September 23, 2014
As the final 2014 heats of The International Chocolate Awards are underway, here is a look at a two time world award winner.
A. Giordano is one of those specialist traditional food businesses that have died out in such number, as things become centralised, economies of scale win the financial battles, and tastes become bland and homogenised. But A.Giordano is a shining example of survival, rescued from its potential fate by a combination of passion, hard labour and a good dose of luck.
Established in 1897, and masters in the art of the celebrated classic of Italian chocolate the gianduiotti, Giordano has the most precious jewel of a shop in central Turin and their workshops are based just outside Turin in Leini. It was there that I visited the current owners and heard the wonderful story of how they rescued A.Giordano. They define the finest in family business and it was a delight to meet such a dedicated team.
When, as a young woman Luigina Faletti passed the magical chocolate shop she was inspired by it, and even went so far as to say it was her dream to one day be a such a chocolatier. Forty-two years ago, the same year that her son Marco was born, Luigina and her husband Marco had the opportunity to buy the business she had so admired those years before. It was a great act of faith, they put there all into it. It had been sold to a construction company three years previously when the presiding owner had died. Sadly this company had made no attempt to retain any of the history or recipes that had been so central to the business. It was also the last remaining outlet of a business that had owned four shops.
The Falettis had a great desire to resurrect the whole, to bring back the famous gianduiotti and restore all, as it should have been. The gods were smiling on them, as in another twist of fate they were given a helping hand. A local woman, who had worked in the business for forty-three years, and as the owner for twenty of them, had been secretly in love with a man who had also worked there. This man happened to come back to the shop after the Falettis had taken over. He bought some of the gianduiotti the Falettis had made, while attempting to recreate one of the lost recipes. When he brought these to his lover, the woman who had steered the business for forty-three years, she knew just what they were doing wrong, and insisted that he went back to the Falettis and teach them how the gianduiotti should be made.
Now all those years later it is evident that they are masters of the art. World medals in 2012 and 2013 from The International Chocolate Awards are testament to this, and must be a happy validation for this family who have and do work so very hard in the pursuit of excellence.
The workshop is a calm place, infused with sweet and tempting smells that come from all the component parts of the various chocolate creations currently in production. The gianduiotti themselves are a glory to behold, consisting only of hazelnuts, cocoa mass and sugar, worked in specialist mixers to a meltingly smooth paste, they are then hand shaped, one by one. To watch the skilled ladies wielding their palette knives, with nothing but a precision eye and years of experience to assist them, rapidly amassing the neatest ranks of perfectly shaped gianduiotti is quite something. After the chocolates are allowed to firm up briefly in the fridge this is equalled by watching as each chocolate is then wrapped by hand into a smoothly pleated golden foiled nugget in the traditional boat shape.
Of course the gianduiotti are a national treasure, but I was lucky enough to taste other things here too, and they are equally worth trying. In particular I would recommend the giacometta, as delicious combination of gianduia and nibs of crunchy toasted hazelnuts. Laura and Marco Faletti, Luigina’s children, are now all grown up. They work in the business too, and between them this redoubtable family are bringing A.Giordano into a delicious future, while retaining the very best respect for the past.