Wednesday, January 9, 2013


 Fontina cheese, barolo wine, grissini -- all products from Piedmont, Italy that are as ubiquitous here in the U.S. as pierogi in Poland or chopsticks in China. But this drink - bicerin (pronounced bee-cheh-REEN - and roll that "r") - synonymous with the city of Torino  - is rarely found here in the states or even in other places in Italy. I'm not sure why because it's an unforgettable concoction that combines two items that most people crave - coffee and chocolate. On my trip to Torino this fall, I reacquainted myself with this frothy delight.

It's served all over the city, but originated (there's some debate about this) at Al Bicerin, a cafe whose origins date back to 1763.  Many notables throughout history have crossed the threshold of this cafe, including Alexandra Dumas, Friedrich Nietzsche and Giacomo Puccini, (who for a while lived in an artist's garret a short distance away, the inspiration for his opera 'La Boheme'). There are other historic cafes in Torino to enjoy a bicerin, but to skip a pilgrimage to where it arguably all began would be like missing out on a piece of history.

It's cozy inside, with wood-paneled walls and fewer than ten small tables, so don't be surprised if you have to wait outside for a short while.

You won't regret the wait, when this warm, luscious, layered delight arrives at your table in a clear goblet. The name "bicerin" comes from the Piemontese dialect meaning "small glass." Each one is made to order, hand whipped the old-fashioned way with whipped cream on top. 

If you do find yourself in Torino, don't miss this wonderful drink at Al Bicerin, located in the Piazza della Consolata. While you're at it, make sure to visit the Sanctuary of the Consolata, directly across from the cafe. It's a masterpiece of Baroque art and architecture and the spiritual heart of the city.

But even if you can't get to Torino, you can still enjoy a Bicerin in your own home with this recipe. 

printable recipe here

excerpt from the book "Romancing The Vine: Life, Love and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo" by Alan Tardi

"The recipe, according to the padrona, is ridiculously simple:

'Take one cup of the very best hot chocolate you can find,  mix it with one demitasse of the very best espresso (our private blend is 100 percent arabica and ground for us especially) and scoop a healthy dollop of fresh whipped cream on top. Serve it in a glass. Et voilà.' "

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  1. Una vera meraviglia questo posto.. sono rimasta affascinata dalle fotografie! E che luogo d'epoca! Se contiamo poi che il 'bicerin' mi evoca dolci ricordi.. beh, grazie infinite per questo post che addolcisce la mia giornata! Un abbraccio!

  2. Mmmhhh, that looks divine! What a wonderfully antique cafe.



  3. linda, che bel post hai scritto, con belle foto e notizie interessanti! Ma la prossima volta che vieni in Italia, ricorda che Genova può essere raggiunta facilmente !!!!! :-)))
    Buona giornata

  4. Can you believe that I never had a bicerin!!
    Good purposes for 2013: must have a bicerin....maybe 2 :D

  5. Bart and I love Bicerin! But how divine to consume it in such spectacular surroundings. I so enjoy your travel & food post combos. Thansk for this one. It is chilly here today... time for Bicerin.

  6. Even if I don't drink coffee I found myself drinking it all over Italy. Just before I left I discovered a macchiatto and know I would have love this drink heavy on the hot chocolate.

  7. I didn't try this while in Torino!!! Looks like I'll have to make it..or...go back!

  8. I have never been to Torino, so this one is new to me. Would you believe that between the spelling and the foamy top in the first photo, I thought this might be some kind of variation on beer.

  9. I was so close to going to Torino late January. So close. I was okay about not going when push came to shove until I read this post. The chill is returning to MN - this was make me cozy!

  10. Bellissimo post con delle foto splendide. Buona giornata Daniela.

  11. I visited Torino with my husband in 2001 as V has cousins that live there. It is a remarkable city. The Bicerin looks delicious!