History of Chocolate in Turin - Gianduja and Much More
My recent trip to CioccolaTo, Turin's chocolate festival, wasn't only about sampling as much chocolate as I could. Well, I guess it was, but there was some chocolate education to be had between nibbles. To celebrate Italy's 150 years of unification, the chocolate festival had a special tent dedicated to the celebration. Along with the Italy in Monuments chocolate display, there was a photo & placard display detailing key moments in Italy's 150-year history and its history of chocolate. As the festival was in Turin, much of the display was dedicated to chocolate history in Turin and the Piedmont region.
Italy's Monuments in Chocolate
The chocolate most associated with Turin is gianduia. However, long before they started putting hazelnuts in chocolate, Turin was a major player in the world of European chocolate. Turin chocolatiers got their first license to sell chocolate in 1678, almost 200 years before the first gianduia bar entered the chocolate scene in Turin.
The chocolate-hazelnuts mixture didn't come about by some "Hey you got your hazelnuts in my chocolate" accident. Gianduia, today a blend of milk chocolate and ground hazelnuts, was invented due to high cacao prices and problems with supply. In order to extend their supply of cacao, chocolatiers added hazelnuts that were, and still are, in abundance from the local Langhe area.
The chocolate and gianduia "stubs" came out in 1852. At first their name was "givu," local dialect for cigarette butt. During Carnival in 1865, the chocolate company Caffarel had Turin's Carnival character, Gianduia, hand out these givu during Carnival festivities. From then Caffarel's stubs were known as Gianduia, 1865, and the gianduia name stuck with the other bars. Sometimes they are also referred to as gianduiotti.
Crema Gianduja and Nutella
One of the most popular forms of chocolate and hazelnuts worldwide is Nutella. Ferrero-Rocher, located in the nearby city of Alba, began producing the popular spread in 1945. First is was called Giandujot, then Supercrema, then Cremalba. In 1964 it became Nutella.
Almost every chocolatier and sweet shop in Turin has a local version of the spread, using many variations of names. I saw crema gianduja, spalmabile, crema spalmabile. These artisanal versions are more likely to actually use Piedmont hazelnuts and less likely to have palm oil or preservatives that come with the mass produced spread.
A gianduia tasting in Turin should be part of any visit, but a chocoholic (known as ciocco-dipendenti in Italian) would be remiss to leave before tasting the other chocolate specialties of the city. Below is a sampling of the other specialties, along with a few bites of chocolate history.
Nocciolati in Chocolate Shop Windows
Nocciolati - Nocciolati are gianduia chocolate bars with whole roasted hazelnuts throughout. These, along with other chocolate variations, decorate many chocolate storefront windows in Turin. They are sold by weight, usually the etto (100 grams). Nocciolato fondente is a dark chocolate bar with hazelnuts; nocciolato latte is milk chocolate with hazelnuts, and nocciolato bianco is white chocolate. Little bite-size versions are nocciolatini.
Cremini from Guido Gobino
Cremino - In 1911 to launch its Fiat 4, the Turin-based auto manufacture held a contest for Italian chocolatiers to create a chocolate in honor of the new car. "Il Cremino" made by Aldo Majani in Bologna won. For many years it was known as the Cremino Fiat. A square shape, it is layers of chocolate, initially four layers, I only found three-layer versions. Two of the layers are gianduia chocolate. The middle layer varies in flavors and can be hazelnut cream, dark chocolate, coffee cream, to name only a few. The cremini above are from Guido Gobino. One of his cremini flavors called sea salt and olive oil has a middle layer of gianduia with sea salt and olive oil. It's divine!
Tris di Nocciole from A. Giordano
Tris di Nocciole - A classic in chocolate shops in Turin, they are simply three roasted hazelnuts covered in chocolate. You can find them in all three chocolate variations; dark, milk and white.
Chocolate Truffles from CioccolaTo
Tartufi (truffles) - Although they are a specialty of Turin, you can find truffles all over the world. I felt these mouth-watering photos merited an inclusion. Named after the expensive fungus they resemble, these balls of ganache, sometimes with a little liquor added to the ganache, are traditionally rolled in cocoa powder.
Chocolate Rochers at the CioccolaTo Festival
Rochers - Ferrero-Rocher (the company that also makes Nutella) introduced these "rocks" to the world in 1982. Many chocolatiers in the city make them. If you love chocolate and hazelnuts, this is a dream combination. Generally, they start with a chocolate-covered hazelnut at the center; gianduia cream enrobes it. A very thin wafer is wrapped around the gianduia cream, separating it from the final coating of milk chocolate and chopped hazelnuts.
Preferiti in Dark, Milk and White Chocolate
Preferito - Cherries that have been macerated in Maraschino liquor, then dipped in chocolate. You can find these in all three chocolate variations
CriCri - At this chocolate's center is a toasted hazelnut. It's then covered in dark chocolate and rolled in large white sugar crystals. Another lovely combination of chocolate and hazelnuts that has its roots in love. Legend has it that two young lovers, Turin's version of Romeo & Juliet, met at the pastry shop de Coster in the late 1800s. One would enter the store calling, "Cri" and the other acknowledged with the same call, "Cri." When de Coster introduced this candy in 1884, they named it after the pet name the lovers used.
Candy Jars at A. Giordano
Cuneese al Rhum - Introduced in 1923 and named after Cuneo, the city in Piedmont from which it hails, this is the Piedmont version of the sandwich cookie. It's either two disks of meringue or two cookies dipped in chocolate that sandwich a chocolate pastry cream. The pastry cream is doused with a strong dose of rum. Too many of these guarantees you'll be over the legal alcohol limit.
Boero - Cherries left in Cognac for a few days then dipped in chocolate. Different from the preferiti because of the kind of alcohol and these cherries still have the pits in them.
Alpino - In 1922 one of the oldest chocolatiers in Turin created this molded chocolate in honor of the alps next to the Peyrano factory in the countryside. Liquor and chocolate cream are inside the mountain-shaped chocolate mold.
Grappino - In 1962 Peyrano was at it again with the chocolate and liquor combinations. These dangerous chocolates are filled with grappa and shapped like little bottles.
Baci di Cherasco - Italians are known for not wasting any food and working wonders with leftovers, le rimanenze. This chocolate is a perfect example. The Piedmont chocolate company, Barbero, started making these because they wanted to use up the fragments of hazelnuts that remained after making Torrone. In 1881 Barbero introduced these "kisses of Cherasco." Cherasco is a city in the Piedmont region.
A Few Names in Chocolate in Turin and Their Locations:
Guido Gobino - Two locations: Via LaGrange 1 - A boutique where a variety of chocolate tastings are on offer and Via Cagliari 15/b - a shop and the laboratory (A tour of the laboratory may be possible but you must email them in advance. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org )
La Perla - Via Catania 9 - Along with La Perla chocolates, you can find other chocolate brands at this store
Pfatisch - Via Sacchi 42 - One of the historic places in Turin, the shop hasn't changed since 1926. In the basement is a small "chocolate museum" where you can find the old machines used to make chocolates.
Re Gianduia - Corso Fiume 1 - Selling mostly Caffarel chocolates, this whimsically decorated
candy store can bring out the kid in all of us. At the bar in the front, they serve Gianduiottino, a decadent drink of coffee, gianduia cream and milk.
Venchi - Via Garibaldi 22 - A ciocco-gelateria - one stop shopping for Venchi chocolates and gelato.
Peyrano - Corso Moncalieri 47 - One of the oldest chocolatiers in Turin. When I was there in March, the stores were closed due to the change in ownership. The Peyrano family bought the company back and hopefully have reopened the doors.