Turin & Piedmont, Volume 21 Number 1 January 2010

Turin & Piedmont

Editor’s Note: To save space and aid in speed of downloading this page, photos originally included in this issue are available on our “The Artworld Selects” page.

This issue’s special trip through the beautiful Piedmont region of Italy comes to you directly from the adventures of former editor Suzanne Paulson.

Looking for “Slow Food?” Incredible wines? A castle filled with contemporary art? How about a tiny chapel in a rural vineyard — painted by none other than Sol LeWitt? All of this — and more — can be found in the northwestern region of Italy known as Piedmont, so named because it sits at the “foot of mountains” (the Alps to be specific), dividing Italy, France, and Switzerland. Stunningly picturesque agricultural land is found here, and it produces some of the finest foods and wines in all of Italy. Now is not too early to plan your idyllic autumn visit: not only will food lovers delight in the season of truffles, wild mushrooms and wine harvest; but the art lovers will be there to enjoy Artissima, the international contemporary art fair held each year in the capital city of Turin throughout November. And you won’t want to miss the unique experience of Luci d’Artista, when the streets are aglow at night from November (and into January) with large-scale light installations by prominent contemporary artists from Italy and abroad. 2009 saw works by Daniel Buren, Rebecca Horn, Mario Merz, and Joseph Kosuth, to name a few, who added a rather edgy atmosphere to this historic city of Baroque churches and palaces.

Turin, which also serves as the major business and cultural center of northern Italy, is fondly remembered as the host city for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and is most famous as the home of the Shroud of Turin, the fabled cloth believed by many to have once wrapped the body of Jesus (Pope Benedict announced the final dates of viewing will be April 10-May 23, 2010). Here you’ll find the headquarters of the Lingotto, which houses the automobile manufacturers Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo — an attraction over the years for some of the world’s greatest designers and architects. For our base in Turin, we chose the five-star Meridien Lingotto Art + Tech, an ultramodern hotel designed by Renzo Piano with furnishings by Philippe Starck and Gió Ponti. It is situated inside Fiat’s old factory (also by Piano), now reborn as an arts, conference and shopping center covering 250,000 square meters.The hotel has a special door leading from the hotel into the shopping mall that once housed a production factory and a rooftop racetrack. The shopping here is sublime, but don’t miss the gravity-defying Fondazione Pinacoteca del Lingotto—Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Art Gallery — nicknamed “the flying carpet” because of its cantilevered steel roof. The collection ranges from Venetian vedute by Canaletto and Bellotto — to such 20th-century masters as Picasso, Matisse, Manet, Renoir, and Modigliani — something for everyone.

The Lingotto Fiere, venue for the Artissima contemporary art fair, is located nearby. The quality and reputation of this event has grown enormously since 2007, and Artissima 17 (opening November 15, 2010) promises to be a winner; check the website for details. Choose La Pista, on top of the Lingotto complex for a gourmet dinner with a superb view of the city. The restaurant’s exclusive feel is enhanced by the journey up the ramp through the converted factory to a parking space on the roof! Or for a more casual yet unique eating experience, visit the Eataly, an enormous food emporium directly across the street from the hotel. Eataly boasts nine distinct cuisine areas, all affiliated with the “Slow Food” movement, so allow plenty of time!

Our favorite art venue in Turin is Castello di Rivoli’s Museum of Contemporary Art, situated in a magnificent hilltop villa just outside town. Upon entering the castle, you will be greeted by a huge Gilbert and George on the stairs, and a large room, which at first glance seems empty — until you look up and see the hanging horse by Maurizio Cattelan. Each of the 38 rooms that comprise the castle has been restored to its 18th- century splendor, and each contains a single work of contemporary art. You will find a splendid Mario Merz installation in the center of one of the rooms, a Bill Viola video in another; down the hall find Sol LeWitt, Pipiloti Rist, Joseph Kosuth, Giulio Paolino, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, to name a few. Each room is beautiful and exciting… a feast for art lovers. Speaking of feasts, book a table for lunch at Combal.Zero, a spectacular restaurant housed in a long, narrow building adjacent to the back of the museum and offering superb views of the Po Valley. Chef David Scabine’s cuisine is so unique it will be challenging to explain his provocative, conceptual concoctions to your friends — but be sure to try the “cyber-eggs” — his signature dish.

Other art venues that should top your list include the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, established by Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in 1995 to support young artists by showing their work in Italy. London-based architect Claudio Silvestrin designed a large, low, minimalist building that echoes Turin’s 1930s factories, with a plan that can be reconfigured to suit each show. The current exhibit, which runs through 2010 is FACE: Foundations of Arts for a Contemporary Europe, consisting of exhibitions collectively organized and curated by five European arts foundations. Another must visit is Fondazione Merz (founded in 2004 just after the death of Mario Merz to make accessible the collection of works amassed by the “father” of Arte Povera), housed in former boiler rooms, which provide another example of 1930s Italian industrial architecture. The Fondazione also presents temporary exhibitions, which in the past have included works by Wolfgang Laib, Mona Hatoum, and Lawrence Weiner.

Film buffs should not miss the Fondazione Maria Adriana Prolo — the National Museum of Cinema, located inside the Mole Antonelliana, a Turin landmark originally designed as a synagogue by eccentric architect Alessandro Antonelli in 1863. The Mole has been completely restored as a shrine to cinema and, at 167 meters, it surely qualifies as the highest museum in the world! Next stop, the Egyptian Museum, which is the second largest of its kind in the world after the Cairo Museum. You will be dazzled by the extraordinary installations of ancient statues and antiquities. Last but not least, if you are in town between April 10 and May 23, 2010, don’t miss the only Shroud of Turin viewing allowed for the next 25 years. Reservations are required, and can be made online.

