Turin Eats: "Apericena" at Beerba, in the San Salvario neighborhood
Milan Design Week is always hectic: walking the lengths of several football fields at the Salone del Mobile, running from one exhibit to the next in the Fuorisalone, with the only breaks for food standing up, going to cocktails and parties late into the night (all in the name of work, of course!). In the last few years, I’ve tried to do a little trip post-Milan to relax. And finally sit down for a meal for once.
This year I invited my sister and my friend to come along with me to Milan, and I convinced them to go to Turin afterwards together. Turin had been on my list of places to visit for a while, because it’s just one hour away from Milan by high speed rail, and in general I like city getaways, especially if they have a rich culinary heritage as Turin does. Turin is the birthplace of gianduja, that combination of cocoa and hazelnuts that many of us know as Nutella, the birthplace grissini, the thin breadsticks, and the heart of Italy’s aperitivo culture.
In most of the world, “aperitivo” refers to some kind of alcoholic drink that one has before a meal, in order to stimulate the appetite. In some parts of Italy, aperitivo also includes a buffet of finger foods like pieces of pizza or sandwiches. In Turin, this buffet doesn’t just consist of finger foods, but also full-on platters of meats and vegetables, so it’s no longer a pre-dinner ritual, it is dinner! Hence the moniker “apericena,” aperitivo + cena (dinner in Italian).
I hardly did any research for what to do in Turin, but I knew I did want to try aperitivo/apericena somewhere, and one place that popped up in my research was Beerba, just a few blocks away from our Airbnb in the San Salvario neighborhood.
At least on Fridays, they have two turns for aperitivo: one from 7pm to 9pm, and the other from 9pm to 10:30pm. The week before, they actually published a notice on their Facebook page encouraging people to make reservations since it was getting to be high season, so I had an Italian friend help me make a reservation. Unfortunately, the 9pm turn was already fully booked, calling the Monday of the same week. But they agreed to hold a table for us until 7:30pm for the first turn. I figured our train would arrive at 7:05pm, we would get to the Airbnb at 7:15pm, check in within 10 minutes, and then be at Beerba by 7:30pm. Which would give us a good hour and a half to leisurely sip cocktails and graze the buffet!
Their Fridays seem to have a special menu, where they have a big selection of regional specialties. For the Friday we went, their menu - including herb frittata, savory flan, and crostini with lardo - went up on Facebook the day before.
Unfortunately, my carefully timed plan went to bust. Our Trenitalia Frecciarossa high speed train was 18 minutes late arriving into Milan, and more than 20 minutes late arriving into Turin. I stopped by Beerba at around 7:30pm to tell the waitstaff that we’d just check in to the Airbnb and then come back in 10 minutes. But our lovely Airbnb was so expansive, beautiful and artistic, and each room even had its own name, that our introductory tour by our lovely host took quite a while! The very kind waitstaff actually called me on my Spanish number to tell me again (in perfect English) that we’d have the table only until 9pm, and suggested that we could rebook for another day. I reassured her that we’d be right down, so we left as quickly as possible, and got to Beerba finally around 8:20pm! The very nice girl who called me got us settled in, and actually customized our cocktails for us after asking us what kinds of liquors we liked, the types of flavors we preferred, if we liked things more or less sweet…
While she made our drinks, we quickly loaded up at the buffet. There was a middle table of salads and crostini.
A display by the window with lots of different warm dishes.
And most welcome of all, after days of eating pizza, focaccia, and panini, was their offering of cooked vegetables!
Here is the part of the restaurant we sat. It’s empty, because this was after the end of the 7-9pm turn, when we were all asked to leave.
There’s a slightly bigger dining room on the other side of the entry/buffet area.
So how was the food? The temperature could have been a bit hotter, but after days of eating lots of starch on the go, it was so great to get fresh, cooked vegetables like carrots and cabbage, and protein like chicken, pork, and beef.
The customized cocktails were great too - and perfectly fit what I liked. Mine was a fresh, citrusy drink. Very refreshing, and not too sweet. Even though I think my sister gave the same taste and flavor profile to the bartender, her drink was different, with an apple flavor.
For dessert, I picked up some a crostino with local tomino cheese and walnuts, some squares of apple cake, and loquats.
The friendly bartender let us linger at our tables until 9:15pm, but then she came around and really asked us (and the other table in our area still there) to settle up and leave. I didn’t know how much our drinks would cost, because we didn’t order off the menu, so I was preparing for something close to 16€ or more for the cocktail and buffet. What did it turn out to be? A measly 13€!
As we exited, we could see the people with 9pm reservations waiting to get seated.
Of course, in an ideal world we could have arrived at 7pm and had the whole 2 hours to graze and sip, and really savor the meal. As it was, we ate in even more of a hurry than we did in Milan! But it was still worth it to try out Turin’s “apericena,” and I would love to do it again on a Friday at Beerba.
Via Sant'Anselmo, 13/b