09 September 2010

AUNTIE PASTA: Restaurants of Turin

CHIAVARI, Italy - There is no doubt in my mind that Turin has some of the best restaurants in Italy. After all, Piedmonte is the home of the Slow Food movement, so food is very much on everyone's mind. If you are lucky enough to be there this summer  here are some of the city's best restaurants and their specialties, and Chef Roberto Donna’s favorite Piedmontese dishes. But more about him later, let’s start with the restaurants first.

 Piazza San Carlo, Turin


Via Corte d’Appello 13
Tel: 011 436 2288
Closed Saturday afternoons and Sundays
Price: Euros 36/44

In the heart of the historic center, the restaurant’s cantina is built over tunnels which were used as secret passages (infernotti) by the Italians in the days when Turin, and most of northern Italy, was occupied by Napoleon and his troops.

Savoia Specialties: pappardelle noodles with river shrimp and bitter greens, filet of venison served on a polenta square with a cream of radicchio, and cardoon flan with fonduta. Savoia Restaurant is one of the participants in the annual spring chocolate festival, when they offer a special chocolate based menu.

Pappardelle with Fresh Tomatoes
Tre Galline
Via Bellezia, 37
Tel 011 436 6553
Closed Sunday afternoons, Mondays and two weeks in January and three weeks in August
Price: 28/42 euros

In a 16th century palace in the heart of the historic center, Riccard DeGiuli owns and runs this historic restaurant. The restaurant was named Tre Galline, Three Chickens, after an open air poultry market that was across the street when the first Tre Galline locanda opened in this location in the mid 1700’s.

Tre Galline Specialties: Agnolotti, a type of ravioli; bollito misto; fritto misto,deep fried bits of veal, beef, liver, brains, sweetbreads and vegetables, sometimes called fricia in Piedmontese dialect.
Traditional dishes are offered throughout the week: mix of roasted meats on Mondays and Tuesdays, bollito misto Wednesday through Saturday, fritto misto on Fridays and bagna caộda on Saturdays.

 Tre Galline Restaurant
Montagna Viva
Piazza Emanuele Filiberto 3/A
Telephone: 011 5217 882
 Price: 25/44

This down home restaurant is such a good idea you have to wonder why no one ever thought of it before. The restaurant is run by a group of local farmers and food producers, and as Master cheese taster Renato Biegi explained “some of us make cheese, others make salami, grow beef cattle, rice, fruits and vegetables, produce wine and grappa, make olive oil, honey and marmalades, all natural biological products. What we’ve done is bring the farm to the city.” The dining room looks like a farmhouse kitchen; terra cotta floor tiles, red checked tablecloths cover rustic tables.

Montagna Viva Specialties: The menu is what you would expect if you were invited to have Sunday lunch on Zia Rosa’s farm: homemade pasta flavored with home grown tomatoes and fragrant mountain herbs, veal stew or roast rabbit with oven potatoes, grilled Piedmont beef, and a large selection of cheeses. Desserts are all homemade and, like the rest of the menu, are based on what is in season.

 Risotto Made with Rice From Local Rice Fields
 Del Cambio Piazza Carignano, 2
Closed Sundays and three weeks in August
Price: 130/150

Founded in 1757 as a coffee house, this is one of the most historic restaurants in Italy. It is certainly one of the few that still has an in-house pastry chef, actually two, who turn out hot bread sticks (grissini were created in Turin), and pastries daily.

Two stories beneath the glittering red velvet benches and gold damask drapes, frescoes of cavorting cherubs and massive crystal chandeliers, there is a 680 bottle cantina, each type of wine held at the perfect temperature in its own section. There is even a special room for champagne.

The King of Italy and Italy's first Prime Minister used to meet here to discuss the affairs of the day. If the Prime Minister wasn't available, the King would come alone. The restaurant is within walking distance of the Royal Palace and across the street from the first Parliment building.

Del Cambio Specialties: Traditional Piedmontese dishes, veal tonnato, Barolo braised beef and mixed deep fried meats, are served every day, but savvy Turinese know that Del Cambio only serves bollito misto on Thursdays, just as it has done for hundreds of years.

 Corner Table at Del Cambio

And now for a few suggestions:
Chef Donna, a native of Tunin, is the author of Cooking in Piedmont, and the winner of many prestigious culinary awards. For more information about this chef check out his web site http://www.robertodonna.com/robertodonna/

“When I was growing up in Turin,” says Chef Roberto Donna of Washington D.C.’s four star Galileo Restaurant, “my two favorite foods were ravioli del plin and the chocolate and hazelnut cream pudding called bonet. My list is a lot longer now and I try to include some of my favorites in the food I serve in my restaurants.”

Here’s his list of dishes visitors to Turin should not pass up.

Acciughe al verde, anchovies served with basil and parsley pesto spiked with hot peppers
Vitello tonnato, razor thin slices of rare roasted veal served with a rich tuna sauce. This is most often thought of as a summer dish, but when the weather outside is frightful, the sauce is served warm.
Fonduta, made from fontina di Aosta, butter, egg yolks, milk and white truffles from Alba.

Taglierini al rosso d’uovo – rich egg noodles, (12 egg yolks to each pound of flour), served with butter and truffle shavings, or sometimes with a sauce of butter, oil, onions, tomatoes, and finely chopped chicken livers
Raviolini del plin – tiny ravioli may be offered with a creamy cheese sauce (fonduta) or a reduced veal stock, or even served in broth. The sauce depends   on what they are filled with.

Main courses
Brasato al Barolo – the classic Piedmont beef slow cooked in rich red Barolo wine
Bollito misto – a mix of boiled meats traditionally served with three piquant sauces
Fritto misto – a mix of flash fried bits of meat, fish and vegetables. The mix is made up of whatever is fresh in the marketplace that day.

Bonet – the Chef’s favorite chocolate and hazelnut cream pudding
Nocciolini di Chiavasso – a tiny cookie made of toasted hazelnuts, sugar and egg whites, traditionally served with a zabaglione sauce. These cookies were originally called “noisettes”, which is the French word for nuts, but the name was changed during Mussolini’s reign in the 1930’s.
Torta gianduia – chocolate cake with chocolate and hazelnut cream filling and frosting.

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