Take time to venture out of the big city and into the countryside of Piedmont to experience “Slow Food” at its source, as well as the fine wines — Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera — that have made Piedmont famous. Your first stop should be the Ceretto Wineries, where contemporary art meets traditional winemaking. The Ceretto family has been making wine for three generations on their estate that spans four villages, in vineyards that are known as some of the most beautiful in Italy. But what sets this winery apart is the family’s affinity for cutting-edge art, architecture and design. You will start your tour at Monsordo Bernadina Estate, an old farmstead transformed into state-of-the-art headquarters for the Cerettos. For one of their venues, Bricco Rocche, Turin architects Luca and Marina Deabate were commissioned to build a monument to Barolo wine—a sheer glass cube that blends with the landscape in an ode to contemporary taste. The Cerettos also called upon artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett to revitalize a tiny, 1914 chapel built by the local farmhands, which stands on a hill in the heart of one of their vineyards. The Capella delle Brunate, as it is now called, is a bold, bright triumph that adds a joyous vitality to the Piedmont countryside. The family also own two restaurants in the heart of nearby Alba, adjacent to the cathedral—two cuisines with two souls in one building! La Piola, an osteria on the ground floor, serves local, traditional cuisine on beautiful artist-designed plates. You can eat you meal on a Robert Indiana, Kiki Smith, or Terry Winters design, depending on your whim, and sets of these limited editions can be purchased at the restaurant. Meanwhile, upstairs in Ristorante Piazza Duomo, world-renowned chef Enrico Crippa serves imaginative dishes in a tiny space adorned with wall frescoes painted by Francesco Clemente—truly an artful experience.

We stationed ourselves at Villa Tiboldi, a small villa-turned-hotel owned and run by hoteliers and winemakers Roberto and Patrizia Damonte. This charming hotel sits perched on a hill surrounded by the Damonte’s own vineyards, above the little town of Canale. The Damontes are very gracious, and made us feel welcome and comfortable — especially on their terrace sipping Malvira-labeled Roero wine.

Another place in Canale (with a great wine cellar) that offers “Slow Food” is All’Enoteca, which serves exceptional cuisine by the dynamic young chef Davide Palluda. We also loved dining in the nearby town of Treiso at La Ciau del Tornavento, which commands a wonderful view of the vineyards, while serving exquisite food. The drive can be tricky, so we relied on a professional to get us there safely (Nadia at Mollo, cell: 333-2051482).

For an extraordinarily artful adventure, make an appointment in advance to visit the Collezione La Gaia, located in the town of Brusca, which is situated at the foot of the mountains—a two hour drive from Canale, but well worth it. Bruna Girondengo and Mateo Vaglietta, a husband and wife team, have been collecting contemporary art for the past thirty years, and have amassed a remarkable collection of over 1,000 works. Most of it is housed in an incredible building of glass, copper and iron nestled against the mountains. There are four stories in this beautiful industrial building designed by Italian architects Semino and Rattalino, each one offering some of the best contemporary art you’re likely to find in one private place. Highlights include works by Jannis Kounellis, Carl Andre, Nam June Paik, Andy Warhol, Tony Cragg, Mike Kelly, Sigmar Polke, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Wall, Damien Hirst, Sol LeWitt, Rineke Dijkstra, Anselm Kiefer and many more. Arrangements can be made through Bruna’s assistant, Manuela Galliano (email: info@collezionelagaia.it).

Also plan to stop in the historic medieval town of Cherasco, considered the artistic heart of the area. Here you will find the only art gallery in the region — Evvivanoe Art Gallery, located on the main street. The art is very provincial, but look carefully, as you may uncover a treasure, such as a unique, handcrafted purse by Ipazia. Cherasco is also famous for hazelnuts in dark chocolate, and many little pasticcerias can be found along its streets. Known for its escargot, the popular restaurant Osteria de la Rosa Rossa (31 Via San Pietro, Tel. 39-0172 488133) serves seriously delicious snails, but you’ll have to book early to snag a table.

Finally, to help plan your incredible, memorable trip to Piedmont (or any region in Italy), ARTExpress highly recommends contacting Megan McCaffrey Guerrera in Liguria (e-mail: megan@bellavitaitalia.com or visit her website). Megan can book your reservations, suggest wonderful venues, arrange cooking classes or invent special events for a trip that you will never forget.

-Suzanne Paulson

Focus Turin & Piedmont

HOTELS

Le Méridien Turin Art+Tech, Via Nizza 230, Lingotto, Turin, Tel. 39-011 664 2001. The hotel, attached to the former Lingotto Fiat Factory—now a multi-use complex designed by Renzo Piano — is a high-tech, hyper-modern, also-Renzo Piano-designed hotel with minimalist guest rooms designed by Philippe Starck. It is located approximately 30 minutes from the center of town, but has easy access from the autostrasse and is recommended by ARTExpress.

Golden Palace, Via dell’Arcivescovado 18, Turin, Tel. 39-011 551 2111, e-mail: goldenpalace@thi.it. Turin’s first true five-star hotel, built after World War II and recently renovated, is luxurious and well situated in the historic center of the city.

