Torino & Piemonte food culture
Discover our food and beverage tradition which boasts almost 400 different varieties of local specialty products.
A basket of delights
Piemonte is a land of vineyards and hills, mountains and lakes and a gourmet's favourite destination in any season, where you can taste over 370 traditional food and beverage products.
Here you can find extremely high-quality local products, from famous Alba white truffle to glorious wines (17 DOCG labels and 42 DOC labels), from delicious artisan cheeses (7 PDO labels) to Piemontese cattle breed, from Piemontese hazelnuts (PGI label) to a number of varieties of rice.
Moreover, Torino has brought the famous vermouth aperitivo, chocolate and coffee to such a degree that transcends local specialty status.
The traditional cuisine of Torino and Piemonte, which is one of the most diverse in Italy, attracts many connoisseurs from all over the world, listing 45 starred restaurants.
The culture of good living and the richness of the local food and beverage offer inspired great initiatives. Bra (60 km far from Torino) has been the birthplace of Slow Food, the international association promoting the culture of local food and wine, which has 70,000 members spread across more than 50 countries. While Pollenzo (close to Bra) hosts the Wine Bank and the first University of Gastronomic Sciences.
Piemonte is served
If it is true that Piemontese cuisine is among the most various and refined in our country, made of rich and articulated menus, it is also true that many of its recipes are peasant-inspired.
Main features of the Piemontese cuisine are:
- the use of butter and garlic
- the consumption of raw vegetables
- the presence of truffles
- several type of fresh pasta (both plain and filled)
- the importance of veal in meat dishes
- rich selection of cheeses
- tasty souces and compotes to pair with meat and cheese
- breadsticks... not bread
A place of honor in the Piemontese cuisine is occupied by rice, maybe due to the fact that this is the greatest rice cultivation area in Europe. Probably brought to our continent from India by Alexander the Great, it started to be cultivated here to be coocked and served as main dish in the Middle Age. In Piemonte, the Cistercian monks played a key role in that, working the marshy lands of the Vercelli area and giving the cultivation of rice an incredible boost, thus promoting their consumption throughout the region, thanks to the migratory flows of people employed in agriculture.
Another key element of the Piemontese cuisine has been over time the proximity to France. Due to historical ties with France, from politics to economy and culture (the Piemontese dialect is rich of Gallicisms and sounds pretty similar to the French language), the two cuisines experienced a similar evolution. Over time, several Piemontese chefs studied and refined their culinary tecnique in France, sometimes bringing with them typical Piementese recipes (such as the "Salade Piemontaise", our version of the Russian Salad).
Then, while maintaining its authenticity and connection with local products, Piemontese cuisine benefitted from the influence of France, specially in pastry (with the presence of eleborated small pastry or marron glacés) and dairy products (as a matter of facts, in Piemontese menus cheeses are served at the end of the meal, as it happens in France).
Another connection with the French cuisine can be found in the large variety of sauces used to season meat, vegetables and cheese. Here you are the unmissable ones:
Red sauce, made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, celery, oil and vinegar. Suggested pairing: boiled veal meat.
Green sauce, made with parsley, anchovies, garlic and oil. Suggested pairing: boiled veal meat.
Sauce made with anchovies, garlic, butter and oil. Suggested pairing: raw and cooked vegetables.
Sauce made with honey, nuts and mustard seeds. Suggested pairing: boiled veal meat.
Horseradish sauce, our version of wasabi! Suggested pairing: boiled veal meat.
Compote of raisins, apples, peers and figs. Suggested pairing: cheese or boiled veal meat.
Today, Piemontese cuisine is no longer just the "daughter" of the French one, but it gained its own identity: it is noble, elegant, sober, but robust. Everything has a flavor in Piemonte: above all the woods, the valleys, the mountains. It is a seasonal cuisine, that give its best specially in autumn, when its products show off their precious qualities and their enchanting flavors.
To sum up, the Piemontese cuisine can be considered a true and astonishing melting pot of local products and foreign influences, tradition and innovation, bitter and sweet, light and heavy, tasty and refined, good and... excellent!
What to expect from a typical Piemontese menu
If you feel ready to approach a typical Piemontese menu, here you are a list of must-to-try dishes, from starters to desserts.
