Stories of Taste

Among the most popular and beloved snacks in Turin (and beyond) is the tramezzino. This tea sandwich was invented by the owner of Turin’s Caffè Mulassano in 1926, as a bronze plaque in the central Piazza Castello reminds us. Tradition has it that the godfather of this sandwich all’italiana was a true celebrity, the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio: the isosceles triangle of soft bread filled with every type of delicacy reminded him of the tramezze (partitions) of his country home. The little “hunger stopper” – as it was first called – thus found its definitive Italian name: tramezzino.


Where is vermouth from? What about the aperitif? From Turin, of course! The “subalpine capital” can in fact claim the “copyright” of vermouth and the fame it boasts today. The ancient Romans had a similar drink called Absinthiatum vinum, which was passed down with the German name Wermuth (wormwood, or absinthe). In 1786 Antonio Benedetto Carpano was the first to replicate the recipe by mixing herbs and spices with Muscat wine from his cellar, which was located just in front of the Royal Palace. Convinced of the fine taste of his concoction, he gave a cartload to King Victor Amadeus III, who was delighted with the drink and appointed Carpano official supplier of the Royal House. The rest is history: vermouth conquered the world as the protagonist of the ritual of the aperitif and of great innovations in the world of mixology.


Perhaps you prefer a shot of sweet vermouth mixed with a half of bitter china. No worries – your drink is served: a fortifying Punt e Mes, another invention of the Carpano house. According to legend, on 19 April 1870 a stockbroker ordered the usual Carpona aperitif, this time, though, “cut” with a half shot of china (cinchona liqueur) to create a punt e mes (“a shot and a half,” in Turinese dialect).


The history of Martini & Rossi officially began in 1863 when entrepreneur Alessandro Martini, accountant Teofilo Sola and liqueur expert Luigi Rossi formed a company to produce vermouth, liqueurs, spirits and spumante. Production was centralized in Pessione di Chieri, near Turin, on the railway line to the port of Genoa, which at the time was a crucial hub for the shipment of goods destined to every continent. Here in the hills of Turin took root Casa Martini, where an interesting guided tour gives visitors the chance to discover the remarkable story of this icon of Italian production.


Another important gastronomical development took place two decades later, in June 1884: Angelo Moriondo, owner of several local food establishments, took out the patent for the design of a modern version of a steam-based machine to produce a better-tasting coffee. Thus was born in Turin the espresso machine for cafés, of which Moriondo created different exemplars for the “Esposizione Generale Italiana” trade fair, which took place that same year at the Parco del Valentino, to great public acclaim.