Art Hotel Boston, Via Andrea Massena 70, Turin, Tel. 39-011 500 359. Housed in a historic Art Nouveau building, this art-themed hotel with the common areas decorated with pieces from Boetti, Castellani, Fontana, Mondino and Warhol, plus rooms adorned with many styles of art design — from postmodern to ethnic—is centrally located in the Crocetta residential area.

Victoria Hotel, Via Nino Costa 4, Turin, Tel. 39-011 5613288 or 39-011 5611909, e-mail: inside@hotelvictoria-torino.com. The Victoria is a very pleasant and popular small hotel, centrally located in the cultural and commercial heart of Turin near the theaters, restaurants, shops and museums.

Villa Tiboldi
, Case Sparse 127, Canale, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 970388, e-mail: villatiboldi@villatiboldi.it. Approximately one hour from Turin, in the beautiful Langhe region in the heart of Piedmont, the Villa Tiboldi is nestled in the vineyards of the owners—the Damontes. Complete with a lovely restaurant, wonderful wines and gracious hospitality, this is a good choice while exploring the countryside.

Villa Castello di Villa, 14057 Villa Isola d’Asti, Tel. 39-0141 958 006, e-mail: info@castellodivilla.it. This boutique hotel, with 14 spacious guest rooms, is perched on a hill with panoramic views of the vineyards of Piedmont. Located near the town of Asti, it is also a fine place to begin exploring the wineries and sites of the area.

La Villa Hotel, Via Torino 7, Mombaruzzo, Tel. 39-0141 793890, e-mail: info@lavillahotel.net. A 17th-century palazzo and chic country hideaway, La Villa sits high on a hill in the beautiful rolling countryside and is conveniently located about one hour from Turin.

Baur Bed & Breakfast, Regione Vallloria 28, Acqui Terme, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0144 311286, e-mail: dianabaur@gmail.com. For a very special experience, plan a stay at this bed & breakfast with well-appointed rooms, beautiful views, a private pool and a 20-minute walk to the charming town of Acqui Terme. Diana Baur is an artist, great cook, and fabulous host.

RESTAURANTS
Combal.Zero, Piazza Mafalda di Savoia, Rivoli, Turin, Tel. 39-011 955225, e-mail:combal.zero@combal.org. Located adjacent to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rivoli Castle, this exceptional restaurant is a must for foodies wanting a fine dining experience while visiting the art museum. Each creative dish presented by chef Davide Scabin is a tasty art piece in itself, and the ambience is sheer contemporary beauty overlooking the Po Valley.

Vintage 1997, Piazza Solferino 16 H, Tel. 39-011 535948, e-mail:info@vintage1997.com. This restaurant hasn’t been around for long but is currently one of the hottest and most stylish places in town. Its elegant interior is complimented by every dish on the spectacular menu.

Locanda Mongreno, 50 Strada Comunale, Mongreno, Turin, Tel. 39-011 8980417, e-mail: info@locandamongreno.it. Michelin-starred, the restaurant is run by chef Piercarlo Bussetti, who divides his tasting menus into “Medium, Hard and Extreme” sections, according to intellectual challenge. Locanda Mongreno produces meals that are a perfect summation of the modern Piedmontese food scene.

Caffé Torino, Piazza San Carlo, 204, Turin, Tel. 39-001 545118, e-mail: info@caffe-torino.it. Situated on the most popular piazza in the city and centrally located near the museum and the Royal Palace, this famous cafe is a perfect spot for an espresso break, an outdoor lunch complete with people watching, or a lovely dinner behind the turn-of-the-century facade.

La Ciau del Tornavento, Piazza Baracco 7, Treiso, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 638333. La Ciau is beautiful restaurant overlooking the vineyards near Alba. The food is delicious, complimented by wine tastings served with the various dishes presented throughout the meal. It is one of our favorites.

All’Enoteca, Via Roma 57, Canale, Piedmont, Tel. 39-017 395857, www.davidepalluda.it. If you are staying at Villa Tiboldi, this is a good choice for playful regional flavors from chef Davide Palluda, plus the Enoteca complex houses a fabulous wine center.

La Pista, Via Nizza 294, Tel. 39-011 631 3523, www,lapista.to.it. Sited on top of the Lingotto building, La Pista combines the finest cuisine in Turin with panoramic views of the city and the Alps beyond.

Piazza Duomo & La Piola, 4 Piazza Risorgimento, Alba, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 366 167, e-mail: info@piazzaduomoalba.it. In the heart of Alba’s old town center, the Ceretto family recently opened two restaurants with chef Enrico Crippa. La Piola, the casual osteria on the ground floor features Langa-style food served on artist-painted plates, which can be purchased here. Meanwhile, upstairs in the Michelin-starred Piazza Doumo, Crippa serves inventive food in a small, spare room adorned with frescoes by Francesco Clemente.

Guido, 19 Via Fossano, Pollenzo, Tel. 39-0172 458422, e-mail: info@guidoristorante.it. Pollenzo is the home of “Slow Food” and Guido is situated in the castle complex of the University of Gastronomic Sciences. The setting is exquisite and the food is over-the-top contemporary, riffing on traditional Piedmontese food.

Trattoria i Bologna, 4 Via Nicola Sardi, Rocchetta Tanaro (near Asti), Tel. 39-0141 644 600, e-mail: info@trattoriaibologna.it, www.trattoriaibologna.it. Delicious and impeccably fresh regional classics are served by the esteemed Bologna winemaking family who owns this charming trattoria.

