Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The bear, the bulls and the wine fair

As the 3rd season of The Bear has just been confirmed and as the 2nd one has just won a ton of Golden Globes we want to share with you why this iconic TV series - a must-see for all food-lovers is actually also a portrait of Turin and basically how Chicago and Turin are so similar in their polar opposite identity.

La Farmacia Del Cambio, Turin

Before starting though, we need to make an announcement for all our wine lover friends and all those of you need 'an excuse' to visit Turin, on March 2nd - 4th there will be the 2nd edition of the Turin Wine Fair or Salone del Vino di Torino.

As in 2023, it will take place at Museo del Risorgimento (where you can visit the very first Italian Parliament) and at OGR. 500 wine producers from Piedmont (aka the Burgundy of Italy) will take part and there will be a nice program of masterclasses, presentations and tastings with food pairings of course. Many events will start already on Feb 27th and once again, you can fly over to Turin - look up for a flight into TRN our airport. BA has a nice connection from London Heathrow besides all the other ones from the main European cities.

As the Carnival in Ivrea is over too, we can now fully focus on The Bear, our Turin's green bulls (our fountains) and our local culinary scene.
Although the Turin (American) football team is i Giaguari or the Jaguars and they have nothing to do with the (Chicago) Bears, Torino has a lot in common with the Bulls or i tori, our city symbol represented by our green fountains with the head of a bull spread all around town. If you look well, you'll see bull heads in lampposts too because literally Turin is the bulls city 😉

Piazza San Carlo, facing Piazza Castello

In this iconic TV series set in Chicago, The Beef - the deli Carmen inherits - has a pivotal role for Carmen's family, for Chicago and the whole Italian American community, and fassone beef - our very own extra lean grass fed beef - has played the same role for us, here in Piedmont, and by extension all over Italy.
In no other Italian region you'll find such a luxury meat that makes of Piedmont the beef breeding center of Italy and Turin closer to Chicago, clearly without the slaughterhouses and the railways that supplied to all the other states.

Indeed, googling you can now find some Fassone cattle breeders outside of Piedmont but friends, do it like us here, where the Slow Food movement was born: don't trust any producer who doesn't share the WHOLE chain of their production: from the seeds of the grass their animals eat, to the vet certifications and finally, to how the food is cooked and served 👓

Piazza Castello with the Mole Antonelliana sticking out

Since season 1, Chicago is another character with its unique architecture, river, subway and organic urban development. Like a phoenix, Chicago rose back from her ashes after the great fire in 1871 and it was rebuilt by the most influential European architects who shaped her as we know her now. 

What about Turin? Do we have the same structure?

No friends, because Turin was never destroyed in a fire and still sports her Roman ruines all around downtown, from the Palatine Towers to the University. But we do have a river, the longest in Italy, River Po - aka the Mississippi of Italy; we are also crossed by Dora and you can see these two rivers personified in the fountains in Piazza CLN behind the San Carlo church and Santa Cristina church.
Of course Turin isn't located on a large flat prairie either, instead, she's surrounded by 'a ring of hills' covered in vineyards and by a crown of mountains: the Alps.

These physical features of ours determine our climate too. 
While Chicago is the windy city, where the wind gusts tunnel through the Loop skyscrapers, the winters are bitter cold, easily reaching -35C / 31F, and the summers are sultry humid, like in South East Asia where 44C / 112F are common. 
In Turin, we still kind of enjoy four distinct seasons, because our traditional rainy falls are getting drier and warmer, while our humid springs have extended to early June. In fact, here, we never really enjoyed Chicago-style hot and humid summers, but in the past 5 years, Turin has gone through a chain of heatwaves too, and we can't deny that the level of air pollution in the dry winter is rather high.
Still our hills are 30 minute driving while the mountain tops are 45 to 60 minute driving from downtown Turin, and this means that in the time you reach O'Hare, in Turin we can enjoy cooler, cleaner Alpine weather.

Unesco World Heritage Site Villa della Regina near Piazza Vittorio

If we keep driving 3h southwest, we even reach the Italian Riviera, near France, with its tiny fisherman small towns where the locals have freshly baked focaccia and cappuccino for breakfast. As poetic as they are, you can't really compare that with Lake Geneva, Kenosha (WI) or the Indiana Dunes - so, we'll stick to our other similarities.

