Turin, located in northern Italy’s Piedmont area, continues to be significantly under-visited, which, in the perspective of slow travelers, is the ideal incentive to go there. Other renowned Italian locations, including Florence, Rome, and Venice, tend to cast a larger shadow over the city. This multi-cultural hidden treasure has so much to offer, including mouthwatering regional Italian food, jaw-dropping beauty, and a rich historical past that is interesting to learn about.
But the region of Piedmont and its capital city, Turin, have much more to offer gourmets than simply mouthwatering risotto dishes, cheeses from the alps, and fragrant truffles. The area is the culinary beating heart for Italian food evangelists as well as the cradle of the slow food movement that originated in Italy.
Regarding the cuisine, the cities of Turin, Alessandria, Alba, Asti, and Bra, along with an infinite number of other little villages, are veritable treasure troves of uncomplicated, natural dishes that are good for the soul. We hope that this introduction to the cuisine of Piedmont and Turin will assist you in gaining a better understanding of one of the most intriguing culinary areas in all of Italy.
ABOUT PIEDMONT AND TURIN, ITALY
Piedmont is a region in northern Italy that may be found to the north of the Ligurian Sea, at the point where Italy’s northwestern arm curves west into the French Riviera. It is true that the territory is Piedmont in between the Alps and the sea, as the name of the region suggests; yet, a tiny portion of land in Liguria prevents access to the water.
Piedmont is encircled by mountain peaks that extend from its border with France to the west all the way north to Switzerland, then fringing the entire northern border of Italy like the fur on a Christmas stocking. Piedmont is located in the embrace of the Italian Alps, which lie nestled in the embrace of the Italian Alps.
It is easy to understand how mountaineering may become a way of life in the Piedmont region, whether you are ascending the mountains, enjoying them from a distance, or tasting the fruits of their abundance. The alpine landscape that can be seen across the region is simply stunning.
And what a treasure trove you’ll unearth… This well-known wine-producing area is home to a wealth of agricultural specializations and has the highest number of classed wines in Italy, with 12 DOCGs and 46 DOCs. Translation? It’s heaven on earth for everyone who loves to eat!
So let’s plunge in.
Turin, also known as Torino in Italian, is the capital of the region of Piedmont. Between the years 1861 and 1865, Turin served as the very first capital of a united Italy. The current population places it as the fourth biggest city in Italy. The urban core of Piedmont is characterized by Turin’s open-air piazzas, art galleries, and museums, and it offers plenty to do for history and art lovers, as well as movie enthusiasts, with attractions such as the Shroud of Turin, the Palazzo Madama, and the Cinema Museum. Turin is also known as the “Pearl of the Alps.”
The city of Turin, which was ruled by the House of Savoy for centuries, has a café culture that is different from the rest of Italy, as does its cuisine, which is heavily influenced by French cuisine.
Torino cuisine, like the cuisine of many other northern Italian areas, is quite unique from the cuisine of the rest of Italy. In addition, Turin is famed for its chocolate, which is the icing on the cake! Since the 16th century, the city has served as the manufacturing hub for chocolate in Europe, and it is still THE destination that every chocolate lover must cross off their list while traveling to Italy.
The Southern Piedmont
However, the Piedmont region is home to a number of more jewels as well. The smaller towns of Alessandria and Asti, which are located south of Turin, each have their own set of features that make them stand out. The annual White Truffle International Fair is held in the town of Alba, which is home to one of the greatest fairs of its kind in the whole world.
In addition, the little community of Bra is recognized as the official origin of Slow Food, an Italian grassroots group that has been working since 1989 to preserve Italy’s traditional cuisine and agriculture on a smaller scale. In addition to that, it plays home to a significant annual Piedmont cheese festival.
Now that you have some background information on Piedmont and Turin, let me provide a very fast primer on the slow food movement before we get into the cuisine of Piedmont (also known as Piemonte) and all the great meals you can enjoy there!
PIEDMONT, BIRTHPLACE OF SLOW FOOD
Carlo Petrini, a political journalist, and activist established the slow food movement in 1989, about the same time as the first McDonald’s restaurant in Italy was scheduled to open near the Spanish steps in Rome. This was received with considerable anger from the people, and many protested against what they regarded to be an insult to tourism and culinary tourism in the Eternal City of Italy, which is Rome.
Petrini was responsible for organizing a significant demonstration and rallying supporters by using bowls of penne pasta rather than banners and posters. The group protested fast food by handing out free spaghetti to pedestrians while yelling anti-fast food chants.
They were not successful in preventing McDonald’s from expanding, but they were able to start a dialogue, which resulted in other talks, and eventually, an organized effort developed into a massive movement.
Today, the group formerly known as Slow Culinary is committed to maintaining the food culture and heritage of local Italian communities, opposing the use of fast food, and raising awareness about the influence that our food choices have on the world around us.
The organization, which uses a snail as its symbol, has its headquarters in the town of Bra in the Piedmont region, and the effort has brought together small-scale farmers and craftsmen to collaborate on projects. The movement has gained traction all over the world, particularly in Europe, and it has led to the establishment of a number of initiatives, including The Presidia and The Ark of Taste, Earth Markets, and The Terra Madre-Mother.
It also gave birth to the slow travel movement, which is a style of travel that we cover on our slow travel blog, Travlinmad. This type of travel advocates traveling slowly and staying put for extended periods of time in a single location in order to have a more immersive experience.
The credo of Slow Food is based on three concepts that are simple yet fundamental:
Produced and prepared with love and attention to detail
Food that has been produced in a manner that is healthy for the environment, encourages biodiversity, and does not disrupt ecosystems is said to be wholesome.
Correct Food: The individuals who create or cultivate the food are paid a wage that is commensurate with the amount of time, effort, and expertise that they provide.
The Slow Food movement is dedicated to the conservation and protection of native animal breeds, heritage seed varieties, and traditional culinary preparations. Additionally, it encourages organic farming and shopping locally in order to provide support for local farmers and craftspeople.
How Can You Embrace The Slow Food Philosophy?
Your upcoming vacation to Italy presents a number of opportunities for you to put the Slow Food concept into practice in many ways.
To get started, make it a point to order foods that are appropriate for the time of year when you go out to eat at restaurants.
Consume foods produced in your area, show your support for local farmers and growers, and look for opportunities to engage in slow food activities whenever you can.
Look through the Osterie d’Italia list that Slow Food has compiled of osterias and trattorias that are committed to the concept of serving only locally sourced, sustainably farmed food when you are trying to decide where to dine.
As a last piece of advice, keep an eye out for the snail emblem used by Slow Food as a stamp of approval in the windows of restaurants.
PIEDMONT FOOD GUIDE
The mountains of the Alps, the lush green hills of the Langhe, and the fertile Po valley all combine to provide the area of Piedmont with a rich and diverse culinary legacy that is linked with the influence of adjacent regions. Piedmont is located in the northwestern part of Italy.
To varying degrees, the cuisine and wines of Piedmont, Italy are influenced by the neighboring regions of Liguria (located to the south), France (located to the west), Switzerland (located to the north), and Lombardy and Milan (located to the east). In the end, however, it is due to the fresh ingredients that constitute the building blocks of the indigenous Piedmontese cuisine that it is able to boast such a creative culinary scene.
Let’s begin with the fundamental kinds of cuisine that Piedmont is famous for having.
The first of these traditional Torino dishes is called farinata, and it is an unleavened pancake that is cooked in the oven and produced with gluten-free chickpea flour that has been combined with water, olive oil, and salt. It sounds like a gourmet dish from Sicily or Calabria, doesn’t it? Yet, it is originally from Genoa in Liguria; however, due to its close proximity to Piedmont as well as its connection with the region, it is now considered a traditional dish of Piedmont.
The long, crumble-free, crispbread known as ghersin was the inspiration for the creation of grissini, which literally translates as “breadsticks” in Italian. This traditional dish was first concocted in 1675 by the court doctor and a local baker in an effort to alleviate the persistent intestinal issues experienced by the young Duke of Savoy.
Biovette Piemontesi is bite-sized slices of crispy sea salt bread prepared from wheat, extra virgin olive oil, and various herbs. They come to you from the area of Piedmont in Italy. The delectable treat is a fantastic addition to cheese, ham, and olive paté as an accompaniment.
The Razza Piemontese, also known as the Razza Bovina Piemontese, is a renowned breed of cow that is indigenous to the region of Piedmont in northern Italy. The meat that comes from this creamy white cow has a high degree of taste and is very delicate.
Offal – Turin and all of its surrounding towns in the area take great satisfaction in their custom of eating the complete animal, from the snout all the way down to the tail, with as little of the animal as possible being wasted. Offal and other extremities, including organs such as the brain, kidney, and others, are considered to be regional specialties and may be found in a wide range of recipes.
Delicious freshwater fish are provided by Lake Maggiore to the metropolitan area of Turin and other cities in the Piedmont region of Italy. In spite of the fact that the territory has no access to the sea, it maintains commercial ties with Liguria, which provides Piedmont with pickled and salted fish products such as cod and anchovies.
The Turinese egg pasta known as tajarin is long and slender but otherwise has a flat surface. Because of its robust taste, it is a hit not only with the natives but also with the visitors that visit the area.