Eataly, 224 Via Nizza, Lingotto, Turin, Tel. 39-011 19506840. www.eatalytorino.it. The Eataly is an enormous food emporium packed with “Slow Food”-approved artisanal foods. There are 350 products on sale as well as eight restaurants. Located across the street from the Méridien Hotel, the Eataly is a must visit for all foodies.

MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Museum of Contemporary Art, Castello di Rivoli, Piazza Mafalda di Savoia, Rivoli, Turin, Tel. 39-011 9565222, e-mail: info@casttellodirivoli.org. A not-to-be-missed experience of contemporary art beautifully installed in the galleries of the Rivoli Castle, with each artist occupying his/her own room. The gift shop is well worth a look as well.

Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Via Nizza 230, Turin Tel. 39-011 0062008, e-mail: segreteria.pinacoteca@fiatgroup.com. The gallery, located at the Lingotto complex, is housed in a suspended structure that vaguely resembles a ship and is lit only from above by a glass ceiling with wings that filter the sunlight. It contains the renowned Agnelli collection of works by Canaletto, Tiepolo, Manet, Renoir, Matisse and others.

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Via Modane 16, Turin, Tel. 39-011 379 7600. Promotes different areas of contemporary culture including visual arts, film, music, theater, and literature, with the main objective to support young artists.

Fondazione Merz, Via Limone 24, Turin, Tel. 39-011 19719805, e-mail:info@fondazionemerz.org. Holds a collection of works by Mario Merz and presents temporary exhibitions of works by contemporary artists.

Fondazione Maria Adriana Prolo (National Museum of Cinema), Mole Antonelliana Via Montebello 20, Turin, Tel. 39-011 8138 564/565. The only museum of its kind in Italy, and one of the most important film museums in the world.

Egyptian Museum, Via Accademia Delle Scienze, Tel. 39-011 561 7776, www.museoegizio.it. The best collection of Egyptian antiquities outside Cairo, also noted for its beautifully designed displays.

Doumo di San Giovanni Battista, Piazza San Giovanni, Tel. 39-011 436 1549. Home of the Shroud of Turin.

Artissima, Lingotto Fiere, Via Nizza 280/294, Tel. 39-011-19744106, e-mail: info@artissima.it. The International Fair of Contemporary Art held in Turin annually during the first week of November.

Luci d’Artista, Turin. From November through mid-January, Turin turns into an open-air gallery by night, with light sculptures and installations decorating the streets and buildings, and bringing together the works of some of the most prominent contemporary Italian artists.

Collezione La Gaia, Fraz Santo Stefano 109, Busca, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0171-945900, e-mail: info@collezionelagaia.it. The extensive private contemporary collection of Bruna Gironolengo and Matteo Viglietta is housed in a four-story architectural masterpiece of glass, copper and iron located in the hills of Brusca. A visit can be arranged by appointment (only for art groups or art scholars) through Bruna’s assistant, Manuela Gallano.

Ceretto Wineries, Loc. S. Cassiano 34, Alba, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 282582, e-mail: ceretto@ceretto.com. Ceretto is a beautiful winery on the outskirts of Alba owned by the Ceretto family, whose interest in combining wine and art has produced several creative projects — the most celebrated being the Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett chapel found in the surrounding vineyards. Visits are by appointment only and can be arranged by contacting Ellan Whettan, e-mail: ellan.whetten@ceretto.com or visit@ceretto.com.

Evvivanoé Art Gallery, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 56, Cherasco, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0172 489506, e-mail: evvivanoe@evvivanoe.it. A tiny little gallery in the enchanting medieval town of Cherasco displays artworks by local contemporary artists.

SHOPPING
Porto Palazzo Market, Piazza della Repubblica, Turin, e-mail: torinoplus@comune.torino.it. Label-lovers won’t want to wander too far from the elegant arcades and well-heeled designer shops of Via Roma, the city’s classic shopping street, and Porto Palazzo is perhaps the most interesting destination. Open Monday-Friday (mornings only), Saturday all day.

The Gran Balon Market, Piazza della Repubblica (behind the Piazza),
e-mail: associazione@balon.it, www.balon.it. On the second Sunday of every month, antique dealers from far and wide come to the Gran Balon and bargain hunters can find everything from fine furniture to used petrol pumps.

Il Bacco, 87 Via Roma, Barolo, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 56233. A superb boutique cellar with some of the best wines in the region.

I Piaceri del Gusto, 25 Via Vittorio Emanuele II, Alba, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 440 166. A delicatessen/bookstore/wine cellar, with green décor, where you will not only find truffles during the fall, but a deep selection of books on Piedmontese wine and food, and a cellar filled with excellent, hard-to-find bottles.

Tartufi Panzio, 26 Via Vittorio Emanuele II, Alba, Piedmont, Tel. 39-0173 440 456. A tiny little shop specializing in white truffles during the season, but also featuring an extensive selection of sauces, vinegars, and oils.

News

What snowbird wouldn’t like to be in Los Angeles in January? This year, snow escapees can look forward to four art fairs during the upcoming “Art Month.” If your timing is right you can visit all: Photo LA, the 19th Annual International Los Angeles Photographic Art Exposition, returning to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium January 14-17; the 15th Los Angeles Art Show and the Los Angeles Print Show, which will run simultaneously at the Los Angeles Convention Center January 20-24; and finally, the first Art Los Angeles Contemporary (international fair), which will premiere January 28-31 at the Pacific Design Center.

