Turin is known for, among other things, their ornate, baroque cafes that the people who live there actually go to. Sure, there are more than a few tourist traps lining piazzas around the city, but, unlike in most cities, where people don’t actually go to the over the top places touted in guidebooks, the inhabitants of Turin will take coffee in grand settings. Of course, these cafes aren’t always the most welcoming to the clueless tourist or all that appealing.
When I was in Turin for the Salone, I wanted to try one of the baroque coffee shops, but had a difficult time deciding which one actually looked like an enjoyable experience. Despite insane amounts of internet research, I wasn’t thrilled with my options when I walked by. Caffe Torino just looked weird, I think Baratti e Milano was closed and I was not walking that far from my Porta Nuova hotel(s) to Fiorio. That didn’t leave me with many options. Fortunately, one of the few left over was Mulassano on the Piazza Castello. It was a good choice.
Small, dark and invinting, Mulassano is one of the (physically) smaller of Turin’s historic cafes. There are about six tables inside, a modest sized bar and a handful of outdoor tables for when the weather is nice (it wasn’t the day I went). There aren’t rooms upon rooms dedicated to the oh-so-holy act of coffee and the people in there (at least on Saturday) weren’t decked out in suits in furs. I walked in and sat down and waited without feeling like I was intruding on anything.
The window seats were already when I arrived, so I took a seat in the centre of the cafe. As I waited for the barista to have some free time, I took time to look around and get my bearings. The cafe is relatively dark with fixtures of deep wood and marble. There are mirrors and a little bit of gilding to keep things appropriately glitzy. Everything seems quite old, but not in a dirty or unpleasant way. There’s no irony here when they serve you your cornetto on a silver platter.
I ordered a simple cappuccino and plain cornetto. I was relieved when they didn’t ask me if I wanted coco powder on top, a mark of quality. As always, my cornetto came first and I took a little bite. It was light and layered with an unfortunate sticky, sugary coating on top. It was also fresh — I had just seen one of the baristas bring out a whole new assortment of cornetti. This freshness, however, was not the sole reason for it’s deliciousness. It was the best cornetto I’ve had thus far in Italy, partly because it was resembled a croissant but with that Italian taste. There were layers. There was flavor. It was light and slightly crinkly on the outside. It would have been even better if they served a proper plate so you could eat it without wrapping a napkin around it. Or, better yet, ditch the sticky coating.
My cappuccino was fine, if slightly milky. It wasn’t the best cappuccino I’ve had, though one of the better ones from Italy. The schiuma was rich and creamy, the coffee flavor (when it was there) was pleasant enough. This is Turin, they’re serving Lavazza, it’s nothing exceptional.
Mulassano felt truly like a community cafe, despite the extravagant setting. There were people who knew the baristas by name. There were people coming in, taking a caffè at the bar, laughing with their friends like this was all routine. While I’m not sure that coffee in such a regal setting is a routine that I would particularly embrace (read: where have my distressed wood tables gone?), it was a fun break from routine. If you’re interested in trying Turin’s crazy coffee scene, I couldn’t recommend Mulassano highly enough.
Where is the most ridiculous (fancy or not) place you’ve ever drank coffee?