Turin Eats: Bicerin and tea sandwiches at Caffè Mulassano
Turin is said to be one of Italy’s coffee capitals, being the birthplace of the espresso machine, and filled with elegant cafés. But while my experience in Naples, another one of Turin’s epicenters of coffee, was more focused on coffee , in particular at the no-nonsense Caffè Mexico, in Turin I got to have a sit-down experience in an elegant little café.
Caffè Mulassano is a teeny tiny place, with room for just 5 small tables, but every inch of it from floor to ceiling was super ornate! Kind of like stepping inside of a stage set for marionettes.
All of the tables happened to be occupied when we got there, but the very friendly staff just asked us to step to one side to wait for a table. I took the chance to study the display of tea sandwiches neatly stacked and wrapped in plastic. This café claims to have “invented” the tea sandwich! Well, they do say that the previous owners of the café had lived in the US, and upon their return they brought “toast” to Italians, and later the “sandwich.” I’m going to guess that they were introduced to the sandwich in the US, and simply brought the idea over!
Anyway, with a dazzling array of sandwiches on display - the staff told me that if there’s anything I want from the menu that’s not there, they’ll make it fresh - I had a hard time deciding. The waiter recommended one as typical from the region, Robiola seda y nocce. I wasn’t sure what it contained, except for the nocce (hazelnuts) when I ordered, but it turned out to be delicious! A fluffy, white slightly tangy cheese Robiola, with bright crunch from celery (seda), and soft crunch from the nuts.
The main reason for going to a café however, was to try “bicerin.” This is a Turin specialty, with layers of coffee, chocolate, and whipped cream on top. I’d read that you are not supposed to mix the layers together, but have to sip and taste each layer individually. I found that quite hard, however, because the thick, dense, cold cream on top kind of just floats onto the upper lip, making a cream mustache. So I did mix it in the end!
The chocolate was actually quite bitter, so I did appreciate the drink better when mixing all together.
With the tea sandwiches, presented on an elevated silver platter, and the bicerin served in an elegant glass cup, this was a refined little indulgence and introduction to Turin’s café culture!