Agnolotti is a kind of pillow-shaped pasta that is similar to ravioli in appearance. Agnolotti is often stuffed with roasted meat and vegetables. In contrast to the flat agnolotti, a more curved shape may be achieved by pinching two sheets of pasta together to make the more diminutive form known as agnolotti del pin.
It’s possible that the fact that Piedmont has so many rice fields will come as a pleasant surprise to you. The town of Vercelli, located in northern Piedmont, and the rich Po Valley are responsible for the cultivation of some of the world’s finest types of rice. They may be found in meals like risotto and other classic rice preparations.
The most well-known type that originates from this area is called Arborio, and it is often referred to as “riso Italiano di qualità” (Italian rice of the best quality). It is good for making risotto and soups since it is often broader and longer than it is starchy.
This short-grained species of Italian rice is resistant to overcooking and produces the creamiest risotto possible. Carnaroli has been given the nickname “king” or “caviar” of Italian rice.
Baldo is a very new kind of rice that, in both look and the amount of starch it contains, is quite comparable to arborio. The rice takes the least amount of time to cook, making it ideal for risotto.
The Balilla (Originator) rice variety is the oldest Piedmont-native kind of rice, and it is most often used for making puddings, sweets, and other types of sweet preparation.
The Val Formmaza in Piedmont is the source of the exceptional settlement cheese, which is a kind of soft toma cheese (also known as a farmer’s cheese wheel). This amazing Piedmont cheese is only produced during the warm months of the year since it is crafted from the milk of the local cows and flavored with motto line, a herb that can only be found growing at higher altitudes in the mountains.
Robiola di Roccaverno is a fresh, creamy cheese that gets its name from the town of Roccaverno, where it is produced. Robiola may be prepared from either goat’s or cow’s milk. Cheeses of this kind are often made in the hilly area of Langhe, which is located in the northwestern corner of Italy.
Castelmagno is a semi-hard blue cheese that was initially manufactured in the Grana Valley in the 1200s. It is named after the town of Castelmagno in Italy. This particular kind of cow’s milk cheese is produced only in the Italian province of Cuneo, which is located in the Piedmont area. On occasion, sheep’s or goat’s milk may also be used. The cheese is matured for a period of between two and five months, which serves to accentuate the delicate taste of castelmagno while also making the cheese more robust and astringent.
The cheese known as mascara is a semi-hard kind that is produced using skimmed milk from cows, goats, and sheep. This cheese is historically produced in the province of Cuneo, and it gets its name from Lake Raschera, which can be found at the base of Mount Mongolia.
Pagliarini is a creamy and soft cheese that is created from cow’s milk and is produced in both Cuneo and Turin. It has a thin rind and is known for its creamy texture. It has a taste that is buttery, and sweet, with undertones of almond, and it is aged for ten to twenty days.
Tomino is a silky, light yellow paste on the inside that is prepared from cow’s milk. Its origin may be traced back to the region of Piedmont in Italy. When the cheese is young, it has a scent of milk, but as it ages, that perfume gets more pronounced. This cheese is tiny and circular.
Pasticceria mignon may also be prepared in the shape of bignole (small confectionery). It is a little choux pastry that is filled with a variety of cream fillings and curds and served as a bite-sized treat. Lemon, chocolate, pistachios, and hazelnuts are just a few of the varieties that are available.
Torcetti is a popular Italian pastry sweet delicacy. They are prepared from the dough and resemble breadsticks in both flavors and look. Torcetti is often served warm. Before it is baked, it is first rolled in sugar and then bent into the shape of a teardrop.
The world-famous Italian white truffles from Alba may be discovered buried deep below the soil of the Piedmont countryside. These truffles are considered to be among the most precious and delectable items that the area has to offer. They provide an earthy taste to a variety of foods when used in pasta preparations, which is quite useful. They have a flavor that is particularly delicious in the late summer and autumn, which is the typical harvest season. What an outrageously high price! Of certainly, but it is well worth the price.
Nuccio, also known as hazelnuts, are endemic to the Piedmont region of Italy and are an important food source in this area, particularly in Turin. Because of this, Gianduia, a kind of chocolate produced with cocoa and hazelnut, and crema gianduia, which served as the inspiration for Ferrero’s Nutella, came into being. They are also used in the preparation of well-known sweets from the region of Piedmont, such as the hazelnut cake (Torta di Nocciole) and the Torrone nougat.
10 TYPICAL PIEDMONT DISHES AND WHERE TO TRY THEM
1. Bagna Cauda
Piola Da Celso, located at 40 Via Verzuolo in Turin, is widely considered to be one of the city’s finest dining establishments.
