Even though I make it up to Torino at least once every two years, I never get to do and see as much as I’d like. The thing is, I head north to visit to the Salone del Gusto. Which means that I spend almost all of my time out at the Lingotto fair grounds, tasting my way through as many of the 1000 stands, exhibitors, workshops and food producers as possible.
It’s great. I love it. Don’t get me wrong.
But some of my favorite things about Torino often remain off my grid. At the end of the day I never have time to hang out in the center of town.
Which is why I went up a couple of days early this year, to pack in as much chocolate, plin, Baroque churches and museums as possible.
At the top of my list? Bicerin. On a rainy, cold afternoon, Sophie and I happily made our way to what has got to be the coziest bar not only in Italy, but in Europe.
Two years ago I had to make do with sating my bicerin craving at the Salone. This year I made sure I got the real thing, in its birthplace. Bicerin, a pocket-sized coffee shop that first opened its doors in the 18th century, hasn’t been touched since the 19th century. Polished wood paneling covers the walls, marble cafe tables stand in front of red velvet banquets, and delicious cakes and pastries perch on pedestals in a glass fronted cabinet.
There is never a question about what to order. Just look at any of handful of marble tables and you will see each and every one is topped by a goblet containing the shop’s speciality and namesake: Bicerin.
This wonderful concoction, which has become the signature drink of the entire city, was actually created here in this tiny bar. The drink is a mixture of hot chocolate and espresso, topped with a thick layer fresh cream. Although you can get it in other places, the exact recipe for this one remains a secret. The precise mixture and proportions of bitter chocolate and strong coffee merge perfectly and uniquely. The cream, which is barely whipped to thicken, hovers on top, meant to be stirred in a bit at a time.
Sophie and I lingered over our treats, sipping and stirring and watching the Torinese come and go and do the same for about 45 minutes. We finally gathered up our umbrellas and headed out the door, across the rain-slicked piazza to visit the jewel-like Church of the Consolata.
My only regret? That we didn’t also get the Zabione. Made to order with Marsala and fresh eggs and cream, it’s served with home made lady fingers.
But then again, I know I’ll be going back in two years. Bicerin will still be there. And so will I.
Piazza della Consolata 5
8:30 – 7:30pm