In a backstreet behind Turin’s teeming Porta Palatina market, “Vini Ranzini”, as locals call this famous watering hole, was set up more than 50 years ago by Emilio Ranzini. His son Mario now runs the place with his own sons, Alberto and Emiliano. But there has been a bar on the site since around 1850, when Turin was at the centre of the Italian unification movement. It began life as a wine store, where families would fill up demijohns of rough vino from the vineyards of Piedmont, and by 1900 it was, according to Mario, pretty much what it is today, “A piola, a simple tavern, open all day, serving traditional food, local wines and a welcoming glass of vermouth to torinesi on their way to and from work.”
Regulars crowd the tiny bar, while students, businessmen and pensioners argue about their beloved Juventus football team around wooden tables, tucking into hearty €3 sandwiches of beef tongue smothered with a garlicky parsley salsa or Turin’s most famous dish, vitello tonnato – thin slices of veal topped with a creamy tuna sauce. The shady courtyard at the back is packed out at lunchtimes in summer.
Don’t expect to find Piedmont’s famous – and costly – barolo and barbaresco wines on the blackboard: a basic glass of white or red here goes for €1, with the most expensive vintages priced at €4-€5. What the bar does serve, though, is a delicious artisan vermouth by local winemaker Giovanni Brignolio.
Although it is classed as a red vermouth – vermut in dialect – this is a luscious golden-amber colour, a million miles from the ones produced by multinationals, such as Martini. Vermouth was invented in Turin 230 years ago, and has become an indispensable ingredient in cocktails around the world, from the classic martini to complex concoctions created by hip mixologists.
It’s not like this in Vini Ranzini, says Mario. “We believe in traditions, so it’s drunk neat, chilled if you wish, but never with an ice cube. That would be heresy!”
• Via Porta Palatina 9/g, Turin, +39 011 756 0477, on Facebook. Open Mon-Fri 8am-8.30pm, Sat 8am-3.30pm