In the early 1990s, a very promising L.A. contemporary art fair succumbed to the previous great art market crash, but now there is every hope that one or more of these offerings can survive the current downturn and give Los Angeles a fair worthy of — arguably — the country’s most vital art scene.

The largest of today’s fairs is the Los Angeles Art Show, the project of the fine Art Dealers Association. It’s scheduled to host some 130 galleries, plus a lecture series, special events program, a sculpture garden and special exhibit spaces. The VIP program will include brunch with LACMA’s Modern and Contemporary Art Council; a tour of the Rand Corporation Headquarters in Santa Monica, including the works of art on loan from the Eileen Harris Norton Collection and the Collection of Peter Norton, sited in the landmark building; plus access to private art spaces and invitations to special events. Check the newly launched website, for the latest news.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary will debut with a “tightly focused selection” of 50 “top and emerging galleries,” including 1301PE, Blum and Poe, Regen Projects, Marc Selwyn, Tom Solomon, Suzanne Vielmetter (among those from L.A.), plus Lisa Cooley, New York; EDS Galeria, Mexico City; Klosterfelde, Berlin; Museum 52, London; Anthony Greaney, Boston; Fredric Snitzer, Miami… and more. In addition, the fair will present a comprehensive program of artists’ talks, panel discussions, and films — all on site at the PDC.

All of the fairs tout special offerings, exhibits and events. Perhaps art travelers should just plan to spend the month in the Southland sun. Check the websites regularly (see Great Addresses), as some locations and events are in flux at this writing (Art LA has been postponed until 2011).

To embellish a month of art fairs with a grand visual treat, see The Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years. Contrary to dire reports, MOCA has bounced back with its treasures — seldom seen treasures at that. With more than 500 works by more than 200 artists installed in both the Grand Avenue building and the Geffen Contemporary, it’s an incomparable panorama. I, for one, get jelly knees every time MOCA’s Panza collection comes out in full force, with one masterpiece after another… Rothko, Kline, Rauschenberg, Oldenburg — what an eye that man has!

Listen up! You’ll think I’m nuts, but now that you’re downtown and need food, I’ll confess that one of the more talked about spots is a Skid Row diner referred to as The Nickel — a euphemism for Fifth Street and its address on Skid Row at the edge of the “Fashion District” manufacturing area. The only confusion here with haute cuisine is the fact that pastry chef Sharlena Fong served time at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, and some of her creations are worthy of the pedigree. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the item grabbing the most attention is the lowly donut — but here it’s a work of art: deep-fat fried, sugar crusted, topped with maple-glazed bacon chunks. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I have known foodies to come all the way from Connecticut to taste this wonder — but don’t bother to come flying in for donuts after 8 AM — they sell out when the doors open. The Nickel Diner is Monica May and Kristen Trattner’s second downtown restaurant. The first is a French bistro in the banking district called Banquette. The Nickel aspires to super comfort food in an early-pop-drive-in-meets faux-baroque style — and it often succeeds. A wine/beer license is in the works.

Also new downtown this year is the most attractive version of the Westside’s popular Chaya. With excellent fusion cuisine and minimalist décor, it’s a top-flight addition to the pre-theater dining scene.

In Beverly Hills, all eyes are on a new bistro — just opened for lunch, as well as dinner. Bouchon Beverly Hills is Thomas Keller’s first Southern California venture. This elegant French bistro is actually a perfectly executed comfort food stop up a grand staircase in a sleek Adam Tihany-designed dining room. Whether you try the roasted chicken or leg of lamb, don’t pass up dessert — floating island, crème caramel, or profiteroles — and wear your pearls.

On January 18, 2011,  San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art will officially celebrate its 75th birthday, so, beginning with The Anniversary Show just opened, and extending throughout the next year, the museum will enjoy a long season of toasting the milestone. In February, the featured exhibit will be the Luc Tuymans retrospective (February 6-May 2, 1010), and the renowned Belgian artist will appear in conversation with co-curator of the exhibition, Helen Molesworth, on Thursday, February 4. Tuymans is known for provocative images influenced by Northern European painting, the media culture, and photographic-style depictions featuring dramatic scaling and cropping. The show has drawn rave reviews during its debut at the Wexner Center, and is highly anticipated in San Francisco. Coming in time for the big year was the announcement that the museum will receive the stunning collection of Doris and the late Donald Fisher — the founders of the Gap, long a city landmark in its art-filled headquarters. With the support of the Fisher’s foundation, an architect will be selected and plans for an extension to the current Mario Botta building will be added to the calendar this anniversary year. There is no way the gift and its role in the future of SFMOMA can be over-emphasized. The collection will place the museum on a plane that includes only MOMA and the Tate Modern.

At the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards, presented at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, San Francisco chef Nate Appleman was clearly center stage — the only chef (or restaurant) outside of New York to receive a national award. He had no longer done so, than he absconded his S.F. restaurants, A16 and SPQR, for New York and a partnership with Keith McNally in a soon-to-open pizza encounter called Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria. Meanwhile, at A16, chef/owner Lisa Shaw oversees the fresh pasta and divine Neapolitan pizza, and wine director Shelley Lindgren, named “Best Wine Director” by San Francisco magazine, is passing on her love and deep knowledge of evocative Italian wines. Make time for a visit.

