Wining and dining in Torino

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IlkkaL
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Wining and dining in Torino

#1 Post by IlkkaL » March 31st, 2019, 11:20 am

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Late March and April is a nice time of the year to visit many Central European cities as the temperatures are rising but often the masses of tourists have not yet arrived. Not that I have anything against the Chinese but they just seem to be everywhere nowadays in huge numbers when the season is on. This year we were considering a few different options but in the end it came down to finding good flights and Lufthansa just happened to offer solid connections between Helsinki and Torino (I very much prefer the local name instead of Turin) through Frankfurt and Munich. Weirdly enough we had been all around the northern Italy before without ever dipping a toe in Torino. Changing planes in Frankfurt was hassle-free and easy and after a short Air Dolomiti flight over the Alps (super beautiful!) we arrived in Torino. Booking.com had recently launched a new car service and indeed right after landing I received an SMS saying that our driver is waiting for us in the airport lobby. Very convenient and well-priced, I think.

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To put it short Torino is just our kind of a city: big enough yet with a relaxed feel to it and full of nice restaurants and cafés. Besides a lot of graffitis it is also a very clean and well-maintained city. It is very easy and pleasant to take over the city by walking but there is also a good public transportation system. Our hotel was right next to the Porta Nuova station which felt like an ideal location - we managed to walk to all our dinners. It seemed like every third person was walking a dog - I don't think I've ever seen as much dogs in any other city. This was a positive for us as we love dogs ourselves. Indeed there were not that many other tourists to be seen and we kind of felt like we had the city to ourselves.

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On the east side of the city center there is the river Po and right by it the very pleasant Parco del Valentino. Some blocks south of the park is the original Eataly which we visited. While not the cheapest place the selection of food items is quite remarkable both in terms of variety and quality. For wine buying there are better places, though.

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The Torino Zoo (called 'Zoom') was only partly open but we decided to check it out anyway. The shuttle service will only be operating from next week onwards so we had to take the train from the Porta Susa station and then walk a bit to get there. While our experiences with the public transportation in Torino were otherwise positive this is were it failed us as our train was first 90 minutes later and then finally cancelled. The lack of accurate information was quite horrible for a Finnish person but being in full vacay mood we were in no rush and in the end actually got a in a train that took us to our destination. The zoo did not have nearly all its attractions present but nevertheless we enjoyed our time as it was a whopping 24 degrees Celsius outside that day.

Restaurants

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I was expecting our first restaurant called La Societa dei Carbonari to be an honest, traditional establishment with a no-nonsense approach to its food. Unfortunately that was not the case as this was actually the only restaurant during our holiday with more modern aspirations (a drop of sauce here, a little bit of jam there) and it was all the worse for it. At the same time it was the only restaurant with no salt and pepper on the tables while the food lacked flavor. It was not a horrible experience but besides really fantastic coffee it just felt lackluster.

Our wine however, the 2016 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico was a good one. The 14,5 % ABV had me worried but it was actually totally in check. The nose is very much classic sourcherry at perhaps towards the darker end of the spectrum with a balsamico note. Medium-bodied and extremely direct and focused on the palate. Savory and moreish, superb on its own and with whatever food you throw at it. Impeccably balanced and quite refined yet not making any compromises.

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Fortunately after the first dinner it was all smooth sailing and already the second one was a superb experience. Tre Galline is a serious restaurant with no trickery on the plates and a highly professional staff to take care of you. The wine list is a good one but our choice was very easy: this 2007 ArPePe Grumello Buon Consiglio Riserva felt like a steal at 40 € a bottle. The waitress asked whether we wanted her to decant it or not and as I said that she can decide she opted to not do it and instead served the wine from massive glasses.

Ultra expressive and classic on the nose with intense sour cherry fruit, tar, oak, spice and the most haunting truffle note. On the palate actually less marked by the oak and just a stupendously beautiful Nebbiolo expression. Savory yet quite rich with lots of depth to its flavors. No hard tannin wall to be found yet extremely well structured and serious. Very delicious, however with clear upside. It does not go unnoticed that it has been aged in wood for four years but to me it sports a great balance. Such a great wine that I almost felt bad for the Americans nearby who had ordered Valpolicella Ripasso.

