Turin, the capital city of Piedmont, is a city rich in history and traditions. Food include a great variety of delicacies prepared with meat, cheese and vegetables, but also handmade pasta and risotti. Moreover, we love pairing food with incredible red and white wines, dry or sparkling as well as liquors and cocktails. You can taste all these delicacies in family run bistrot or in fancy restaurants. But also in bars, pubs and cafeterias.
Every 2 years, SlowFood organizes in Turin Terramadre, an International Food Festival. But you do not have to wait it to eat at least once all the preparations that Turin and Piedmont can offer. So, save this list and start planning your visit!
1. Appetizers as aperitif
Turin is famous for aperitif, a drink served with appetizers before a meal. Many bars and cafeterias serve rich aperitifs with a huge variety of cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, olives, anchovies. Focaccia, bread or the renowned grissini, breadsticks, that are difficult to find outside Piedmont often pair all the different appetizers.
Appetizers might recall the Spanish tapas; the difference is that here they are not on single plates or bowls. Moreover, you do not pay the single “tapa”. Generally, you pay an amount for the first drink (10/15/20euros depending on the place) and have access to all appetizers.
2. Turin and Piedmont are the reign of incredible cheeses
This region boasts a long tradition of cheese production. I really recommend to try Castelmagno, Toma, Raschera, Robiola di Roccaverano and Murazzano. Restaurateurs can serve cheese as appetizers or as a second dish. Try them with honey or with Cugna, a particular jam made with apples and nuts cooked in the wine must.
3. Raw meat
Turin and Piedmont are famous for raw meat which sometimes horrified people coming from other regions. The red meat generally comes from a local breed of cow called Fassona. Its is prepared with oil, lemon or parmesan cheese, depending on the different preparations. Cut in thin slices, it takes the name of Albese, from the city of Alba. We call it tartare when it is minced and generally prepared with a knife.
Also this delicacy comes in small portions as appetizer or in bigger portions as second dish.
Agnolotti is a type of handmade fresh pasta stuffed with meat. The recipe can also include local produce like truffles, vegetables or cheese. But the traditional are made with meat and served with the sauce of the roast beef, that we call brasato. Some cooks love using Barolo wine to prepare the sauce and served this incredible dish. They are also amazing with broth, which is generally served the day after Christmas.
In some really traditional restaurants of the Langhe area, agnolotti can be served in a napkin. This recalls the traditions of workers who who used to bring their lunch at work in the past.
5. Ravioli and ravioli del Plin
Ravioli is sometimes used as synonym of Agnolotti. Frankly speaking I have never understood if they differ for shape or ingredients. They also can be filled with meat, cheese, vegetables and even fish.
When they are very small and closed by a pinch made with the fingers they take the name of plin, pinch in Piedmontese dialect.
Tajarin are a type of pasta that recalls spaghetti and tagliatelle. They are very thin, hand made and served fresh with different types of sauce, cheese or grated truffles. Truffles are very expensive especially the white ones from Alba. Generally you pay the numbers of times you grate truffles on the plate. Expect to read the price of truffles per scratch. Also, wait for the waiter to ask you how many scratches, grattate, do you want on your plate.
Meat is the great protagonist of the second dish. In Piedmont we often cook it with wine. Arrosto, in English roast beef is generally present in all restaurants. It can be served with vegetables, baked potatoes or even with polenta, a sort of savory pudding prepared with corn.
If you go to a Pizzeria in Turin or all around Piedmont, you might find farinata in the menu as appetizer. We generally take one or two dishes of farinata to share. This sort of flat bread is prepared with oil and chickpea flour. Piedmont shares this tradition with the seaside region of Liguria.
One of the most famous Italian dessert comes from Piedmont. Although Venice claims that tiramisu was invented there, the recipe, which recalls that of Austrian sweets, has Savoiardi biscuits. And Savoiardi, which take their name from the royal family and the area that once was in Piedmont, are original of this region!
To cut a long story short: we invented cupcakes or finger food. More precisely: small desserts that the Royal family could eat in just one bite without getting dirty. Pasticcerias, bars, cafeterias sell small sweets and we generally buy them on a tray to bring home. They are not common in restaurants, but you can definitely sit in a cafeteria, order a coffee or any other traditional drink and order a few of them. Go to the counter and choose your favorite. Include one or two chantilly, which look like a biscuit ball filled with whipped cream and a little biscuit hat on top.