The next-to-last café in our Espresso in Torino and Piemonte series was chosen entirely at random. Torino’s Borgo Nuovo district keeps a lower profile than most, but it has quite a bit going on for the locals on almost every corner. Walking through this neighborhood on a Monday afternoon, when many of the storefronts are closed, we stumbled upon Torrefazione Contrada San Filippo and decided to try their espresso. The intent was a random sampling of what is typically offered in town — the neighborhood espresso that doesn’t make the ranks of the Bar d’Italia del Gambero Rosso.
Now when it comes to the locals, the Torinese have this habit of unintentionally playing tricks on anyone unfamiliar with the area. (Afterall, who visits this town besides out-of-town Italian businessmen?) Many streets and piazze go by multiple names: the official name, and the informal, historical name. Contrada San Filippo, for example, is nothing you’ll find on a modern map, but the Torinese know it as Via Maria Vittoria. If you’re lucky, a few might even call it Via Maria Vittoria.
You follow, right? The whole thing makes you half wonder if the locals did this intentionally to confuse any potential invaders.
The Torrefazione Contrada San Filippo (on “Contrada San Filippo,” of course) is a local bar in every sense of the word. It has the standard café setup, pasticceria, sweets, and alcohol varieties one would expect. When we were there, a regular customer ordered a caffè corretto (literally, “corrected coffee”) with sambucca — which proprietor jokingly called, “Aqua Velva.” Torino’s answer to a TV bar like “Cheers” would have to be something like this.
Using a three-group WEGA, they pull shots with a darker brown crema with some lighter texture in it. It has surprising potency and a robust flavor of cloves. When random espresso shots in town taste this good, you’re living among some of the highest standards in the world. And it’s still only €0.90.
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