Very excited to have this delicious post by Lucia Hannau of Turin Epicurean
Do you love chocolate? Imagine a city that has had a long love affair with chocolate…where you can sit in elegant art nouveau cafes and sip a perfectly made hot or cold chocolate drink (depending on the season), or a coffee, served with chocolate on the side.
Thanks to Italian traveler Antonio Carletti, chocolate made its debut in Italy via Spain (who brought it from the New World) in about 1585, and everyone went crazy for it. Cioccolatieri opened in all major cities. Today, there’s one city in the northwestern part of Italy known especially for chocolate: Turin, the capital city of Piedmont.
Italy is well known for innovative designs in fashion, cars, and well, just about everything. You’ve no doubt heard of Ferrari, Fiat, Prada, Gucci, and Versace. But, did you know that those crafty Italians are also responsible for the first chocolate bars?
That’s right, candy bars or solid chocolate bars got their start in Turin.
In 1778, an Italian inventor named Doret constructed a machine that mixed cocoa butter with vanilla and sugar, creating, in effect, a chocolate praline. This system was then perfected by Joseph Fry, who produced chocolate bars as we know them today.
After the machine that turned the liquid into bars was invented, the whole world, including Italians, went crazy for chocolate.
Turin has been producing chocolate since 1678, when the Queen of Savoy granted Turinese chocolate maker Gio’ Antonio Ari a license to open the first chocolate house, serving hot chocolate. This firmly established Turin as a chocolate capital of Europe. Today the Piedmont region produces 40% of the total Italian chocolate – about 85,000 tons of chocolate a year! Visiting Turin is like going to chocolate heaven.
Turin is perhaps best known for the decadently delicious, golden wrapped Gianduiotti. Hazelnuts are plentiful in Piedmont, especially in the Langhe area. Local boy Michele Prochet is responsible for mixing the cocoa powder with toasted chopped hazelnuts, and producing the gianduiotti.
From this creation, the world-famous hazelnut and chocolate spread known as Nutella was invented. If you ever stay in a B&B in Italy, there’s a good chance there will be little individual packets of Nutella on the morning breakfast bar.
Nutella is produced by the chocolate maker Ferrero-Rocher, a family-owned business that has grown to become one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world. Located in the nearby town of Alba, they also make the delicious Rocher, hazelnuts in milk chocolate with a hazelnut cream coating and then a chocolate shell. Divine!
Other popular chocolates Turin is known for are the Cremino, Nocciolati, Tris di Nocciole, and Tartufi (chocolate) truffles.
Another chocolate specialty made popular in Turin is the Bicerin, a truly decadent layered hot chocolate coffee drink. Remember in the beginning, chocolate was only served in liquid form. Bicerin, which means little glass, is made from coffee, cocoa, and whipped cream. A tradition in Turin is to enjoy a morning bicerin at a cafe. This drink was historically enjoyed by Picasso, Hemingway, and Dumas. If it’s good enough for them, perhaps you want to give it a try?
Finally, let us not forget the aphrodisiac properties chocolate is credited with. Imagine stopping for a bit of chocolate at one of Turin’s pretty cafes, mix in the romantic ambiance of Italy, and …
About the author:
Lucia Hannau was born and raised in Turin, NW Italy. After completing her Master’s degree in the U.S. she then became the Italian language program director at Purdue University for nine years. It was while living in America that Lucia discovered her passion for food and decided to return to her roots in Turin, to organize Turin Epicurean Capital, an international food and lit event that aims to finally place Turin on the foodie’s world map. You can follow her on twitter and Facebook.