Day 8: Great cappuccino before a half day trip to Turin. Dinner at a slow food restaurant in Turin.
Restaurant / Store / Cafe visited:
- Caffe Vergnano: (4.5 star. Really delicious capuccino. Beautiful espresso machine.)
- Eataly, Turino (5 star. Must visit if you are in Turino and love Italian food.)
- Caffe Confetteria al Bicerin (4 star. Super creamy chocolate-y coffee drink called “Bicerin”. Delicious. Stop by if you are in the area.)
- Ristorante Consorzio (5 star. Incredible value for solid comfort food. Recommended by Slow Food Association.)
I went to Caffe Vergnano for my coffee this morning. I had walked by this caffe several times, and it looked very modern and clean from the outside. The cappuccino I had was really creamy and delicious. I had expected coffee here to be just average, since it seems to me that the store is more focused on selling coffee beans and souvenir than the drink itself, but their coffee turned out to be really good. Creamy and smooth. A nice surprise!
After the morning coffee, I had an attempt at making truffle Tajarin (a type of pasta special in this region) but I added garlic and parmesan cheese, which I think ruined the truffle. They were too strong for this dish. Lesson learned! Just butter, and butter only, for truffle pasta dishes.
Half-day trip to Turin: Stop 1, The original Eataly store, a drink called Bicerin, and a meal at a slow food restaurant.
After finishing my pasta, it was time to go to the original Eataly store in Turin! I am super excited about visiting this store. It was in New York City when I first discovered Eataly. I had a couple of hours to kill in NYC that day and I was using TripAdvisor City Guide on my phone to see what attractions were nearby. Eataly came up on top of the list and I had no idea what it was. Since it was ranked really high, I figured I’d check it out. It turned out to be a gourmet fantasy come true. I had never seen anything quite like it before. If you ever go to New York City, make sure you check out that store. A mecca for Italian food lovers.
It takes about an hour to drive from Alba to Turin. Oh, and by the way, I recommend paying Italian highway toll with your card instead of cash. Bite the bullet and pay the foreign transaction fee on your card for these charges. It will make your trip much easier and it is totally worth it. Also to know is that on some highways, they charge toll based on the distance you’ve traveled. That means when you enter these highways, you will take a paper ticket from the machine. And when you exit these highways, you have to put in the ticket, and then the credit card into the same slot to pay the toll indicated. No English on these machines. I got stuck there on my trip to Alba for 10 minutes last Friday until a person came out to the machine and showed me that I had to put in the paper ticket and then the credit card. Also, they will check the time of your check-in and check-out and cross-check the speed limit. If you check out too early, you will get a speeding ticket!
Back to the Eataly. The drive to Turin was pretty smooth this time. Once I entered Turin city limit, it was again 3-car-side-by-side-in-one-lane situation. LOL. I am very impressed that I survived driving in Turin not once, but twice! I followed Google driving directions and arrived in Eataly without any difficulty. There is a parking lot attached to the store so you can park there. You do need to pay though.
I’m not sure if this store is bigger than the one in New York City, but it has a lot more local specialty products here, namely chocolate, hazelnuts, chestnut and rice. There is also a small food-related book section and a huge wine section that occupied the entire basement. There is also a section for kitchen tools and small appliances. There are several restaurants scattered in different places in the store, just like the one in New York City.
Look at all the chocolate selection that have here. This is only 1/10 of the shelf space!
There are many cute kitchen tools that I’ve never seen before. Like this pasta timer that you throw into the boiling water with pasta and when the pasta is al dante, the timer will make a sound!
And also this macaroon kit!
And this beautiful grill. There is no way I can bring this back with me. I’ve found it on eBay. I’m so going to order one when I get back.
I also went down into the basement to check out their wine selection. I am not a big wine drinker, but I know that Barolo is the most famous wine in this region. The more reasonably priced Barolo are all the way in the back. Just when I was wondering why I didn’t see any famous Barolo producers, such as Gaja or Bruno Giacosa, I saw two guys walking into a glass-wall chambered and I quickly followed them into that room. And wow… This is where all the highly-sought-after wines are displayed! Look at the prices of these Gaja wine. In Euro!