In another San Francisco cuisine evolution, being followed with anticipation, Melissa Perello’s (late of Fifth Floor) long-awaited Castro restaurant, Frances (named after her grandmother), opened the first week in December. The small space, with seating for barely 50, was designed by Michael Baushke, who did Ubuntu. It is darkly cozy and invites you to sample the smoked bacon beignets, roasted beef, butterball potatoes… and more.

And while you’re scouting San Francisco discoveries, see one of the freshest in the patch — CARROTS, a Jackson Square boutique featuring elegant women’s clothes and accessories. Run by sisters Melissa and Catie Grimm, heirs to the Grimmway baby carrot empire, its putty-grey walls and stylish minimal décor were inspired by a “classic Paris apartment.” Find jewelry by Jill Platner and designs by Peter Som, Narciso Rodriguez… more.

Directly across the street is our long-time favorite Japanese museum-quality emporium, Japonesque. Koichi Hara’s Jackson Square gallery is a house of rare treasures visited by all Asian art cognoscenti.

Speaking of the January fair month in Los Angeles, February is the month to turn our attention to the grand fair in Madrid that will, for the first time this year, invite the city of Los Angeles and its galleries to be the official guests. ARCOmadrid 2010, the International Art Fair, February 17-21 is placing its upcoming focus on L.A. A selection of 17 galleries, curated by Kris Kuramitsu and Christopher Miles will comprise Panorama: Los Angeles, an overview of L.A. as a city for art. Galleries in the Madrid program include 1301PE, Acme, Steve Turner, Peres Projects, Cherry and Martin, Thomas Solomon, L.A. Louver, Margo Leavin, Regen Projects, Rosamund Felsen, and more. During the fair, the Reina Sofia — among various institutions — will host event(s)/show(s) from Los Angeles. Beyond Panorama Los Angeles, some 200 galleries and almost 3,000 artists will be seen in this top-drawer fair.

While you’re in town for ARCO, and in a design mood, drop by the former warehouse that is home to Ramses — the spot for “Tomorrow Land” table hopping in the Philippe Starck-designed space; and make a reservation at La Terraza del Casino, Ferran Adria’s more accessible version of El Bulli. It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant. Meanwhile, a new hotel has jumped to our “explore-it” Madrid list: Hotel Abalu, an eclectic-style boutique hotel with only 16 rooms that is situated in the Malasaña district. Or try our old favorite, Hotel Villa Magna, newly renovated and featuring a Michelin-starred restaurant by Basque chef Enetko Atxa.

In a world of ever more enticing museum restaurants (C5 and Frank in Toronto, Modern in New York), you won’t be disappointed by Arola Madrid in the Reina Sofia. Sergi Arola’s (of two-star La Broche fame) daring dining room, capped by a shimmering red, soaring ceiling, with an avant-garde kitchen, complements Madrid’s most up-to-the-moment museum.

Great Addresses

IN LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles Art Show (FADA) and IFPDA Print Fair (The Print Show), 1201 South Figueroa Street, Downtown Los Angeles. January 20-24, Opening Night Gala to benefit LACMA and Inner City Arts.

Photo LA, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood. January 28-31.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Pacific Design Center, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood. January 28-31.

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), 250 South Grand Avenue and the Geffen Contemporary, 152 North Central Avenue, Downtown Los Angeles, Tel. 213-621-1749. The Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years marks the museum’s 30th anniversary, with works by such big names as Jackson Pollock, Ed Ruscha, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg… and more.

The Nickel Diner, 524 South Main Street, Los Angeles, Tel. 213-6230-8301. Need a burger, fantastic fries, onion rings? The clientele ranges from hipsters to City Hall, and the atmosphere is pop-thrift-shop moderne. Desserts are amazing; measure the stratospheric height of the lemon meringue pie!

Chaya Downtown, 525 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, Tel. 213-236-9577. If you want a preview of this gorgeous restaurant, check out its spectacular website. You’ll love the fusion cuisine, the innovative environment and the free shuttle to the Music Center/Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Bouchon Beverly Hills, 235 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, Tel. 310-271-9910. Lunch 11:30-2:30 daily, and dinner 5:30-10:30. A traditional French bistro from mega-chef Thomas Keller.

The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel, 465 North La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, Tel. 310-246-5567. Esquire just named Bazaar “Restaurant of the Year” and the 2010 Zagat Guide singles it out as “Top Newcomer” in L.A., while regular devotees will tell you Andrés presents cutting-edge Spanish cuisine at its best. With design by Philippe Strack, this is a winning combo. The SLS is a 297-room Luxury Collection hotel by Starwood — also Starck-designed — and hosts another perk beyond Bazaar: a “custom curated” retail space by design guru Murray Moss.

The MAK Center for Art and Architecure at the Schindler House, 835 North Kings Road, West Hollywood, Tel. 323-651-1510. From February 5-March 25, The MAK Center will present 23 new works by leading contemporary artists, on billboards throughout L.A., in an exhibition titled, How Many Billboards? Art In Stead. The show “highlights the interaction of Pop, conceptualism, and architecture in Los Angeles since the late 1960s,” so look up don’t miss it! At Schindler House, an overview exhibit will open on February 23, accompanied by public programs and bus tours.

The Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, Tel. 310-443-7000. Put Rachel Whiteread Drawings, the first U.S. survey of this important British artist’s drawings (accompanied by sculpture) on your calendar. Curated by Allegra Pesenti — working with the artist — for the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, this is a must-see, January 31-May 3. Whiteread will conduct a walkthrough on Sunday, January 31.

