Cafés and Aperitifs
Opened in 1780 and redecorated in 1845, Caffè Fiorio (Via Po 8) was frequented by artists and the upper classes among whom the statesmen and politicians Rattazzi, D’Azeglio and Cavour. It is one of the few cafés that has maintained its original lay-out, with its impressive chandeliers, yellow Siena marble counters, velvet upholstery and vintage mirrors. Ice cream gianduia (hazelnut chocolate) and hot chocolate are the specialities. Baratti & Milano (Piazza Castello 27) is a splendid Art Nouveau café opened in 1873 by Ferdinando Baratti and Edoardo Milano as a confectionery and spirits shop. The coffee house, selling its own blends of coffee, was added in 1911 on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in Torino. The café is situated at the entrance to the Galleria Subalpina, an elegant arcade with an iron and glass roof that used to be the seat of the Ministry of Finances. The sumptuous Santuario della Consolata can be admired from Al Bicerin (Piazza della Consolata 5), a tiny café entirely preserved since it opened in 1763. Its name recalls the famous drink of hot chocolate, coffee and cream, much loved by Alexandre Dumas, Puccini and Nietzsche. Not to be missed the “Torta Bicerin” is a delicious mixture of coffee and plain chocolate, coated with white chocolate. On the left-hand side of the exedra formed where via Po joins piazza Vittorio Veneto, Elena, the historic cafè where Nietzsche and the Italian writer Cesare Pavese were regulars, has conserved an aristocratic atmosphere, with a pleasant dehor facing the hills and the Gran Madre di Dio church.
The ritual of “Merenda Reale”, the afternoon hot chocolate with cakes typical of the 18th century, is nowadays proposed by many historical cafes. Among them, the Caffè Reale (Piazzetta Reale 1) hosted by the Royal Palace is well worth a visit. The building once housed the royal fruitery, before being transformed into a library and finally a humble storeroom. The rooms have been recently restored to their former royal glory. The interior is regal, full height illuminated wooden showcases display beautiful porcelain from the Royal family’s collections.
The moment of the aperitif in Torino has been a ritual for over two hundred years, ever since Antonio Benedetto Carpano created Vermouth in 1786 by adding some thirty different spices to wine. Since then, this special drink has been exported all over the world and later produced by Cinzano and Martini & Rossi. It has now become, under the name “Martini”, the epitome of aperitifs, for drinking straight or as a base for many cocktails which includes – not least – James Bond's favourite of “Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred”. Inaugurated in 1822, Caffè San Carlo was a patriotic bastion during the unification of Italy and later became frequented by artists, literary personalities and statesmen. Nowadays it is one of the most grandiose cafes in Torino and boasts a sumptuous aperitivo buffet. Situated under the arches of the baroque Piazza San Carlo***, don't be fooled by the discreet entrance, as you walk into what resembles a glittering ballroom, with crystal Murano chandeliers, marble floor and gilded mirrors. The buffet includes dozens of different canapes, salads, salami and cheeses. Right at the other end of the arcade from the Caffe San Carlo, Caffè Torino opened in 1903 decorated in an equally grand Art Nouveau decor, though the atmosphere here is more relaxed. The house speciality is a Negroni cocktail, a mix of Martini Rosso, Campari and gin. In Piazza Castello the charming and cosy Caffè Mulassano has been serving for 150 years its aromatic house aperitif, made in its own distillery, and every drink - at any time of the day - is accompanied by a delicious plate of "tramezzini" sandwiches and toasts, prepared on the spot by the barman. The ritual of the evening aperitif (also called “apericena", drink and a large variety of finger foods) is very popular in Torino, and you can find it in almost every cafe downtown. Among them it remains memorable the aperitif of Bar Zucca (10, Via Antonio Gramsci) very close to Via Roma.