Half-day trip to Turin: Stop 2, a drink called Bicerin from Caffe Confetteria al Bicerin
Caffe Confetteria al Bicerin is located closed to city center where parking is much harder to come by. I circled around a bit and drove by an area that looked like a parking lot. I drove in and there was a guy gesturing me to drive in and he pointed to an open space, so I parked my car there. He was in a black jacket that looked like a city official so I asked him how much it would cost to park my car there. He said “One, or two, or three. I watch it for you.” Uh…… Just when I was deciding what to do next, another group of Italians parked their car and walked by us. This guy said something to that group of Italians and they looked at him like he was crazy and they just walked away…Whenever in doubt, do what the locals do! I turned and just walked away from that guy. I heard that guy calling me. I continued to walk away and never looked back.
Caffe Confetteria al Bicerin was so small that I missed it the first time when I walked by it. There were just 8 very small tables. A woman came out to the bar from the back room to get my order. I forgot the name of the drink, so I just started by saying, “Uh…The drink…”, and she smiled and said “Bicerin?” Hahahaha. I guess everyone comes here for THE drink. It was delicious! Thick cream on top, melted chocolate in the middle and hot espresso at the bottom. I don’t think it is by itself worth driving to Turin for, but if you are in the area, check it out.
I hadn’t made any plan for dinner yet, but I remembered that I had saved some restaurants in Turin on TripAdvisor app. I checked my phone and the closest one, Ristorante Consorzio, was about a half a mile away. It is recommended by Slow Food Association. I decided to walk over to check it out. On my way walking there, I got more and more worried about my car. Would they flat my tire or key my car? If I go pick up my car late after dinner, will there be less people around and I end up getting robbed by him? I decided to go pick up the car and park somewhere else now instead of later. Thankfully, when I got there, everything was fine. I got in my car quickly and drove away.
Half-day trip to Turin: Stop 3, Ristorante Consorzio: A Slow Food recommendation
I found a parking space on the street about 5-minute walk from the restaurant. The restaurant opens at 7:30pm and it was still about an hour away. I remember reading somewhere on the Internet that restaurants in Italy prefer people calling ahead to make a reservation instead of just showing up at the door, even if it is just an hour before the reservation. The number was already on TripAdvisor app, so I just called them. The owner picked up the phone and he speaks English! Good English, too! I asked him if I could come in at 7:30pm to have dinner and he said yes, but I’d have to leave before 9 because they need to free up that table for another group of people. Awesome!
I walked around a bit to kill some time and even gave another guy directions with Google map on my phone to where he wanted to go. LOL. I got back to the restaurant at around 7:20 and took some picture of the store front of the restaurant. A really cute little restaurant, but seems like they have won lots of award and recognitions! I am getting excited!
The owner came and opened the door at 7:30pm sharp. He told me that the restaurant opened 5 years ago. Impressive to gain so much recognition in such short amount of time! Inside was a cute humble little space. Almost like going to grandma’s house for dinner. There was a photo of what I thought the chefs of the restaurant. The person who opened the door and spoke English to me was the second one from the right.
I went with their tasting menu, which was just 32 Euro. I also ordered a glass of Barbaresco. to go with it. Again, like every other restaurants in Piedmont, there was Amuse-bouche. I am starting to think that it is their tradition of showing hospitality! I love it!
Amuse-bouche. Fried ravioli with hazelnut crumbs on top. Delicious!
Beef tartare. The best way to serve it. Just great quality Piedmontese beef and salt. They also put olive oil, black pepper mill and salt on the table for me. I drizzled a bit olive oil on top. It was delicious.
Fried egg with spinach and bacon. Feels like a brunch dish back in the US? The egg was cooked perfectly.
Ravioli. It was delicious. I have no idea what meat the filling was but it was really good. The menu says “Agnolotto gobbo”
Braised Piedmont beef and seasonal vegetables. The beef was cooked perfectly. So tender and melt-in-your-mouth. From the texture of it, I think it was the shank.
Dessert. Panna Cotta with red wine sauce. Really delicious! Just the perfect ending for the meal.
I left the restaurant just about 5 minutes before 9 o’clock. It was a great meal.