Anyway, the Piemontese cuisine is so rich that the suggested one has to be considered just as an "entry level" food experience, to be followed by the search of more niche or super-local preparations.
- Acciughe al verde: anchovies seasoned with green sauce (see "Bagnèt vèrt")
- Tomino al verde: fresh cheese seasoned with green sauce (see "Bagnèt vèrt")
- Peperone con l'acciuga: sliced cooked pepper, garnished with ancovy fillets
- Giardiniera alla piemontese: coocked vegetables salad
- Insalara russa: Russian salad
- Insalata langarola: celery salad with Piemontese cheese and hazelnuts
- Carne cruda all'albese: sliced raw veal meat, seasoned with oil, salt, pepper, lemon and garlic, garnished with truffle
- Bagna cauda con verdure: sauce made with anchovies, garlic, butter and oil, to pair with raw vegetables
- Vitel tonné: sliced boiled veal meat, garnished with tuna sauce
- Crudo di Cuneo DOP: raw ham
- Lard d'Moncalè: lard
- Mustradela: salami made with pork blood and offal
- Salam d'la duja: salami made with pork meat
- Salam ed turgia: salami made with cow meat
- Salame Piemonte IGP: salami made with pork meat
- Salampatata: salami made with pork meat and potatoes
- Salsiccia di Bra: raw sausage made with veal and a little percentage of pork meat
Find out more at: www.piemonteagri.it/qualita/en/products/carni-fresche-e-preparazioni
- Agnolotti alla piemontese: fresh pasta filled with meat, served with a roast sauce
- Agnolotti del plin: typical fresh pasta filled with meat, served with melted butter and sage
- Tajarin alla langarola: fresh Tagliatelle noodles with Porcini mushrooms and sausage sauce
- Ravioles della Val Varaita: dumpligs with Piemontese cheeses
- Panissa vercellese: Risotto with beans, lard and "Salam d'la duja" salami
- Risotto al Barolo: risotto cooked with Barolo wine
- Risotto ai formaggi: risotto with Piemontese cheeses
- Capunet: minced veal and pork meat wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves
- Bollito misto: selection of meat cuts (veal, beef and hen), boiled and served to be seasoned with typical sauces
- Brasato al Barolo: pot roast cooked with Barolo wine
- Fritto misto alla piemontese: considered "the most baroque of Piemontese dishes", according to traditional rules it should consist of no less than eighteen pieces, both savory and sweet: several meat cuts, offal, vegetables, fruits and semolina polenta... if you want to face the challenge, don't order anything else...
- Bra DOP: made with semi-skimmed cow's milk that could be integrated with sheep's and/or goat's milk, was historically produced by the so-called "alpine sheperds" who in autumn descended to the plains with their flock to spend the winter, before to return to the mountain pastures in spring.
- Castelmagno DOP: of ancient origin, Castelmagno started to be produced in the 12th century and the first record can be found in a court sentence where the town of Castelmagno was forced had to pay the local landlord an annual lease in wheels of cheese. This is a pressed, semi-hard cheese from raw milk of autochthonous cattle breeds. Refined, delicate and moderately salty at the beginning of ageing; tasty and spicy as the ageing process goes on.
- Murazzano DOP: made with sheep's milk, sometimes with the addition of cow's milk, takes the name of the town of Murazzano, which is the main centre of production. Refined and delicate, with a pleasant taste and a hint of sheep's milk.
- Ossolano DOP: main expression of the Northern Piemonte, produced with cow's milk from local cattle breeds. It is a whole, raw or pasteurized cow's milk cheese with an elastic paste. Ossolano can also be recognized thanks to a characteristic, harmonious and delicate aroma, linked to the seasonal varieties of the flora, resulting more intense and fragrant with aging. The cheese is the result of the cooperation between local people and a community of Walser, who settled in the Ossola area, developing their own dairy technique.
- Raschera DOP: made with cow's milk, sometimes with the addition of sheep's or goat's milk, takes the name from the Raschera Lake. Raschera started to be produced in the 15th century, proven by a lease contract according to which local shepherds had to paid their dues in wheels of cheese. Refined and delicate, moderately spicy and sapid if not aged.
