Turin (Torino in Italian) is an important business and cultural center in northern Italy and the capital of the Piedmont region. The city has a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theaters, libraries, museums and other venues. The city currently hosts some of Italy’s best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the six-century-old University of Turin and the Turin Polytechnic. It is often referred to as the Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy, as it is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
Alfa Romeo Automobiles, an Italian car manufacturer, has been involved with car racing since 1911. The company was owned by Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986. It became a part of the Fiat group In 2007 and the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.
Originally, the company was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. In 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A.who ventured into motor racing with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models.
The firm’s initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and a tract of land was purchased in Lombardy where a new factory was erected.
In 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, a backer for Nicola Romeo & Co, went bankrupt and the government stepped in to support industrial companies affected by the failed bank, among which was Alfa Romeo.
In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the name of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars but struggled to make a profit and so it was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motor sport, including the Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and rallies. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motor sport, along with a sporty image. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins in the world.
Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new Formula One for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 158 Alfetta and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa’s second consecutive championship in 1951.
The track in the photo above was built on the roof of the factory that opened in Turin’s Ligotto district in 1923. The factory’s assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top-level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms. The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building and London’s “vertical city,” the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater to interested business travelers. You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of cars looping around the course are gone.
Turin cuisine shows the influence of its closeness to France in its use of butter and complex sauces. This area is also the home of solid chocolate, bread sticks (called grissini) , risotto and some of Italy’s most renowned wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. Italian vermouth, in Italy an aperitif, is another product of Turin and Turin is still the headquarters of many vermouth manufacturers, the most famous of which is Martini and Rossi.
Anchovies are used in many dishes. Bagna Caôda is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles. The sauce is served in a small earthenware pot that is kept hot while it is served. Vegetables are then dipped in the sauce.
A typical beef stew, bollito misto is usually made with four or more meats. Beef and chicken are staples of the dish, as is some type of sausage. These ingredients are often mixed with other meats that are available. The stew is served with a green sauce made from parsley, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and other ingredients according to the preference of the cook.
Turin, Italy is perhaps best known for the white truffle, a rare food that is sought by cooks around the world. Rare is the person who can afford white truffles as they generally sell for between $2,500 and $3,500 per pound. The white truffle season runs from September through December. During the season many towns around Turin have truffle fairs and auctions where you can often get tastes of regional dishes made with truffles.
- 10 anchovies in salt
- 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Two handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- 1 peperoncino (small hot chilli)
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
- 1/2 cup of good virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
Wash the anchovies very well under cold running water to remove the salt. Remove the bones and allow the anchovies to dry.
Cook the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
Put the garlic into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the anchovies and puree until smooth.
Put a little of the sauce onto a serving dish and layer the anchovies over it. Put some more sauce on top.
Let rest at room temperature for at least 1 or 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Pasta with Mushrooms
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 oz pancetta, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 lb assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Crimini, Common White, etc.), thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb. long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
- 4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Combine the dried porcini and the wine in a small bowl and soak for thirty minutes.
Fill a large pot with four to six quarts of water and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to the water and stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain and pour onto a serving bowl.
Heat a large saute pan to medium high heat and add the pancetta. Cook until slightly crisp.
Add the butter and allow it to melt. When the bubbles have subsided, add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until the juices have all but evaporated.
Raise the heat to high and add the porcini and wine. Add in the shallots and the thyme. Saute, stirring frequently until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add salt & pepper to taste and the cream.
Allow the sauce to boil until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
Pour all of the mushroom sauce over the pasta and toss well. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
Chicken Torino Style
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 slices mozzarella cheese
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking dish.
Sauté the garlic in a medium ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until light brown.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cut a slit in each chicken breast and fill the pocket with 1 slice of mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and half of the sautéed garlic.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken breast.
In the same skillet used for the garlic, brown the chicken in the butter and remaining oil for about 2 minutes on each side.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Makes eight 6-ounce servings
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
- 12 egg yolks
- 4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
- 12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream
- 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts
Heat the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a saucepan.
Whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.
Once the milk mixture is hot, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.
Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated.
Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together.
Add the vanilla extract and combine.
Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.
*Cooking Notes: Gianduja chocolate is available at most gourmet food stores. If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatin. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for softening the gelatin in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.