Lunch at Caffe Torino, Turin, Italy
Caffè Torino became a favourite haunt on my first trip to Turin last September. It’s situated in Piazza San Carlo in the heart of the city. This beautiful piazza – square – was built in the early 1600s. Caffè Torino was opened in 1903. With its Belle Epoque interior it offers a glimpse of a glamorous bygone age when film stars like Ava Gardner, James Stewart and Brigitte Bardot frequented the café.
I ate lunch there twice during my recent trip – two different kinds of lunch. On Saturday, with a table booked for an evening meal at Tre Galli, I wanted just a snack lunch. At home and away, I prefer to eat something light at lunchtime and have my main meal in the evening. I headed to Caffè Torino and sat outside at one of the tables in the galleria. This is a great place to enjoy the view across the piazza and watch the world go by.
I could see people were being given little plates of snacks as happens at aperitivo time in Italy. Aperitivo is a wonderful Italian institution of offering a plate of gorgeous little snacks at what we in UK would call Happy Hour, usually between about 5-7pm. In Italy you order a drink and snacks come with it, their quality obviously depending to a large extent on the quality of the bar you are sitting in. I saw in Turin that it appeared aperitivo happened at lunchtime too. I ordered a white wine spritzer and asked the waiter if it came with snacks. It did. So I didn’t order anything else and waited.
It really was just a snack but plenty for me for a light lunch (though I did go to a gelateria for an ice cream afterwards!) and much more special than just a sandwich. My drink cost €7, which is a reasonable price and the snacks were gratis.
One of the problems with going to Turin (as many continental cities) for a Friday to Monday weekend, and which I need to remember for a future trip, is that lots of restaurants and cafés close on Sunday evening and some on Mondays too (many shops are closed on Monday morning, and most of the sights are closed on Monday). Happily, Caffè Torino is open every day from 8am until midnight. I thus decided to go there for my last meal before heading home on Monday afternoon. I didn’t want just a snack this time but more of a meal before heading to the airport so I was directed to their restaurant area once inside.
I wanted a meal but not a huge meal so decided to just have a pasta or risotto with a salad. I chose Risotto al Barolo con Fonduta.
Barolo is one of Italy’s most famous wines and comes from the Piemonte region. And fonduta is an Italian version of fondue. It really was fabulous; a gorgeous flavour. And I liked the fonduta on top. They’d put enough to add a creamy cheese flavour but not too much to overpower the risotto. The rice was cooked to perfection with that famous al dente bite to it but cooked all the way through.
My mixed salad was excellent – a nice variety of ingredients all crisply fresh. It was also quite large and I didn’t eat it all. So I finished my meal with just an espresso. It was a perfect way to end another lovely weekend in Turin.