Cornetto Chronicles: Mood Libri e Cafe in Torino

I’ve been eyeing those whole grain cornetti for quite sometime.  How strange and how perfect.  They take something that’s pretty much the opposite of health (butter, flour, sugar, butter, yeast, butter) and turn into something that is pseudo-healthy.  Whole grains!  They’ll keep you full for longer!  They’ll stabilize your blood sugar!  Of course, we all know that whole grains means the actual grain, not flour, but there’s something about that darker color cornetto peeking out from the rows of pastries drenched in powdered sugar and glazes that makes you feel like maybe, just maybe, you’ll be doing something good for yourself if you choose it.

I chose this one by mistake.  Although I’m always tempted to try the whole-grain brioche, I ultimately want to know what the so-called real one tastes like.  On my first morning in Torino for the Salone del Gusto, I found myself sitting at a small metal table in one of the outposts of Mood Libri e Cafe — a bookshop/cafe chain in Turin — eager to get my breakfast on.  I waited at the table for a bit, before realizing that it was up to me to go and choose my own breakfast pastry.  Astonished by the myriad choices, I took the lid off the cake stand that seemed to contain the most plain cornetto, sort of dark and without sugar, I thought that it was going to be my good ol’ standard cornetto vuoto.

It wasn’t.  It was a whole grain cornetto with raspberry jam.  It was an experience entirely different to the normal cornetto one, but an experience that wasn’t entirely unpleasant.  I realized that this wasn’t my normal cornetto the moment I took a bite and felt a resistance that was unprecedented in my previous Italian pastry experiences.  Although I’m no stranger to a cornetto with brioche-like density, this one was both dense and light at the same time.  There was a proper difference between the inside and outside that was, frankly, a relief.  You didn’t really taste the fact that it was whole-grain, but that might just be because I normally eat proper whole grains.  I enjoyed it, but I won’t be eating whole grain cornetti all the time from now on.

The cappuccino was so Italian.  While I got a small kick out of the glass cup (like a cortado!), it was milky and lukewarm.  It made a good companion to dunk my cornetto into, but it wasn’t something that I would want to drink alone.  There are very few Italian cappuccini that make me want to go out and drink them, sans brioche.

While the cornetto and cappuccino were certainly interesting parts of my experience at Mood Libri, by far the strangest thing for me was how empty it is.  It was a Thursday morning, it was sunny and not too early.  Shouldn’t there be lines and lines of people looking to get their morning coffee?  Or at least looking for a book and a pastry?  There weren’t.  I was the only one sitting down.  Even the bar was a bit sparse.

The Italian cafe doesn’t only have a different pace than the American cafe, Italians have such a different relationship with how they want to spend their time drinking coffee that sometimes I’m simply shocked.  They don’t seem to have the same affection for these spaces that we do.  They don’t seem to interact with them on the same level that the Americans and English do.  I can hardly imagine my life in Bristol without Boston Tea Party or the Watershed.  I’m willing to bet that Italians can imagine their life without a given bar, they’d probably just go to the one next door.

Overall, Mood Libri wasn’t the tastiest experience, but certainly an interesting one from a cultural view point.  From the different way of getting the cornetti, the different varieties to the way in which Italians interact with their coffee, I certainly had something to learn from this cafe.

Have you ever had a whole wheat croissant?  Would you want to try one?

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