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Nov 4, 2008 02:29 PM

REPORTBACK - Turin (long)

Just back from Terra Madre, the Slow Food conference held every other year in Turin. I didn't get to see as much of the city as I would have liked, but here's my take on what I did eat:

Residence du Parc, Corso Massimo D'Azeglio 21, 039 011 650 8383
This was halfway between the centro storico (historic city centre) and the conference centre, so made good sense for me. It's close to major bus lines, and via Madama Cristina, a major shopping street. So if you're in Turin for a couple days and want to hit the big tourist spots, etc. this isn't the place for you. If you're there for a conference, or want to explore beyond the historic centre, and are there for more than a couple days, this is one of the best places I've stayed in, in terms of business accommodaion.

It's like a hotel, but most of the rooms are small apartments, geared towards visiting businessmen and women. The concierge is 24 hour, polite and helpful, the rooms are clean, comfortable and huge. I actually slept on the pull out couch of the largest type of apartment, a two-bedroom (three bathrooms, not sure why!), which was bigger than my house back home. Seriously.

The restaurant downstairs is run by separate management, but I loved grabbing a cappuccino and cornetto there in the mornings (closed sundays). I ate there once in the evening, and it was full (reserve in the morning). I found the food a trifle salty for my taste, but everyone I was with adored it. The menu changes daily, and was a good mix of local specialties and general Italian. The sformato of boraggine (flan of borage, I think!), all the fish dishes, the toast wrapped in speck with cheese - all superb. Including wine, I spent E40 for 3 courses. Good English spoken.

Risto Civassa - Via Martiniana 14 (near Piazza Sabatino),
A small osteria, which I don't think you'd ever find unless purposefully looking for it! The best thing to do is give the street address to a taxi, and let the driver figure it out.

This place specialises in seafood, and was my best meal in Turin. There is an extensive menu, but we all went for the menu degustazione, E26 for 4 courses. They were, on the day we were there (translated into English where I know the English words!):

antipasto misto (smoked tuna heart with cherry tomatoes, steamed persico, sgombro cooked by a green pepper vinaigrette)

filea (Caldoresi type of noodle) cowith cherry tomatoes, swordfish and sage
herbed gnocchetti with prawns (US shrimp) and porcini

grilled fish platter: salmon, branzino, tuna

lemon sorbet, crema gelato, tiramisu, nut and chocolate torte

The antipasto was superb. I've never had smoked tuna heart (yes, that's what it was; even if I didn't understand 'cuore di tonno affumicato', the waiter's mimicry confirmed it!) and it was intriguing. Everything simple but flawless. The pasta (half portion of each) were perhaps the best thing of all. Subtle, flavourful - the sage in the filea, the porcini with prawns - someone in the kitchen knew what they were doing. The mains were probably the most disappointing, and even they were good. Could have benefitted from some contorni (vegetable sides), and the tuna was slightly overcooked. And while I don't like lemon sorbet, theirs was the best I have ever had - it was smooth like gelato, and not too acidic or sweet. Perhaps it had egg white in it? The debate continues... All the other desserts were excellent too.

I also reccomend the Giribaldi Gavi 2007, which was great with seafood.

Not sure the address - - I took the #18 bus and got off at the convention centre stop (lingotto), where it's across the street. If you're going to Turin for food, you've got to go here. It's like an Italian Wholefoods, but better. In every section, there's a counter restaurant where you can have the produce cooked for you to eat there. Good selection of things for gifts, but be warned - everything is a couple euro more expensive here than in other places.

Saturday Market
Sorry, don't have the address either. Great veg market, but don't miss the indoor fish market. Great photo opportunities, but look out for pickpockets.

C'era Una Volta
This place was much vaunted on this site; I'm afraid to say it's the first truly terribly tip I've gotten on this board. We ordered the truffle menu, four courses for E46. It was a puzzling meal - there were moments of delicious, good food, but often on the same plate as what I can only describe as reheated leftovers. I was mortified, since the restaurant had been my suggestion, and of course I was dining with two other food journalists, and a chef (with michelin star experience). Aaarg. THey were all very nice about it, and had a good dissection of everything that was wrong. And there was unfortunately lots.