The Bear is a bildungsroman of the protagonist/s, the Italian-American cuisine, the Chicago restaurant scene and by extension of the whole American scene and how it has prime levels.
Despite the fact that Turin is still pretty much underpromoted and totally unknown to the international foodies, you can easily see how the royal culinary tradition is not only alive and kicking but also setting trends for the rest of Italy.
Aperitivo was born here as well as Vermouth and Martini , many Italia coffee brands like Lavazza are based here, as well as Bialetti our famous percolator, symbol of the Italian coffee culture is from here too.

no restau-tramway in Chicago, but in Turin you can tour downtown and dine

Cheap food and low quality food - read especially cheap ingredients - are a thing everywhere in the world but not in Turin.
You won't find cheap food, low quality wines or tourist traps here, because the locals know better and rather save their money. 
Even our cheapest osteria, a family owned trattoria near the Porta Palazzo Market where a full menu at lunch is about 18e per person, wine and dessert included, serves high level dishes when you compare them to all the tourist destinations. 
When you come over: count how many fast food restaurants you can see in Turin and who eats there 😉

the farmers section of the Porta Palazzo Market

Our local passion for food, cooking and high cuisine stems from our royal history and our locally produced ingredients are per se more expensive compared to others because inherently more precious. Think of white truffles you can't grow, full bodied wines that require a specific soil composition, humidity and climate; rich chocolate blended with hazelnuts - another cultivation that's not cheap. You just won't easily find industrial copies of our artisan products because modifying the recipes and adding low quality ingredients downgrades the flavor and the experience of our products.

In fact, what you can't really see in The Bear is where they get their ingredients but in Turin, each neighborhood has its own daily market and you can rest reassured that all the eateries (restaurants, hotels, cafés, bistros, gelato shops) in town shop at the Porta Palazzo Market as soon as it opens.
Sometimes, us locals can even tell from which stall a certain item comes from. 
But hey, this is the culinary finesse most Italians share all over the boot and that explains why Michael Berzatto bought only the smaller and pricier canned tomatoes because 'they taste better' than those in the larger and cheaper cans.
Life is too short to save a just a few cents and eat bad.

agnolottini del plin with burrata, pistacchios and lime zest, only handmade

Yes, like in The Bear in Turin, we are indeed very picky with our ingredients and cooking /roasting /baking procedures. As Carmy shows Syd, and like Marcus learns in Copenhagen,  it isn't only a matter of taste and flavor - texture balance but also of aesthetics.

Unlike Chicago, but as most Italian cities, Turin might not have the large array of non-Italian restaurants, but your cravings for international food will easily be satisfied here. In fact, all the non-Italian tourism professionals coming over to Turin from Florence, Tuscany, Rome and other regions rush to try our international restaurants to quench their thirst for different flavors.

Naturally, thanks to our large Southern Italian community that immigrated to Turin to work for FIAT after WW2, you can also easily find all the Italian regional cuisines.

only in Turin you can drink a 1600 bicerin coffee, our staple coffee

Elegance, tradition, dedication, passion and innovation, these are the adjectives that describe The Bear, its food and Turin as well.
Many of our new chefs experiment on a daily basis, playing with flavors, textures and mixing ingredients but not only! In Turin you can find fusion restaurants where our regional dishes are blended with other Italian or international ones, like the Japanese or Brazilian ones.

Just like Chicago is spread out over a large area, so it can take you at least 10 days to scratch the surface and walk in the main neighborhoods of Turin. Most articles you'll find online are only about the historical city center, but Turin has a subway line connecting the north of the city with the south, and exploring 3-4 hoods beyond the Quadrilatero and Via Roma will definitely give you an idea of what the Turin lifestyle is like and how the locals live.

Lingotto: modern FIAT factory with a racetrack, a museum and the 1st Eataly store

An aspect you can't see in The Bear but that if you are familiar with Chicago you already know about is the bountiful of experiences you can enjoy there in terms of cultural diversity.
Well, amici, Turin is pretty much the same minus the Polish neighborhood and the Swedish community, plus: our San Salvario hood - where you'll find our synagogue, many muslim businesses and independent shops,  yes, in the same area! - and our city castles, including our own Versailles in Venaria and the Valentino castle in one of our parks.

In Turin, we might not have something like the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum or the Art Institute but you definitely must carve out some 4 to 6 hours to visit our Egyptian Museum currently the largest ancient Egyptian collection in the world - yes, way larger then the British Museum and the Louvre one,  and our National Cinema Museum hosted inside Mole Antonelliana our city symbol, just to name a couple. 
We do have MANY museums and our opera calendar is the best in Europe. Every month, we always have many exhibits, concerts and fairs going on, so be sure to double check what happens in town when you are thinking of hopping over.

Mole Antonelliana seen from the University with the Roman ruins

No, you won't find Michigan Lake nor Lake Shore Drive, but if you visit during our Chocolate Festival in November... you might get lucky enough to enjoy your chocolate on one of the beach chairs in our fake chocolate spread beach.

If like us, you loved The Bear, you'll love Turin and our food and wine scene too.
Traditional, Italian, experimental, creative, local, minimalist, fusion or Piedmontese, every month you'll find different dishes on our menus, integrating the produce of the season, some being available only for 5 weeks every year because either the plant doesn't produce more like our ramassin plums in July, or the event we make them for, like bugie our Mardi Gras fritters, is locked between two other celebrations each with its own specialty.

our tiny and aromatic AF ramassin plums

So polish your crowns 👑 book your travel ✈ and come over with the certainty that Turin, just like the 3rd season of The Bear won't disappoint you, amici 😎

E-mail Lucia: turinepi 

right where Mozart stayed in 1771 when he too visited Turin

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