Pregaming Meals with Sandwiches

Torino Lingotto. Doesn't it sound so beautiful?

First order of business in Italy: alone time and menu planning. I told myself I wouldn't eat until I was starving - that way I could eat as much as possible. Also, after a week in a six-bed hostel followed by a weekend in a stranger's living room, I needed to stop, breathe and catch up with myself. I rented my own apartment in Turin knowing I'd need this. After an hour searching for it (standard walking back and forth with all my luggage situation again), I sat down for some "writing time." I wrote for 15 minutes then obsessively researched food options, starting with an excellent guide generously shared with me by wine editor Diana Zahuranec, who had lived in Turin for a few years.

I breathed deeply so my food panic would dissipate. As my breaths became longer and deeper from the bottom of my belly, more space opened up for food.

My first stop would be for aperitivo. Torino is known for its aperitivo tradition. From about 6-9pm, a cocktail grants you a buffet of little foods, mostly sandwiches of cured meats and cheeses, at lots of cafés around town. (Note: like all café-related biz here, sitting or standing at the bar can be cheaper than at a table.) The tradition is popular throughout Italy, mostly in the north, but this is where it started. It's a wonderful time to unwind and relax before the evening starts. Torino is home to brands like Cinzano and Martini Rosso, which you'll usually see on a cocktail bar's speedrack. A cocktail or glass of wine for 7-10 euros that includes a buffet is a pretty good deal to me. Some aperitivo bars include salads, pastas and desserts.

Caffé Torino seemed like an excellent first stop. In most modern cocktail bars the drink list reads something like this: "Wolf's Blood: Scotch. Mezcal. Lime. Wolf saliva. Rhubarb salt." This tells you nothing about what the drink actually is and how it's served. Caffe Torino's menu describes each classic cocktail's ingredients so you don't have to pretend you know what you want (obviously set up for tourists, but hey, it helps!) For me, the best way to whet my appetite is with a refreshing Aperol spritz or Negroni. You want something not too heavy that pairs well with any snack option and stimulates the appetite. The Negroni here was mixed perfectly, and my appetite was effectively aroused.

Beth Kaiserman