« Amongst the good things I experienced in Turin, I will never forget the bicerin, an excellent drink made with coffee, milk and chocolate, which is served in all cafes. »
It’s the tasting memories that the famous French writer Alexandre Dumas kept after his Turinese stay in August 1852… Memories of the bicerìn, a small, hot beverage, very fashionable in the nineteenth century and still popular today in the capital of Piedmont.
Dumas’ contemporaries could at the time enjoy this sweet drink for nothing. Just a few euros nowadays for that glassful of nostalgia.
The bicerìn is a perfect blend of coffee, chocolate and milk frothed to a microfoam. But it’s not that simple because all these ingredients are lavered instead of mixed together.
Three versions of the bicerìn make all the foodies see eye to eye :
- The complete one, « ‘n pò d’tutt » (« a little of everything ») : coffee, chocolate, milk foam.
- The « pur e fior » one (« pure and flower ») : coffee and milk foam (and it’s not a latte or a cappuccino),
- The « pur e barba » one (« pure and beard ») : coffee and chocolate.
The bicerìn gets its name from the little stemmed glass which is used to serve it and gives a little precious side to it.
The legend says that the bicerìn became very famous thanks to the Café Alfieri, Piazza Solferino, run by an ex-shoe shine boy, Giuseppe Gentile. The bicerìn made Giuseppe so rich that he decided to give half a million of gold lira to the Poveri Vecchi’s rest home.
An other story tells us that the Bicérìn Café, Piazza della Consolata, was enjoyed by the parishioners on a empty stomach after mass. Indeed, the chocolate wasn’t prohibited during Lent…
The bicerìn is like Turin : heartwarming, sometimes cheeky, but always sophisticated.
Where to taste a good bicerìn ?
At Baratti e Milano, a Turinese institution founded in 1858 (too late for Alexandre Dumas…) and of which I have good memories.
Baratti e Milano was the official supplier of the royal court and this beautiful establishment has a particular outdated charm. Travelers mix with regular customers and your traditional bicerìn will be served with local pastries : crociòn, biciolàn, parisièn, brioss, etc.
This historic café has a splendid location in the Galleria Subalpina, a shopping gallery built in 1873 and covered with a beautiful glass roof.
Baratti e Milano sells its own products : buy their excellent cocoa powder and try to make your own bicerìn. But its a secret recipe…
Baratti e Milano
Piazza Castello, 29, 10123 Torino, Italie
+39 011 440 7138
Turinese’s chocolate is not to be trifled with.
« Turin’s chocolate is one of the best in Italy and even in Europe… »
Antoine Valéry, L’indicateur italien, in Le Normand, 1831 – 1833.