- Robiola di Roccaverano DOP: a fresh cheese that undergoes ripening, produced with raw, whole sheep's or cow's milk. This cheese traces back to the Celts who used to make it pretty much likely today. With the advent of the Romans the cheese took on the name of "rubeola". The cattle breed fodder is a main pillar of this cheese, as they are also feeded with spontaneous medicinal herbs which pass their perfumes and aromas to the cheese, making it unique.
- Toma piemontese DOP: made exclusively with cow's milk, traces back to the Roman Age and for a long time it was considered as the cheese of the working class. Toma Piemontese can be of two types: creamy (soft texture, sweet and delicate aroma) produced with whole milk and semi-creamy (medium-hard paste, more intense aroma) produced with partially skimmed milk.
Find out more at: www.piemonteagri.it/qualita/en/products/cheese
- Amaretti: small pastry, made with almond paste
- Baci di dama: small hazelnut biscuits, filled with chocolate cream
- Bonet: pudding, made with amaretti, eggs and cocoa
- Nocciolini di Chivasso: small hazelnut biscuits
- Paste di meliga: maize biscuits
- Persi pien: cooked peaches, filled with amaretti and chocolate
- Tartufi di cioccolato: chocolate truffles
- Torta langarola: hazelnut cake
- Hot drinks: Bicerin.
- Wines: Alta Langa DOCG; Asti DOCG; Barbaresco DOCG; Barbera d'Asti DOCG; Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG; Barolo DOCG; Brachetto d'Acqui o Acqui DOCG; Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba o Diano d'Alba DOCG; Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore o Ovada DOCG; Dogliani DOCG; Erbaluce di Caluso o Caluso DOCG; Gattinara DOCG; Gavi o Cortese di Gavi DOCG; Ghemme DOCG; Nizza DOCG; Roero DOCG; Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG; Alba DOC; Albugnano DOC; Barbera d'Alba DOC; Barbera del Monferrato DOC; Boca DOC; Bramaterra DOC; Calosso DOC; Canavese DOC; Carema DOC; Cisterna DOC; Colli Tortonesi DOC; Collina Torinese DOC; Colline Novaresi DOC; Colline Saluzzesi DOC; Cortese Alto Monferrato DOC; Coste della Sesia DOC; Dolcetto d'Acqui DOC; Dolcetto d'Alba DOC; Dolcetto d'Asti DOC; Dolcetto di Ovada DOC; Fara DOC; Freisa d'Asti DOC; Freisa di Chieri DOC; Gabiano DOC; Grignolino d'Asti DOC; Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC; Langhe DOC; Lessona DOC; Loazzolo DOC; Malvasia di Casorzo d'Asti o Casorzo DOC; Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco DOC; Monferrato DOC; Nebbiolo d'Alba DOC; Piemonte DOC; Pinerolese DOC; Rubino di Cantavenna DOC; Sizzano DOC; Strevi DOC; Terre Alfieri DOC; Valli Ossolane DOC; Valsusa DOC; Verduno Pelaverga o Verduno DOC.
- Fortified wines: Vermouth di Torino and Vermouth di Torino Superiore (Red, White, Rosè, Amber, Dry, Extra Dry).
- Spirits & Liquors: Alpine herbs liquor, Arquebuse, Genepy, Grappa (different kinds), Nocciolino, Ratafià.
Nice anedocts, weird stories
Anchovies: fishes swimming in the coutryside
Anchovies have a strong bond with Piemonte, being the queens of many Piemontese dishes, but how did them get to our hills from the sea?
No one really knows how them came to occupy such a prestigious position in the Piemontese cuisine and there are many legends, rather bizarre and confusing, that try to explain it. Nevertheless, at a certain point all of them end up with a common element: salt.
Going back to ancient times, these lands were crossed by the Salt Road, heading from the Ligurian Sea to the Alps. At that time, salt was a luxury item, very expensive and subject to heavy taxes and duties. In order to hide the precious cargo from the taxes collectors' eyes, salt merchants coming from Liguria creatively used to cover up their barrels of "white gold" with an abundant layer of anchovies, cheap and easy to find there. Thanks to the presence of salt, anchovies were also incidentally preserved during their trip. Layer by layer, they began to be more and more popular in Piemonte and, as salt prices went down, became the real protagonists of trades.