IN SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,151 Third Street, San Francisco, Tel. 415-357-4000. Luc Tuymans in Conversation, Thursday, February 4, 2010. $10 general, $7 members; tickets are available at the museum or online.

A16, 2355 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, Tel. 415-771-2216. A16 is the name of the highway that runs from Naples to Canosa, Puglia, and here in San Francisco, you will indeed find southern Italy in Liza Shaw’s regional dishes.

Frances, 3870 11th Street, San Francisco, Tel. 415-621-3870. Comfort food with style is the signature of Melissa Perello’s new tribute to her grandmother, Frances.

CARROTS, 843 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, Tel. 415-834-9040. The Grimm sisters will welcome you, find your perfect outfit and treat you to a tiny carrot cupcake, celebrating the family’s mini-carrot business (they invented the brand).

Japonesque, 824 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, Tel. 415-391-8860. Long one of the most special destinations in San Francisco, Japonesque more and more resembles a museum of Japanese art — especially sculpture, but whether you are looking for one exquisite object or just continuing to learn from the great eye of proprietor Koichi Hara, you’ll treasure your visit.

RN74, 301 Mission Street, San Francisco, Tel. 415-543-7474. At this new Michael Mina venture, the subject is wine, and the splendid seventy-three page wine list (this highway name refers to Route Nationale in Burgundy, France). Oenophiles are in seventh heaven and everyone loves chef Jason Berthold’s inventive dishes served in an atmospheric dining room that recalls an old French railway station.

IN NAPA
With wine and great tastings the reason for your visit, it’s also possible to turn vineyard hopping into art visits. Our favorite stop is The Hess Collection where there is a veritable museum on site, with fine works by Robert Motherwell, Francis Bacon, Anselm Kiefer, Franz Gertsch… and more. The Hess Collection, 4411 Redwood Road, Napa, Tel. 707-255-1144.

IN MADRID
Ramses, Plaza de la Indepencia, 4, Madrid, Tel. 34 9 435 16 66. The Philippe Starck-designed restaurant and bar continues to be one of the most colorful destinations in Madrid. Be ready for plenty of attitude with your design tour—every bit worth it.

ARCOmadrid_2010 - 29 International Contemporary Art Fair: 10.Los Angeles. Information or visitor services: Tel. 34 91 722 30 00, email: infoifema@ifema.es or contact Viajes Marsans-Fair Department, P.F. Juan Carlos 1 - ifema, Tel. 34 91 722 57 06. Among the hotels recommended by the fair are: The Palace, AC Palacio Del Retiro, AC Santa Mauro and Urban.

Hotel Villa Magna, Paseo de la Castellana
, 22, Madrid, Tel. 34 91 587 1234. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, Villa Magna is a classic luxury hotel with 150 rooms, situated on Paseo de la Castellana in the heart of Madrid, near Ortega y Gasset—the main shopping area, and the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. The decor is contemporary, colorful, and vibrant! Dining on site with Michelin-starred chef Eneko Atxa in the very beautiful restaurant of the same name, or at the Tse Yang Cantonese Restaurant, is a real treat.

AC Santa Mauro, Zurbano, 26, Madrid, Tel. 34 913 196 900, www.hotelacsantomauro.com. The former residence of the Duke of Santo Mauro, this lovely palace is centrally located, blessed by restrained contemporary elegance, and the charming Santa Mauro Restaurant — situated in the palace’s old library.

Las Tortillas de Gabino, Calle Rafael Calvo, 20, Madrid, Tel. 34 91 319 7505. The ubiquitous Spanish omelette — the tortilla — is the centerpiece at this wildly popular (with locals) mustard yellow dining room. Far from street food in your typical tapas bar, the tortillas here are innovative and divine. Don’t even think of dropping in without a reservation.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Paseo del Prado, 8, Madrid. From February 23-May 30, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Fundacion Caja Madrid will join together in an exhibition titled Monet and Abstraction. Monet’s works will be displayed at the Thyssen, and the Caja will present Monet’s works alongside paintings by Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, Sam Francis, Joan Mitchell, Gerhard Richter… and more. Don’t miss this stunning collaboration. It will be one of the most talked about exhibitions of the year.

Travel Bookshelf: Turin & Piedmont

Guides
Turin (Eyewitness Travel Guide)
. DK Publishing, 2005.
Fodor’s Italy 2010, Fodor’s, 2009.
Hope Caton, Robin Bell. Turin & Piedmont, The Purple Guide, 2006.
Tim Jepson. National Geographic Traveler: Piedmont & Northwest Italy, with Turin and the Alps, National Geographic, 2005.
Victor D’Amico. Bonding with Piedmont: Italy’s Undiscovered and Bountiful Region, iUniverse, 2006.
Manuela Darling-Gansser, Simon Griffiths. Autumn in Piedmonte: Food and Travels in Italy’s Northwest, Hardie Grant Books, 2008.
Nicola Williams, Duncan Garwood. Lonely Planet Piedmont, Lonely Planet, 2005.
Francesco Soletti, The Touring Club of Italy. The Italian Food Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Regional Foods of Italy, Dolce Vita, 2002.
Sally Spector. Chocolate, Truffles & Other Treasures of Italy’s Piedmont Cuisine, Piazza, 2007.
Milan and Turin: A Complete Guide to Italy’s Capitals of Business, Contemporary Art, Industrial Design, and Fashion,
Touring Club of Italy, 2002.