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Carpaccio with artichokes and nuts - fantastic on its own and with the wine.

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"Traditional Torinesi Ravioli"

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French toast with pear and ice cream.

I would return to this restaurant in a heartbeat. Similar to something like Bovio in La Morra it aims high while giving the utmost respect to the ingredients. Hard to imagine a better match for the local (or localish) wines.

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Taverna dell'Oca (goose) is a nice traditional restaurant by a park on the eastern side of the city center. There is a lot of option on the menu with unsurpisingly some focus on the namesake bird. The winelist is step down from Tre Galline but not bad one by any means with a lot of wines from Gaja at quite good prices. We went with a relatively modest choice that turned out to be quite delicious in Burlotto's 2016 Langhe Mores. Most food-friendly and enjoyable, it complemented all our dishes fabulously. It combiness well the approachability and juicy fruit of Barbera and the more reserved charm and structure of Nebbiolo. The 15 % ABV cannot really be felt on the palate which is worrisome.

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My girlfriend, being the lady that she is, got started with a salumi plate. In classic Italian fashion they sliced the meats right by the tables. First grade stuff, I was happy to help out finishing the plate.

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"Carpaccio di cinghiale marinato all'olio extra vergine con pere e toma". Translation: out of this world hedonistic pleasure.

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A very tasty dish of tajarin.

Taverna dell'Oca is perhaps a little less polished/slightly more rustic affair than Tre Galline but nevertheless a highly recommendable place.

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From the moment you step into Scannabue you know good times are ahead. Not to repeat myself too much it is actually quite similar to Tre Galline in style being that it has a huge selection of high quality wines. What's funny is that first you are handed their winelist which only consists of Italian wines and you are quite impressed by the size, quality and prices there. Then you see the empty bottles of Romanée Conti and Houillon/Overnoy on the shelves and ask if they also sell French wines. This is when you then get another book which is actually bigger than the first one and where just the number of Champagnes is truly astounding/ridiculous. One would not expect to be able to see a whole number of Chartogne-Taillet single vineyards in a restaurant in Torino but there it is. Additionally the Burgundy and Jura sections are something not to sneeze at and just the different Bourgogne Rouges take up one whole page.

That said I ended up ordering a bottle of 2013 Montevertine which was pleasantly priced at just about retail level. A rather light vintage, yet nevertheless as pure and pretty a wine you can find. Savory but not rustic, acidic but not austere. Very light on its feet with no baby fat whatsoever, this is what one would call a ballerina wine. Not surprisingly a fantastic match for the food.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the food but the star without a question was the Vitello Tonnato. I had never had one before and this one is certainly hard act to follow. Apparently the restaurant is rather famous for it.

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If you are going to Scannabue (as you should) and feel like having a cocktail before there is a good place for that nearby. Amusingly named 'DDR' surprised as with a really solid Negroni and a truly fantastic GT made with to me unfamiliar Californian gin called No 209.

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Our last dinner was in an Enoteca called Parlapa. We arrived in the area a bit early and decided to go have drinks. There was a pub where it said "Real Ales!" in the window and naturally I got excited. However when we went inside and I asked for what Real Ale options they might have the bartender looked at me like an idiot and responded with "I do not understand the question". I tried my best to explain the concept of Real Ale but soon understood my attempts to be futile and just ended up getting a local craft IPA. Damn, living inside a bubble is sometimes hard...

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Back to Parlapa, it is the kind of place where a wine nerd feels right at home. It also seems to be run by one, as the selection is as confidently picked as they come and each bottle carries a tag that carefully lists the bottle information. Here you will not find a bottle of Gaja nor a Valpolicella Ripasso as the shopkeeper/restaurateur has a crystal clear vision of what to sell and what not. Instead you will find tons of obscure Italian wines and some a bit less obscure. At the highest spot there were four bottles of ArPePe neatly side by side and the prices were not bad. In the name of scientific research we ordered another 2007 Riserva, this time Sassella Vigna Regina.