Bagna cauda is a kind of sauce that is often served throughout the fall and winter months. It is a velvety sauce that is produced from garlic and anchovies, and it is based on olive oil. The easiest way to take advantage of this sauce is to treat it like fondue and use it as a dip for veggies.
When it is served hot, it is often accompanied by a variety of raw, boiled, or roasted vegetables such as peppers, carrots, and artichokes. It is served in a heat-retaining jot or clay container that is warmed by a candle put below.
Bagne verd is a traditional green sauce that can be found all across the region of Piedmont. It dates back to the medieval times. It is a condiment that is often served over cooked pork or Tomino cheese. It is made by combining ingredients like parsley, garlic, anchovies, egg yolks, bread, olive oil, and vinegar.
3. Vitello Tonnato (Vital Tonné0
Where to Try It: Le Vitel Étonné, Via S. Francesco da Paola, 4, Torino
Vitello Tonnato, also known as Vitel Tonné, is a well-known dish from Piedmont that is made by grilling delicate veal that has been marinated in white wine and then covering it with a sauce made of tuna, anchovies, and capers. The meal, which was first created in the 1700s, is served with slices of lemon, capers, parsley, and anchovies for garnish. This delicacy is a must-have throughout the Christmas season in Piedmont.
4. Finanziera Alla Cavour
Where to Try It: Ristorante del Cambio, Piazza Carignano, 2, Torino
The Piedmontese dish known as financial has its origins in the 18th century and was first created there. It was considered a meal for the working class since it made use of offal and the peels of vegetables; now, this method of preparation is becoming more popular. In the event that you are on the fence about ordering a meal such as this one, you may find it interesting to learn that the Count of Cavour was a fan of this exquisite cuisine and often dined at the Ristorante del Cambio in Turin.
Where to Try It: Giardino da Felicin, Via Vallada, 18 Monforte d’Alba
Traditionally, tajarin, also known as thin angel hair pasta, is used to complement ragu. On the other hand, the Tajarin al Tartufo Bianco d’Alba dish provides the pasta smothered in a simple yet opulent butter sauce that is scented with Alba truffles.
6. Grande Bollito Misto
Where to Try It: Osteria del Borgo, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 19, Carru
A wintertime custom in Piedmont is the consumption of this labor-intensive main dish, which is composed of a wide range of beef and veal cuts in addition to other kinds of meat. It is traditionally served immersed in a savory, blistering hot broth along with a variety of side dishes, vegetables, and condiments such as mostarda di Cremona, baguette Verde, and baguette Rosso.
Try it at Trattoria Antica Torre, which can be found at Via Torino 71 in Barbaresco.
The Piedmont region is known for its packed pasta known as agnolotti. You may also come across the tiny agnolotti del peni. Both types of pasta are commonly packed with a combination of either veal or pig; however, in rural areas, you could encounter varieties that use ground rabbit instead. The basic pasta pouch is typically served with a ragu sauce, in a meat broth, or often in a sauce prepared from butter, sage, and Parmigiano cheese. It may also be eaten in its original form.
Try It at Osteria Dedli Ottoni, located in Via Giuseppe Pomba, 6/D, in the city of Turin
Bonet is a decadent Italian delicacy that has been around since the 13th century. It is created with amaretti cookies or hazelnut biscuits, eggs, cocoa powder, milk, sugar, and rum. Bonet is known for its rich and creamy texture. This delectable dessert is a must-try, and before it is served, a large amount of caramel is drizzled over it.
9. Brasato Al Barolo
Where to locate it: Scannabue, Largo Saluzzo, 25/h, Torino
This traditional dish from Piedmont, which literally translates to “braised in Barolo wine,” calls for a low and slow cooking method to bring out the full, savory flavor of the meat. The preparation technique entails first marinating the beef for a week in wine and fragrant herbs and then cooking the steak until it is tender enough to break apart.
10. Fritto Misto (Fricia)
Fritto Misto, also known as fascia, is an unusual and very addicting deep-fried dessert that may be created with pieces of lamb, veal, chicken, cattle, brains, liver, sweetbread, and mushrooms, artichokes, cheese, apples, pears, and other vegetables. This is the buffet of your dreams if you like nibbling on a variety of foods. Easily accessible across the Piedmont region.
Now you know all there is to know about Piedmont’s regional cuisine, including where to get it!
It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to go to this lush area, which is famous for its wine, chocolate, agriculture, and specialized delicacies. It is quite unlikely that you will have a poor dinner, and the region of Piedmont in Italy is nothing less than a heaven for food lovers just waiting to be discovered.