History
Fr. Vittorio Guerrera. The Shroud of Turin, TAN Books, 2009.
Robert Wilcox. The Truth About the Shroud of Turin: Solving the Mystery, Regnery Press, 2010.
Princess Lamballe, Catherine Hyde. Secret Memoirs of Princess Lamballe, Kessinger, 2005.
Antonio Carlos Napoleone Gallenga. History of Piedmont, 1855.

Art & Architecture
Michael Bonino. Turin Architecture Atlas: 1984-2008, Umberto Allemandi & Co., 2009.
Sergio Pace. Italia 61: The Nation on Show, 1 Contemporary Architecture in Turin, 2006.
Eleni Vassilika. The Egyptian Museum in Turin, Umberto Allemandi, 2006.
Architectural Guides: Turin. Rediscovering Italian, Allemandi’s Architecture Guides, 2007.
Maria Guisti. Guide to Piedmont Architecture: Of the 20th Century, Umberto Allemandi & Co., 2002.
Marcello Francon. Castello di Rivoli: 20 Anni d’Arte Contemporanea, 2005.
Francesco Bonami. Bibidibobidiboo: The Collection: Ten Years of the Fondazine Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Skira, 2006.
Carlo Olmo. Il Lingotto: History and Guide, 2006.
Gian Enzo Sperone, et al. Gian Enzo Sperone Turin, Rome, New York: 35 Years of Exhibitions Between Europe and America, 2000.

and…
strictly for fun…

Mysteries
Joel Pesce. The Wormwood Conspiracy, BookSurge, 2006.
Kate Ross. The Devil in Music, Penguin, 1998.
Christina Vella. Indecent Secrets: The Infamous Murri Murder Affair, Free Press, 2007 (true crime in 1902 Italy!).
Lathom, Francis. Italian Mysteries (Gothic Classics), Valancourt Books, 2005.

Calendar

Through Jan. 10 Castello di Rivoli, Turin Gianni Colombo
Through Jan. 18 Centre Pompidou, Paris Jim Hodges Love Etcetera
Through Jan. 31 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Julius Shulman: Palm Springs Modern
Through Jan. 31 Seattle Art Museum Michelangelo Public and Private
Through Jan. 31 Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin Blindman’s Buff
Through Feb. 4 Musée d’Orsay, Paris James Ensor
Through Feb. 7 Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK Hirst: Pharmacy
Through Feb. 7 Deichtorhallen, Hamburg Katharina Fritsch
Through Feb. 7 New Museum, New York Urs Fischer
Through Feb. 14 MCA, Chicago Italics: Italian Art Tradition/Revolution - 1968-2008
Through Feb. 14 Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo Rebecca Horn
Through Feb. 14 Galleria Civica (GAM), Turin Imperial Porcelain from the Hermitage
Through Feb. 14 The Menil Collection, Houston Cy Twombly: Treatise on the Veil
Through Feb. 15 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Hendrick Avercamp
Through Feb. 20 de Young San Francisco Judd and LeWitt: Conceptual Colour in Print
Through Feb. 21 Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Francis Alys
Through Feb. 21 National Gallery, London Kienholz: the Hoeregracht
Through Feb. 22 Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid Rodchenko and Pop
Through Feb. 28 MCA San Diego Downtown Tara Donovan
Through Feb. 28 Städel Museum, Frankfurt Botticelli
Through Mar. 1 MOMA, New York Gabriel Orozco
Through Mar. 7 Camden Arts Centre, London Eva Hesse: Studiowork
Through Mar. 14 St. Louis Art Museum Yinka Shonibare
Through Mar. 21 Dallas Museum of Art Performance/Art
Through Mar. 28 Guggenheim Museum, New York Anish Kapoor: Memory
Through Mar. 31 Museo del Prado, Madrid Dutch Painting
Through Apr. 4 Natl. Gallery, Wash. DC Editions w/ Additions: Working Proofs by Jasper Johns
Through Apr. 4 Philadelphia Museum of Art Notions/Bruce Nauman: Days and Giorni
Through Apr. 5 Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemp. Art
Through Apr. 11 Museu Nacional d’Art, Barcelona Guests of Honour/75th Anniversary
Through Apr. 12 MOMA, New York Monet’s Waterlilies
Through Apr. 17 Santa Monica Museum of Art Diana Thater: Between Science and Magic
Through Apr. 18 Legion of Honor, San Francisco Cartier and America
Through Apr. 26 MOMA, New York Tim Burton
Through May 23 Centre Pompidou, Paris Women Artists in the Collection
Through May 30 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 2010 Whitney Biennial
Through June 21 Musée du Louvre, Paris Joseph Kosuth
Through June 30 LACMA, Los Angeles Joseph Beuys: the Multiples
Through Nov. 1 Dia Beacon Sol LeWitt: Drawing Series
Through Nov. 21 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Robert Irwin
Jan. 16 - June 6 SFMOMA, San Francisco 75 Years of Looking Forward
Jan. 22 - May 16 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Susan Rothenberg Moving in Place
Jan. 28 - Jan. 31 Art Contemporary Los Angeles
Jan. 29 - Jan. 31 Artefiera - Art First, Bologna
Feb. 17 - Feb. 21 ARCO 29 International Contemporary Art Fair, Madrid
Mar. 4 - 7 The Armory Show, New York (contemporary)
Mar. 4 - 7 The Armory Show Modern, New York
Ongoing MOCA, Los Angeles Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years