1950s Archive

A Gastronomic Tour of Italy


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As you approach this, the industrial heart of northern Italy, you may have the same apprehensive feeling that we had—namely, that it would be a sooty, gloomy place with factory chimneys belching smoke, and housing developments cluttering up the place. One couldn't conjure up a more erroneous idea of Turin. Its factories exist, but they arc on distant outskirts. The city that travelers see is highly civilized, clean, prosperous, dynamic, and well worth a visit. The founders of this metropolis on the River Po were Celtic tribes who fought Hannibal's elephants as a part of the day's work. Centuries later the city became the capital of the far-flung little kingdom of Sardinia, and it was in Turin's Palazzo Carignano that the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861.

Today it is the stronghold of Italian textiles, chemicals, and motors. Every spring its automobile show attracts visitors from all over Europe, and its hotels are jammed. Its population is approaching a million. A far more tranquil city than either Milan or Rome, Turin makes the most of its River Po, and lines it with parks. An Egyptologist has a wonderful time in Turin, for there he finds a museum collection of Egyptian art unsurpassed in Europe. The passing gourmet will enjoy himself almost as much, we feel, whar with agnellotti, bread sticks, and Cambio, to be alphabetical about it. The third item refers to one of the top restaurants in Europe, whose praises we will sing shortly.

One reason for our thumping the tub for Turin is its hotel and restaurant situation, which is admire. Two hotels in particular are worthy of high praise, the PRINCIPI DI PIEMONTE, an ultramodern skyscraper affair (more than eight stories, that is) with slightly more comfort than atmosphere, and the LIGURE, facing the Piazza Carlo Felice. The latter is of a certain antiquity, but has been well restored, and the service is excellent. We think that either of these will serve as a worthy base from which to set forth on an epicurean adventure, As a first step, we suggest a leisurely stroll up the new Via Roma, a credite monument to discredited Fascist days. It is probably the most luxurious street in Italy, Its pavement consists of massive granite blocks and its two-storied arcades arc supported by monolithic mae columns, the like of which Can be seen in the National Gallery in Washington, perhaps, but no where else. Continue past shop windows shimmering with silks, shoes, and handbags, and you come to the Caffè Torino, the smartest in the city. In the cooler months you sit in its stately salons; in summer, tables are scattered under its arcades and far out into the Piazza San Carlo. The place is animated and fashionable, filled with interesting people, and it makes a memore selling in which to enjoy an apéritif and to consider the prospects for a good dinner. There are several. Diagonally across the square is the CAVAI. 'D BRONS, a gay, Tyrolean type of place with good beer and pretty waitresses. Under a neighboring arcade is the admire c CUCULO. Turin's top choice, CAMBIO, IS only a five-minute stroll away. Let's go there first.


If you want to visualize how your distinguished grandfather dined in the 1890's, park your 1956 automobile in the spacious Piazza Carignano and turn your footsteps in the direction of this nostalgic restaurant. It is definitely vieux style, and by far the best in Turin. The long, high-ceilinged dining salon is lighted by three immense chandeliers. Red velvet banquettes line the four walls. There are mirrors everywhere, interspcrsed with thin, recded pilasters, gilded and Adamesque. Above them are murals of capering cupids which might have been done by Veronese himself.

The waiters are venere here, as is the grandmotherly hat-check girl. The headwaiter is the ambassadorial type—thin, cultured, cutawayed, multilingual. He really belongs in Geneva, He greeted us with diplomatic deference, and we readily put ourselves in his hands in ordering a light dinner. The result was brilliant, beginning with just about the best risotto al parmigiano we've ever encountered. How many years of experience does it take to make a risotto like that? The maÎtre d'hôcel wasn't sure. It would take a bit of time to learn how to make Canbio's veal cutlet also. Costolette alia valdostana are sautéed in butter (good Piedmont cooking is exclusively au beurre), then covered with a layer of Fontina cheese and sprinkled with thin slices of lavender truffle before going momentarily under the broiler. A crisp green salad, a choice from a tempting plank of cheese, then coffee and Strega, and our felicity was complete. We entreat you to try Cambio, whether it be in this mirrored banquet hall or on the inviting open-ail terrace.

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