If actions speak louder than words, then all I need to say is this: with just one evening in Turin recently, I chose a Home Food dinner over the city’s chocolate festival, CioccolaTO. The Turin CioccolaTO festival is a big deal. It’s on just once a year, and Turin and surrounding area is a heavy-hitter – some would say the heaviest hitter – in Italy’s chocolate industry, having produced Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, Giandiuotto and more.
But when I’d received the Home Food calendar (image below) just a few weeks earlier and seen a dinner that worked with my trip for both date and location, I forwarded the menu to my friend Roberta. “Why didn’t I know about Home Food?” she said. “It’s only you foreigners that find out all the good stuff. Andiamo!”
Our Cesarina, or home cook, was the lovely signora Milena who lives in the historic center of Turin. She greeted us and showed us to her dining room, where we had a private table. Home Food’s training program is quite rigorous and, done in her free time, it took signora Milena about a year – and three separate tests on both menu and presentation – to achieve the cesarina designation. On the night we dined in early March, no other guests had booked, but Home Food can be a great way to meet other travelers.
Both the food and regional wine pairings were fantastic, and Milena was a perfect hostess: graceful and friendly but busy in the kitchen, alllowing us time to catch up with each other. Here she is about to serve our appetizer of crostini.
Then came a green salad, and then the agnolotti I’d seen in the kitchen arrived, dressed with butter and sage. Roberta, meanwhile, kept trying to convince Milena to put up posters or at least do some marketing around Turin. “This is a fantastic deal” Roberta said. “There’s no way you could go to a restaurant in Turin and eat and drink as well for this price”.
The agnolotti were so good that we both enthusiastically accepted second helpings before remembering that the main course was yet to come. Mamma mia, we thought, we might be in trouble. The main course was an artichoke flan with the most amazing cheese sauce. Then, our almost-empty bottle of red wine was substituted for a bottle of Asti Spumante dessert wine with a beautiful final course: a chocolate flan with amaretti.
After dinner, we thanked signora Milena profusely and went for a long walk in Turin’s historic center.
How to participate in a Home Food dinner
First, go to www.Homefood.it and get on their mailing list. Schedules are released about two weeks before the beginning of the month. So if you’re going in May, expect to see the May calendar, in pdf format, in your inbox in mid-April.
Then, scroll through the calendar to the Italian region you’ll be in. So Tuscany or Lazio or Veneto for example. Then find the city you’ll be in. Note that for each menu there may be several dates listed.
If the place and date work, see whether you like the menu, then contact Home Food and ask whether there is space for your party on that date, in that location.
If so, you’ll have to join the organization for a very small fee, and you’ll pre-pay the dinner via Paypal. Once you pay, they’ll send you the address of the Cesarina.
P.S. Read about other Home Food experiences in the New York Times, at Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, and at Italylogue.
All photos by Madeline Jhawar and may not be used without permission. And, as glowing as this testimonial was, I – most happily – paid my own way on this dinner.
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