In contrast to the Buon Consiglio this one was aged for fours years in cement, meaning that the two are complete opposites when it comes to oak or the lack of it. Alas, the result is one extremely pure expression of ripe Nebbiolo fruit. On the nose intense red cherry, dried strawberry, tar, rose petals and some spice. The palate is quite rich with tons of sweet red fruit. Well structured with great ripe tannins. Not a powerhouse really but carries a good concentration. Has a great lift and drinks really, really well. Definitely fruit forward at this point, at least ten years away from reaching kind of early maturity. Highly enjoyable.

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The quirkiness of the owner became even more apparent as when we ordered a plate of salumi and cheese to start he reacted: "You can eat those anywhere. What you should do is get a mixed plate of our traditional starters and if after everything you are still hungry then get the cheeses." I have had this happen to me before in a bit more touristy place in Rome and then the result was not great but here I actually had already developed a trust in the owner so we compromised by getting one mixed plate of their own antipasto and a salumi plate. The antipasti were not bad...

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...but the salumi were rather awesome.

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Once again for main I did not quite get what I had initially hoped as I was told that I should definitely have their pasta filled with three different meats. However as butter and sage were what I was craving for an agreement was made to add those components to the suggested pasta dish and replace the original tomato sauce. Great success! This 12€ dish was probably the most memorable of the whole trip and the perfect example of why the Italian - or Piemontese rather - cuisine kicks ass.

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We asked for glasses of an aged Chianti Classico Vin Santo standing on the shelf but as that was not open/chilled the above was suggested. I was not familiar with Borgo del Tiglio but apparently it is one of the top white wine producers in Italy and this sweet 2000 Verduzzo does not make me doubt the statement. Just like with an aged Vin Santo the oak ageing plays a big part but what is different here is the low 11,5 % alcohol and the freshness and weightlessness that comes with it. One would not guess a wine with such dark brown color to be this fresh but there you go. A very delicious way to finish an excellent dinner.

Needless to say Parlapa is a must visit destination for a wine geek in Torino. The wine list is on the website and seemingly very up to date and all the wines can be bought to go for 5 € less than the listed price. Pro tip: by luck our table was a bit away from the others, right in the middle of the wine shelves. For us it was great to have our own peace and to be able to marvel at the many unfamiliar bottles at all times.

Wine shops

Not far away from the busy shopping street Via Garibaldi there is a wine shop/bar called Take A Wine. The selection is not overwhelming and carries some nice items. There are some intriguing French wines which are mostly vastly overpriced. The Italians are priced more fairly and I picked up a bottle of 2012 Montevertine for 38 €.

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Very far from everywhere is a shop called Grandi Bottiglie that came highly recommended to me. Indeed the shop is in the middle of nowhere: if you don't mind a little walk one of the last stops of the subway line (called Marche) is 1,4km from the shop. It is worthwhile to get there as the selection is quite huge with many super interesting older bottles. There are not too many bottles to be seen on the shelves but the whole selection can be seen online. I managed to buy a mixed 6-bottle case, including bottles like the pictures 1999 Querciabella CC Riserva, 2003 Produttori Barbaresco and Cornelissen's 2017 Susucaru Rosé. Additional pluses to the shop are a very talkative and helpful owner and the three dogs they had hanging out in in there.

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Torino is full of these covered streets and mostly they are full of cafés and shops. This particular shop called Parola was one I could not just walk by as already in the window there were some really nice bottles of wine. As we entered an older lady kindly asked to close the door carefully and the reason became apparent soon as a small dog came to welcome us. The website is rather useless and does not begin to paint a picture of what the shelves carry but indeed I could have gone berserk here. Given the Lufthansa restrictions however I only ended up buying Tiefenbrunner's Feldmarschall von Fenner and Antica Vigneti Cantalupo's 2010 Ghemme Primo Anno for very solid prices.

Six days seemed like the perfect time to spend in Torino. That said I would not mind returning given the quality of restaurants, the lively, relaxed atmosphere and just how comfortable and pleasant I found it all. Having been also to Milano and Rome I have to say I actually prefer Torino over the two at least based on this trip. To each their own, I guess.
Last name = L u !V! !V! e

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Keith A k e r s
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Re: Wining and dining in Torino

#2 Post by Keith A k e r s » April 1st, 2019, 8:28 am

This is wonderful and thank you for sharing! I fell hard for Torino much for the reasons you mentioned, but I spent way too little time in it when I visited piedmont two and a half years ago

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Re: Wining and dining in Torino

#3 Post by Dan Hammer » April 1st, 2019, 8:35 am

We went to the original (and spacious) Eataly when we were there. It's a totally different experience than New York and Chicago.
This space for rent.

