A loud whirring sound emerges from the kitchen at Villa Somis, which is a high-end Italian restaurant in the hills overlooking Turin. Perhaps it's a coffee machine, or a prosciutto slicer. But when chef
Chiodi Latini comes out, he's holding two glasses of
light green vegetable extract,
to wash down our vegan biscotti.
His old customers were fond of how he used to cook, and appreciated his fish soup and lovely meat. But Latini, who opened for business on the top floor of the elegant villa this summer, having turned vegan himself three years ago for health reasons also realises that people want to try new things, and spend an evening
eating food that makes them feel good with their own body and soul.
There are now more than
30 restaurants and shops they can visit which serve vegan and vegetarian food, which for a city this size, is possibly the highest number in Italy,
and the authorities are keen to highlight this aspect of their city.
There is enough room here for all tastes
because Turin has always been at the forefront of things,' says Claudio Viano, who opened the city's first vegetarian restaurant, Mezzaluna, with his partner Daniele 20 years ago. Turin and maybe Milan are now the best places in Italy to visit for vegan food, and it is so popular that restaurants offer
really exciting and innovative dishes.
Elsewhere, it's easy to steer clear of
lazy vegan fallbacks tofu and falafel, and try creative adaptations of Italian classics instead.
The garlicky mushroom lasagne at studenty cafe Il Gusto di Carmilla works without its usual heavy white sauce. Even dairy-free pistachio gelato, made with rice milk at an ice-cream shop called Mondello, is surprisingly moreish.
Can you really enjoy a fully vegan pizza, without having to skimp on cheese and pepperoni?
Well, sort of. What's more,
celebrities are getting in on the act,
and vegetarian restaurants are becoming cool places to visit and be seen in.
But now in almost every bar there are
soya milk cappuccinos and macchiatos. And sometimes even vegan pastries,
although vegan cheese remains unappetising wherever you are in the world. Not only do the vegetarians of Turin have the backing of the mayor, they also have Italian know-how. And that combination might just be enough to see the controversial vegetarian city project succeed.