Anyway, what is true for sure is that in Piemonte there is a longlasting tradition of anchovy mongers (the so called "acciughai") and most gastronomes point at the "Valle Maira" as the place where the story began.
Bicerin: a secret cup to boost your creativeness
Bicerin is an iconic hot drink of Torino, devised in the 18th century by the historical cafè "Caffè Al Bicerin" (located in Piazza della Consolata).
Since the beginning the recipe has been kept secret. Ingredients are simple (coffee, hot chocolate and cream), but the quantities to pour and mix are still unknown. The output is a tasty hot drink, perfect for the chill winter afternoons, mixing hot chocolate with the marked flavor of the coffee and a delicate cooled cream foam. It is served in glass goblets that allow you to see the nuance of colors of the different ingredients.
Great Bicerin fans were Alexandre Dumas, Pablo Picasso and Umberto Eco. Ernest Hemingway included this drink in the list of hundred things in the world he would have saved!
Breadsticks: a royal affaire
According to tradition, Antonio Brunero, baker of the Savoia royal family (kings and queens of the Kingdom of Piemonte and Sardinia first and of the Kingdom of Italy then), devised this product in 1679 upon the advice of the royal doctor to help baby Vittorio Amedeo II eating. As a matter of facts, the future king, of poor health, couldn't eat bread ("Ghersa" in Piemontese dialect), because of difficulties in digesting its crumbs.
Then the baker invented a type of bread without crumbs, calling it "Ghersin" (i.e. small "Ghersa" in Piemontese dialect) or "Grissino" (in Italian). Thanks to their high digestibility and ease of preservation (breadsticks could be kept much longer than bread) the success of this delicacy was almost immediate and became widespread in Piemonte and abroad.
King Carlo Felice is said to have loved them so much to munch them in large quantities, even during the plays on stage at the Teatro Regio (like we do today when we eat pop corns at the cinema!). Another famous "breadsticks-addicted" was Napoleon, who set up at the beginning of the 19th century a special transportation service to bring to his court in Paris what he called "les petits bâtons de Turin" (the small sticks of Torino).
Gianduiotto: when less is more
According to tradition, the Gianduiotto was born during the continental blockade imposed by Napoleon against the British Fleet in 1806. As a consequence, cocoa became difficult to find, as well as particularly expensive.
Anyway, the demand for chocolate continued to increase, driving many Piemontese chocolatiers, such as Michele Prochet, to start producing chocolate by replacing part of the cocoa dough with hazelnuts paste, a typical and abundant product of our hills. This hazelnut, called "tonda e gentile" (round and refined), is well-known for its premium quality and has the PGI official recognitions, but at that time it helps in overwelming a market constraint, making the chocolate more accessible to everyone.
The Gianduiotto was literally "launched on the market" in 1865 on occasion of a carnival parade lead by "Gianduja", when the famous masked character of Torino (from which the sweet took its name), threw a bunch of small chocolates to the people attending the event.
To be closer to the Piemontese cuisine, you can't miss to learn the basics of the Piemontese dialect.
Please find here under a list of the most important words you should know to order yourself a great Piemontese meal, together with their translation in Italian and English.
Nowadays the Piemontese dialect is rarely used to communicate in Torino, but if you plan to take a trip in the countryside or to visit our typical restaurants, it could be good to have them in your pocket... you'll never know!
Gastronomic dictionary Piemontese - Italian - English
|Bùr / Butìr||Burro||Butter|
|Fasulìn / Cornètte||Fagiolino||Haricot|
|Merènda sinòira||Merenda||Late afternoon snack|
|Pòm èd tèra||Patata||Potato|
Download the Gastronomic dictionary Piemontese - Italian - English.
Gastronomic dictionary English - Italian - Piemontese
|Butter||Burro||Bùr / Butìr|
|Haricot||Fagiolino||Fasulìn / Cornètte|
|Late afternoon snack||Merenda||Merènda sinòira|
|Potato||Patata||Pòm èd tèra|
Download the Gastronomic dictionary English - Italian - Piemontese.
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