In 1858 two enterprising young men opened a sweet shop and cafe in the Italian city of Torino. The business is still going strong one hundred and sixty years later, operating from a beautiful and elegant ‘belle epoque‘ building in the heart of the city. The cafe specialises in the finest coffee, tea and chocolate. As the Italians say, ‘La Storia dal 1858’….
The founders were Ferdinando Baratti and Edoardo Milano. From the very early days, their mission was to provide customers with the highest quality coffee and chocolate. Milano travelled to Paris to perfect his recipes, whilst Baratti insisted on importing the very finest cocoa from West Africa. This obsession with quality and using only the finest ingredients established Baratti & Milano as one of the finest cafes in Torino. In those days Torino was a royal city, the Dukes of Savoy were the ruling family, and international visitors and aristocrats would always stop off in town to enjoy the court’s hospitality. It was a favourite refreshment destination for exhausted travellers on the Grand Tour.
During the 1860s Europe was in turmoil. It became difficult to import cocoa into Italy and France. Demand was increasing and yet supplies were scarce, consequently prices soared. At the Carnival of 1865, a well known comedy character called ‘Gianduia’ started handing out a new and different kind of chocolate to the crowds. The chocolate wrapped in gold paper to symbolise the value of cocoa at that time, had a new and different taste. The chocolate was a mixture of cocoa and nocciole (hazelnuts). The nocciole came from the hillsides of Piemonte, just a few miles from Torino. Baratti & Milano had, quite literally, struck gold. The new chocolates were hugely popular and became known as ‘Gianduia’ after the Carnival character who handed them out for the first time in 1865. Using a mixture of locally grown hazelnuts and exotic imported cocoa was a brilliant idea. The taste of the chocolate was delicious and the cost of production had gone down because less cocoa was required. Baratti and Milano could now meet the demand for their chocolate and keep prices sensible. They had secured their business for the future. The cafe has since survived two world wars and always kept its doors open to serve customers from near and far, whatever the political atmosphere of the time.
The chocolate-making tradition in Torino remains very important to this day. Baratti & Milano are still going strong. They say that the hazelnuts of Piemonte are the best in Italy, they are known as ‘La Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’ and have their own clearly defined area of production, just like the vines that produce the great wines of Burgundy or Barolo. As any Italian will tell you, the taste of your food is entirely determined by the quality of the ingredients. In the case of Baratti & Milano, quality, consistency and the finest ingredients have created an ‘ottima qualita’ chocolate that is often copied and rarely, if ever, equalled. So next time you are in Northern Italy, take a few hours out of your day and head to Torino, an excellent cup of coffee and some delicious gianduia chocolates await your arrival.
- To discover more: Baratti & Milano, Italy – www.barattiemilano.it
- In North America – Baratti & Milano, USA – www.barattiandmilano.com
- Gianduia or Gianduiotto is said to be the finest chocolate in Italy, ‘presentato al pubblico nel carnevale del 1865 dalla maschera torinese Gianduja, da cui prende il nome, che distribuiva per le strade della città la nuova bontà’.
- I’ve also written about an artisan biscuit maker who uses only three ingredients in his biscuits; hazelnuts, sugar and flour The Biscuit Maker of Chivasso
- Please explore The Educated Traveller blog to discover more tales from Italy
- Next time you are planning a trip to Italy visit www.grand-tourist.com our specialist travel company. We focus on unique and interesting journeys in Italy.
If you live in Florida, Cinzia of Tasty Venues Cafe & Gift Shop, stocks Baratti & Milano chocolates – address: