pastries, chocolates and marrons glacés adorned with candied violet flowers. Bon bons of exotic gusti made Stratta, a coveted “Supplier of the Royal Family” and one of Turin’s highly valued artisan sweetshops. Rows of pastel coloured grani speziati (spice-infused sugar droplets) and petal shaped disks fill shiny glass cases. Unexpected hints of rosemary, fennel, and lavender dissolve on your tongue leaving a syrupy coating. Stratta’s homemade gelées are a powerful burst of strawberries, apricots and pears. Stop by the recently added coffee bar which is a hit with sophisticated locals. Businessmen in crisp-tailored suits and classically dressed women partake in morning cappuccinos and an afternoon marocchino (espresso with a dash of hot milk and cacao powder). The bitter arabica-Ethiopian coffee blend is a wonderful complement to the rich desserts.
Pasticceria Ghigo, Via Po, 52 Nearby in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Pasticceria Ghigo was founded in 1870 as a milk and cheese shop. It wasn’t long before these dairy masters developed their sought after panna (whipped cream) and added pastries to the list of gourmet delights. Longstanding customers cue for hot chocolate and coffee drinks topped with a dollop of velvety goodness. Pull up a seat at an outdoor table under the wide arching porticos of Via Po and nosh on chocolate stuffed zeppole (miniature doughnuts), chantilly cream pastries and tiny, airy bignole (cream puffs).
A. Giordano Torino, PIazza Carlo Felice, 69
Winner of the 2011-12 “Maestro del Gusto” (teacher of taste) award, A.Giordano Torino has been producing chocolates since 1897. Conceived by the Turin Chamber of Commerce with Slow Food, each winner is evaluated on taste, authenticity and hygenic standards. Mirrored walls, brown and white marble countertops and a glass chandelier enrich this charming antique store. Traditional Turinese sweets are the specialities. Eaten with toast or by the spoonful, crema al nocciola (hazelnut spread) has a unique taste of sweet toasted Piedmont hazelnuts.
Cremini al caffè, luscious gianduia paste dipped in white chocolate and garnished with a candy coffee bean are a luxurious treat. Smooth and buttery, each Giordano Gianduiotti Artigianale clings to its gold wrapping and melts in your mouth.
This warm and cheerful historical café, like many others, started as a chocolate producer.
Caffè al Bicerin
PIazza della Consolata, 5 Not to be missed, this cafè has been in continuous operation since 1763. Tucked away on a romantic piazza, enter the warm intimate “Caffè al Bicerin” and be transported back in time. Nietzsche and Cavour are counted among its memorable regular clients who spent many afternoons drinking the popular Turinese beverage for which this locale is named. The bicerin, a traditional hot potion made of espresso, hot chocolate and light cream, is robust and satisfying. Order a slice of torta di nocciola (hazelnut cake) to enjoy beside this decadent drink.
Venchi Via GIuseppe GarIbaldI, 22B Silvano Venchi opened his first confectionary outlet in 1878 in Turin. Modern décor and an array of chocolate treats stock shop shelves. From the classic Gianduiotti to dark chocolate covered candied berries, this is a chocolate lover’s paradise. Savour the smooth, comforting, hot gianduia served in shot-sized glasses at the counter.
Roma Gia talmone, PIazza Carlo Felice, 36
This warm and cheerful historical café, like many others, started as a chocolate producer. Pastries and tramezzini (sandwiches) are served at old fashioned counters. Its cakes are unmissable, perched on round, transparent pedestals. Giandiotto and pistachio are only a few among the specialties. Made to order or served by the slice, moist and golden Chantilly cake is garnished with fresh berries and ribbons of dark chocolate. Pull up a chair and delight in a piece of heaven.