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There is an authentic piece of Torino, Italy in Seattle, located at 422 Yale Ave N in South Lake Union, named (not by coincidence) Caffè Torino. Celebrating their second anniversary this October, Caffè Torino is a gem in our Emerald City. It is more than a coffee shop and art gallery, but a community that engages lovers of Italian culture.
For those who have had the pleasure of visiting Torino, the capoluogo of Piedmont region, Caffè Torino can refresh memories of fine flavors and the warmth of a stunning Northern Italian city. Let’s start with coffee. At Caffè Torino, Lavazza coffee is served, a world winner coffee brand that finds its roots in the late 1800s in Torino, and today is a global icon representing an authentic Italian tradition. You can also experience the joy of tasting Bicerin (the word in Piedmontese dialect meaning “small glass”).
The Bicerin is a traditional hot drink native to Torino, made of espresso, chocolate, and cream carefully layered and served in a small rounded glass. The authentic coffee drink, the Torinese is prepared as it should be, in a small glass made from a “mark” or macchiato of foamed milk with cocoa powder atop espresso.
For Italians from Torino such as myself, this is better known as a Marocchino, the popular afternoon coffee drink, probably too politically incorrect and better retitled in Seattle as the Torinese. For sweets and treats, indulge yourself with all handmade, in house bakery products. Starting with Biscotti alla Nutella, (the famous chocolate spread by Ferrero is a Torino brand), continuing with bonet, the wonderfully old-fashioned dessert and symbol of Torino, genuinely prepared with amaretti and chocolate. Be certain to try the panna cotta, torta della nonna (a custard center pie with toasted pinenuts), paste di meliga, polenta cookies, and torta alla nocciola, (translated as flourless hazelnut blondie).
On the counter you can find chocolate products by Caffarel, the superior chocolate-manufacturing company from Torino. If you have never had the chance to taste them yet, please try Gianduiotti, chocolate hazelnut pralines whose shape is similar to an upturned boat.
For soups, salads and panini, Caffè Torino offers a great variety of brunch and lunch dishes served using the best ingredients, always keeping the Italian theme in mind.
Behind Caffè Torino there is a man with an easy smile and a strong passion in what he does: his name is Andrea Florissi. Andrea has a background in interpreting and translating fields, nine years of work experience at Microsoft as a content/localization manager, then international project manager. Once he left Microsoft he wanted to start something unique that could bring a piece of Piemonte to Seattle, showing that Torino is much more than Fiat, the Holy Shroud, and the 2006 Winter Olympics. He certainly achieved that.
Caffè Torino has the atmosphere, the feeling, and the food of a bar Torinese. If you stop by between 4PM and 6PM, from Monday to Friday, you can treat yourself with aperitivo, the Italian ritual, before dinner. An aperitivo is when people can enjoy a glass of wine (4$), a plate of delicious snacks such as salumi and formaggi (6$), focaccia and crostini.
Because Andrea is an art lover, he opens his place for the South Lake Union Art Walk, of which he is a cofounder, and hosts bimestrial art shows as well, focusing on local artists. December 5th is the next art walk.
Once every couple of months, on a Saturday evening, from 5PM to 8:30PM, a secret pop up dinner is happening at Caffè Torino; a local chef cooks a designed dinner during the closing hours. A maximum of 35 guests can taste a three courses menu for approximately 35$, experiencing an underground, yet slow-food inspired event. If you want to discover more, to order your catering or simply to understand what represents the newly painted mural represents inside the caffè, stop by for great coffee, a pastry, or an aperitivo.