When Americans think of Italian food we're apt to picture some kind of pasta dish — and there is plenty of that available here, but Milan is also an international city where fashionistas and other creatives from around the world mingle and share ideas. And that's also reflected in the local cuisine. Here are just some of the delightful options open to you.
Maurizio Mantagna/Ratanà Ristorant
A Michelin guide eatery, Ratanà Ristorant offers modern Milanese cooking and a classic farm-to-table meal in a converted building that once housed a cinema. There’s also an outdoor eating area overlooking a nearby park. Chef Cesare Battisti is famous for his take on the traditional local dish: Risotto ala Vecchio Milano, a saffron-heavy risotto with bone marrow, gremolata, and roast sauce. But there were plenty of other standouts on the menu like beef cheeks and tortellini with butter and amaretto. Two of my faves have history behind them: the Sbrisolona is a traditional shortbread-like almond cake that’s been made by farmers since the 16th century (here it was paired with strawberry grape sauce). Meanwhile the burnt wheat focaccia, has roots in Grano arso, which means “burnt grain” in Italian. In the 18th century, peasant workers would salvage the last usable bits of torched wheat remaining after landowners fired their fields post-harvest. That’s all the grain the peasants could afford at the time, but modern chefs have started cooking with it again. Turns out, the flour caramelizes as it cooks, producing an unforgettably rich, almost coffee-like flavor.
L’Antico Ristorante Boeucc
Courtesy L’Antico Ristorante Boeucc
A historic Milanese restaurant situated behind the world-famous must-visit opera house (Theatre La Scala), Boeucc Restaurant offers authentic, inventive local cuisine. Try the fresh tagliolini with sea urchin, the John Dory fillet with asparagus, grilled seabass with artichokes, and start with the green maccheroncini “Boeucc style.” (Remember, meals here are multi-course and pasta is often first, not the main event.)
By Diane Anderson-Minshall
The restaurant at Villa Sparina resort in nearby Piedmont, La Gallina offers a 7-course menu chosen by chef Graziano Caccioppoli as a “surprise” indulgence for your palate, but almost any meal here is worth it. Located in the Gavi wine region, La Gallina has their own organic garden and sources additional ingredients locally. Want to fully enjoy the Italian culinary experience? Why not try on the chef’s hat yourself? A three-hour cookery course teaches traditional Piedmontese dishes (our beef cheeks, pesto gnocchi, and tiramisu, were delicious). But for less ambitious diners, there’s handmade pappardelle pasta, Mille-feuille beef fillet, porcini mushrooms, dishes with local truffles (which you can help hunt), and even a homemade tagliolini pasta with 33 egg yolks and alpine butter.
Cioccolatitaliani boasts the best chocolate (Cacao Fino de Aroma literally has been named the world’s best), coffee, and pastries. And since we had dishes with all three, we agree it’s hands down better than any other Italian ice cream or gelato shop we tried. It’s huge, too, with a ton of options including my faves: affogato with dark chocolate and espresso and the affogato pistachio and milk cream.
Have an apertivo or even an alcohol-free cocktail at Terrazza Martini, a rooftop bar that boasts one of the best views of the city. Americans might remember the old Martini & Rossi ads. This is the same company built by those two men (one entrepreneur and one master herbalist) over 150 years ago. Today it’s a sophisticated, queer-friendly rooftop bar.
Linea Uno Bistro
Courtesy Linea Uno Bistro
Linea Uno Bistrois a lunch/dinner cafe and 24-hour bar in the slightly hipsterish Hotel Ibis Milano Centro. Located next to the Rainbow District, you can visit every queer club — Bar Lola, Mema, Lecco Milano, and Pop Milano — and then grab a late-night snack before bedding down. Instead of the typical bar food, the bar at Ibis served rocket salad (arugula) with tomatoes, oregano, and buffalo mozzarella.
Also check out: Caffetteria Villa Necchi (outside the famed house of Gucci) for cappuccinos; Gerry’s Bar (a world-famous spot that reminds one of The Plaza) for prosecco and finger foods; Luini for the city’s best panzerotti (these deep-fried Italian dough creations many mistake for calzones); and a delightfully lit-up fashion district spot, La Cupola in the Hyatt Hotel Milan for brunch (Bresaola con aspargi, risotto with pumpkin flowers, fried eggs, and more).