Piedmont’s chocolate tradition
There is a long-lasting, passionate love story between the Piemonte region and chocolate. A story that, since the invention in Torino of the gianduiotto chocolate during this past century, leads to post World-War II and to Alba where master Pietro Ferrero patented a block of chocolate to be cut into slices. The mixture, resulting from the blending of cocoa and the tonda gentile (small and sweet) quality of hazelnut from the Alba area, is perfected in the 1960’s by his son Giovanni Ferrero – an Italian version of Willy Wonka known to the world as the inventor of the chocolate Kinder egg – who transforms it into a spreadable cream. This is the birth of Nutella, the yummy world famous object of worship.
Nanni Moretti even declared his dependence on it in his film Bianca. Chocolate is an institution in Torino. It is served in a cup, with or without cream, in the finest historical cafés of the city: among the mirrors of BarattiandMilano, the plastered walls of Platti, the marble at Mulassano, or the retrò atmosphere of Bicerin. Kneaded and blended in artisan laboratories such as Candifrutto, Stratta, Odilla, Avidano and Medico, this chocolate from Piemonte had its international showcase during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games thanks to the skillful promotion of master chocolatiers like Guido Gobino who added a tasteful, modern wrapping to this quality product. Inventor of the “Turinot” (a small gianduiotto chocolate resulting from a re-visitation of a traditional recipe from Torino that was discarded in the 1920’s) it is now even sold in New York and Tokyo.
Torino is not the only place to hold the chocolate record. Time-honoured chocolatiers and pastry chefs all over the Piemonte region are in competition with their specialties. In Cherasco, the Barbero candy shop has been making their “Baci di Cherasco” (Cherasco kisses) since 1881 by blending dark chocolate with toasted hazlenuts while the Cioccolateria Ravera offers an unforgettable “cioccocaldo” (hot chocolate) and not too far from there, at Vicoforte, Silvio Bessone imports cocoa beans from South America for the “Fuego”: aphrodisiac chocolates with a secret recipe. In Asti, the historical Giordanino pastry shop in pure Liberty style exclusively prepares “Alfierini” (pralines with an effigy of Vittorio Alfieri) and bakes Cabiria tortes, inspired by Pastrone’s silent film of the same name with verses by Gabriele d’Annunzio. In Castellazzo Bormida’s Micarella district, in the province of Alessandria, Giraudi is specialised in tantalizing pear, rose and grapefruit flavoured candy covered in chocolate….and we could go on and on.
But for chocoholics the most scrumptious engagements are with CioccolaTò (in Torino from March 6 -15 and in the province of Torino on March 14 -15 and 21 -22), a festival that compares local artisans with national chocolatiers in a battle of tasting, entertainment, encounters and workshops invading piazza Vittorio like a slightly pagan ritual; with Un Borgo di Cioccolato (A Chocolate Village) in Borgo San Dalmazzo; and with Cioccolato alla corte del Barolo Chinato (Chocolate at the Court of Barolo Chinato) on March 7 -8: a combination dedicated to bittersweet flavour. Held at the Cantine dell’Enoteca Regionale del Barolo (Regional Wine cellars in Barolo) and in other locations of the Langhe area.