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Ian Sutton
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Re: Wining and dining in Torino

#4 Post by Ian Sutton » April 3rd, 2019, 11:50 am

Hi Ilkka
Great to see you enjoyed my favourite city, and also Taverna dell'Oca - I think your description is spot on. It's not ultra-polished, the wine list is good but not great (Tre Galline and the sister place Tre Galli are both exceptional). However there is an inner warmth about the place that make us feel very much at home when there, and very welcome guests.

I've not yet been to Grandi Bottiglie's new shop, but did visit the previous two incarnations (near Stazione Dora and before that a tiny little shop on via Natale Palli at the northern edge of the city). The owners were always very engaging and although prices have escalated a lot for the older wines that are their forte, there are still great finds to be had, and I'll always look up what they've got in when visiting. If we had more time on our last visit, we would have taken in a visit to the decathlon sports superstore at Grugliasco, before heading north to the Grandi Bottiglie shop. Take a Wine also well worth a visit, but there are little gems dotted all over the city.

Good to see vitello tonnato in your selection of dishes - a lovely and quite remarkable dish.

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Ian
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IlkkaL
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Joined: June 11th, 2015, 12:40 am
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Re: Wining and dining in Torino

#5 Post by IlkkaL » April 5th, 2019, 11:19 pm

Keith A k e r s wrote:
April 1st, 2019, 8:28 am
This is wonderful and thank you for sharing! I fell hard for Torino much for the reasons you mentioned, but I spent way too little time in it when I visited piedmont two and a half years ago
My pleasure! I managed to visit Barolo (and Valle d'Aosta too!) a few times on our past road trips, skipping Torino altogether each time, but this vacation showed that it really is an awesome city for someone with my preferences.
Dan Hammer wrote:
April 1st, 2019, 8:35 am
We went to the original (and spacious) Eataly when we were there. It's a totally different experience than New York and Chicago.
Could not agree more.
Ian Sutton wrote:
April 3rd, 2019, 11:50 am
Hi Ilkka
Great to see you enjoyed my favourite city, and also Taverna dell'Oca - I think your description is spot on. It's not ultra-polished, the wine list is good but not great (Tre Galline and the sister place Tre Galli are both exceptional). However there is an inner warmth about the place that make us feel very much at home when there, and very welcome guests.

I've not yet been to Grandi Bottiglie's new shop, but did visit the previous two incarnations (near Stazione Dora and before that a tiny little shop on via Natale Palli at the northern edge of the city). The owners were always very engaging and although prices have escalated a lot for the older wines that are their forte, there are still great finds to be had, and I'll always look up what they've got in when visiting. If we had more time on our last visit, we would have taken in a visit to the decathlon sports superstore at Grugliasco, before heading north to the Grandi Bottiglie shop. Take a Wine also well worth a visit, but there are little gems dotted all over the city.

Good to see vitello tonnato in your selection of dishes - a lovely and quite remarkable dish.

Regards
Ian
Yeah the pricing seemed a bit weird at times in Grandi Bottiglie but just like you say an enlightened buyer is likely to make great finds. The 1999 Querciabella was 30 € and the 2003 Produttori 37 € - both very fairly priced I think. The French cult wines most definitely are no values here, I think the Raveneaus cost something like 2.5-3x compared to Cantine Isola in Milano which is just nuts.

We did not go to Decathlon but we did spend half a day at the Torino Outlet Village which was great as the shops had really good discounts (even from the outlet prices) and there were very few people there as it was off-season. Well, maybe great minus is more accurate as I did manage to have my lunchtime espresso served on my jeans...

Vitello tonnato indeed was one of my must-do things for the trip and I'm quite confident that Scannabue was the right place to cross it off the list at. My gf was really hesitant to order it based on the pictures she had seen but lo and behold she loved it just as much as I did.
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