When researching the famous Italian ‘aperitivo’ hour two cities always crop up as claiming to have invented it – Milan and Turin. As we were in Turin we went in search of the best places for aperitivo. Which, if you hadn’t heard, is a free buffet of Italian dishes when you order a drink between certain times – usually in the early evening.
Aperitivo can range from just a simple plate of olives and bread with a beer to something a little more substantial. For the budget traveller aperitivo can be a saviour when looking for a cheap option for an evening meal. Many places do full blown buffets at which you can help yourself to as much or as little as you like for a set fee, usually around €10 (£8.83). This led us to a bar in a large piazza called Arancia di Mezzanotte which translates to ‘Midnight Orange’.
Piazza Emanuele Filiberto is just off the main shopping street in Turin, the Via Garibaldi. The piazza is home to many bars and restaurants which were doing a decent trade on the night we arrived in search of aperitivo. The area also appears to be very popular with local students due to the many deals in the surrounding bars.
When arriving at Arancia di Mezzanotte just inform the waiting staff that you are here for the aperitivo or apericena as it’s otherwise known – there was a chalkboard with ‘APERICENA €15’ which confirmed that we were in the right place. We chose to sit outside as the weather was still pretty hot and the sun was just beginning to set. The seating area is covered so if the worst happens and it does rain – which isn’t uncommon by the alps – then you are in a good place.
This is definitely a bar for those of you fond of a cocktail, there’s a large menu with many choices of combinations but we stayed traditional and opted for an aperol spritz – a cocktail of aperol, soda water, prosecco and finished with a few slices of fresh orange. Service was very good and the cocktails arrived quickly followed by a pot of bagna cauda complete with mixed leaves and vegetables to dip into the garlic and anchovy flavoured sauce – very good indeed.
The second wave of plates then came to the table. Small dishes of cured salami, octopus and potato salad, skewers of mozzarella and tomato with olive oil, pearl barley with pesto and green beans, olives, hard boiled eggs, bread, mixed vegetable salad, cheese, crumbly feta with a blackcurrant jam and monkey nuts. Also there was a strange sounding dish called vitello tonnato – cold sliced veal covered with a tuna, mayonnaise and caper sauce. A native dish of the Piedmonte region – it was absolutely delicious.
Tasting our way through the mountain of food was a joy for the most part. High quality charcuterie is always going to be good, pearl barley and pesto is a combination that we’ve not tried before but that was surprisingly nice. I love octopus but this was a bit of a let down, quite flavourless and vinegary octopus as opposed to the great roasted flavour you get from grilling it. The feta with jam was a new one on me but very good as well.
Just as we thought ‘that’s not bad for €15 (£13.27)’ MORE food arrived! We looked on in amazement as dough balls stuffed with tomato and mozzarella, dough sticks with parmesan and tomato and penne pasta in tomato sauce arrived with the waiter struggling to fit them on our now groaning table. I have to say though that the hot dishes were all very good and tasted great especially the filled dough balls which were light and had a good portion of filling inside.
Aperitivo is intended to be a light snack before a main meal in Italy. However this place just threw out the rule book completely. We were stuffed after a marathon of tasty Italian treats. Having never tried the famous vitello tonnato I can happily say that i’m now a fan, very tasty as was pretty much all of the huge spread that they gave us. I would highly recommend Arancia di Mezzanotte when on a budget in Turin. You get an hearty feed and a very fair bill with no additional charge for sitting outside or ‘coperto’ cover charge. Just €30 (£26.53) for both of us, excellent value.
Opening times: Daily 7pm-2am (3am Friday and Saturday)
Nearest Metro: XVIII Dicembre