Brussels, Valrhona, Vienna, Switzerland, all claim to be THE place for chocolate, but let me tell you, they have nothing on the city of Torino. Chocolatiers in this royal city were first licensed to sell their products in 1678 – over 400 years ago. And since practice makes perfect, it is not an understatement to call Torino the Chocolate Epicenter of the world. Last month, I had the distinct pleasure to visit one of the foremost chocolatiers in the city with my gracious hostess Lucia Hannau of Turin Epicurean Capital. Guido Gobino is a master chocolatier like no other. While the chocolate business has been part of his family for decades, it was he who took the Gobino name to a whole other level, incorporating new technology while always respecting the time-honored chocolate tradition that lives on in Torino. The day before our factory tour, Lucia brought me into one of Signor Gobino’s elegant boutiques in the heart of the city. The space was beautiful- wood carved display cases and brightly colored wrappings along with the intoxicating smell of chocolate made this stop a true feast for the senses.
That aroma of chocolate in the air hit us again as soon as we got out of the taxi at the chocolate factory the next day. The Gobino factory is in a more remote part of town but it was unmistakable that we were in the right place. As we waited for our guide Loredana, we sampled some of the goodies that were offered in the factory shop. My personal favorite (up to that point) was the dark chocolate eggs filled with raspberry cream. Delicious. Loredana came out to meet us in the shop and I immediately felt that warm sense of hospitality that had been a part of my entire trip. We were extremely lucky to get into the production area as the whole operation was in high gear in preparation for Easter. Goblin produces about 12,000 giant Easter eggs (an Italian tradition) per year in addition to the foil covered eggs and other treats for the holiday. But by special arrangement (thank you Lucia) we were able to see the entire production process from the grinding of the cocoa beans which is turned into cream of cacao, to the machine where the cream is massaged for 14 to hours to oxygenate it and then made into chocolate in various forms.
The most famous of the chocolate produced in the factory is the gianduia, the little triangle shaped morsels that are flavored with hazelnuts, all thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1863 there was a shortage of chocolate in Torino as Napoleon blocked it from arriving to the city. The inventive chocolate makers of Turin knew the city could not go without its chocolate so they found a way to stretch what was available by adding hazelnuts, a product commonly found in the region of Piedmont. And thus the gianduia was invented, and it was the first wrapped chocolate in the world introduced in 1865. Signor Gobino’s gianduia has won best gianduia in the world four years in a row at the Salon de Chocolat.
Our tour also included a stop to see the chocolate eggs being molded and wrapped as well as the much anticipated and always appreciated chocolate tasting. Pure decadence and pure bliss. Included in the tasting were three different kinds of gianduia, chocolate covered candied ginger, fruit gels covered in chocolate and much more. It was a tough morning of work but we had to do it, all in the name of research.
You can take a tour of the chocolate factory from September to November, January to early March and May to June. The other times of the year are either too busy (Christmas and Easter) or, in the case of the summer months, the production stops as the temperature is too warm. You can always arrange a chocolate tasting at the boutique in Via La Grange, in the heart of the city. Many thanks to Loredana, Signor Gobino and Lucia for a delicious morning!
Check out their site: www.guidogobino.it