The service was appalling - they brought the next course while diners were still eating the previous course, or had no cutlery, or still had dirty plates on the table. We were not offered a menu a la carte, just the choice of two set menus, which weren't very exciting (on our way out, we noticed an a la carte menu outside the restaurant, in a glass display case - why weren't we offered that?). I actually spoke to the head waiter, who apparently runs the place with his brother the cook. I told him we were really disappointed, and asked him what the hell had happened; his only excuse was that they were functioning at capacity, and so ran the restaurant more like a cafeteria (!). I told him his prices weren't cafeteria prices. And I must say, having eaten at tavola calda often enough, most railway cafes served better food.

He knocked off 20% of our bill, but as one of our party said, "If a shitty meal isn't comped, I'm going to assume he was ok with what we ate. And that means I can go ahead and review it in print". The chef in our party disagreed; he said every restaurant deserved two meals before judgement was passed. We were all leaving the next day, though, so I'm afraid my opinion stands.

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  1. Gooseberry: A belated thanks for this very thorough report.

    I am interested in the seafood restaurant, La Civassa. The website linked above does notwork for me and when I google the name of the restaurant, I get this site; was this the place you ate? (The address is Via Don Bosco which is not the address you mention above)

    I am searching for a seafood place for one night in case we have had our fill, temporarily, of meat-heavy Piemontese specialties.

    All other ideas are welcome!

    8 Replies
      1. re: zerlina

        Oh, Zerlina, thank you! I cannot understand why I could not find that link! It looks good! confusing that there seem to be two fish places with the same name!

        Do you think it is unusual, for a good restaurant, that so many of the shellfish are frozen?

        I have only two nights in Turin; one dinner will be at Antiche Sera, so I want to choose very carefully!

        1. re: erica

          I suspect that it's one restaurant that has moved and never bothered to take down its old Web site.

          I haven't been to the restaurant; Gooseberry has and liked it.

          Turin is quite far inland - remember that in Italy Rome is considered inland! - so frozen shellfish is perhaps not all that surprising or disturbing.

          1. re: zerlina

            Thanks, Zerlina! So maybe better to concentrate on more local products....

            1. re: erica

              There is a craze for top flight seafood all over Northern Italy - you see fancy seafood plateaus and delicious looking scampi in all kinds of inland towns - very expensive. None of these places are that far from the sea all in all, so that it should be possible to get scampi, the red gamberi from san remo at top flight seafood places in the North (they are on offer in Bergamo at Colleoni de Angeli, at da Vittorio, for example). the sad fact is that the Med is so fished out that the availablility of local stuff is limited all over the place and especially offseason you will see it airfreighted in from the North Atlantic, etc. We have certainly seen this phenomenon in the Rialto market in Venice Id imagine that stuff like squid and octopus stand up pretty well to freezing.

              1. re: jen kalb

                But would you order them if you knew that they were frozen? Maybe I am unreasonably predudiced..(??)

                Jen: Just for my own knowledge, Dd you happen to know the season for scampi? (I had no idea that there was one! I do know that I had the most spectacular moscardini at Cesarina in Santa Margherita during the last week of that season...)

                1. re: erica

                  I dont know the season for Scampi in the Med - I do know that they are getting scarcer . the ones I saw in the Rialto Markets the last time we were in Venice (during Feb) were from the North Sea. Most likely those are airfreighted in and not frozen anyway. My favorite seafood! I have Alan Davidson's Mediterranean seafood at home and will check. to see if he says.

                  Smothered moscardini (tiny baby octopuses) was the best dish I had on my late March trip to Naples/Amalfi. What amazing flavor!

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Oh yes, please check and report back! I am a huge scampi fan when I am in coastal Italy where they get such great ones with the heads--I have to force myself to sample others things when they are on the menu!