Having volunteered with some wonderful people from Slow Food Miami, one of the first things I did when I decided to relocate to Turin was to visit the town of Bra, the home of Slow Food International which was founded by Carlo Petrini some 24 years ago. But before I left Miami for Turin my friend Melissa Contreras, founder of Urban Oasis, recommended that I get in touch with her friend, Eric Hompe. And so I went to Bra for the first time about a year ago. I met Eric and he introduced me to the various people who work for Slow Food in Bra and one of the first places he took me to was Caffè Converso. Without a doubt, Caffè Converso is a great place to meet all of the locals. Not only do they have some of the best homemade pastries but they also serve a high-quality aperitivo…that includes salsiccia di Bra, a delicious specialty sausage from Bra (a freshly made beef and pork fat sausage eaten raw). Last but not least, Caffè Converso has been awarded by Bar d’Italia del Gambero Rosso multiple times as one of the best bars in Piedmont.
On one of my more recent trips to Bra my friend Eric and I went to Caffè Converso and I ordered my very first “caffè marocchino” (mah-rohk-kee-no) which is a hot beverage that is closely related to “il bicerin,” the historical hot beverage which I personally call “the soul of Turin.” The caffè marocchino is made with an espresso base, melted dark chocolate, and milk that is mounted with whipped cream. Put it all together and it’s elegantly served in a demitasse glass.
So what exactly is a caffè marocchino? Marocchino in Italian means Moroccan but this type of espresso drink does not originate from Morocco. In other parts of Italy, this traditional coffee is also called espressino or mocacchino. So how did this drink get its name? Well, there are various stories. One source in particular states the coffee was given its name because it resembled the color of a type of leather headband that was worn in Italy during the 1930s.
As Federico kindly served me the caffè marocchino he insisted on being in the photo…and I’m so glad he did!
While at the bar, we noticed none other than Carlo Petrini quietly sitting with some friends. He was enjoying a caffè and reading the newspaper. I had seen signor Petrini a couple of times prior. For instance, I saw him in San Francisco while attending Slow Food Nation and also in Turin at Terra Madre years prior. But I never had the opportunity to chat with him. Fortunately, my luck was about to change. And as the three of us began to strike up a conversation in Italian, it felt as if now I was somehow becoming a part of the history of the celebrated Caffè Converso.
Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 199, 12042 Bra CN, Italy
+39 0172 413626