Milan Food Guide: 

What and where to eat in Milan

Milan might not be as famously ‘foodie’ as Florence (for hearty Tuscan fare), Venice (for tapas-style cicchetti), the Amalfi Coast (for seafood) or Naples (for – what else? – pizza), but nevertheless, Milan is a city filled with flavours. Underestimate this city at your peril – for while Milan might be best-known for fashion, finance and football, the Milanese really do know a thing or two about food. After all, the city has the fifth-most Michelin stars in the world.

“But what are the best things to eat in Milan? And where can I find the best restaurants in Milan?”, we hear you ask. Worry not, because we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about dining in this most fashionable of Italian city.

What to eat?

It’s probably worth mentioning for the benefit of the vegetarians and vegans out there that this is going to get ugly. The Milanese and their Lombardian neighbours are into meat in a big way, with many of the regions’ signature dishes sitting on the meatier end of the spectrum.

But if you’re not a meat-eater, you’ll be delighted to know that the dish that everyone should try when they’re in Milan is veggie friendly. And that dish is risotto alla Milanese – creamy, golden, saffron-infused risotto, that, when done well, is to die for. Risotto is ubiquitous across Milan, and if you want a more substantial take on risotto alla Milanese, find one that also includes ossobucoTranslating to ‘bone with a hole’, ossobuco is a hefty veal shank traditionally braised in a mixture of vegetables, white wine and broth, cooked slowly until the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender. It’s sensational on its own, and even better when paired with saffron risotto.

Ossobucco’s not the only meat feast in town, however. A close relative of the schnitzel, Cotoletta – often served as costoletta or simply veal alla Milanese – is a breaded veal (sincerest apologies once again to the vegan and vegetarian set) cutlet, fried in butter. No two cotoletta are the same though, and this classic dish can be made thin or thick, crispy or juicy, and boned or boneless. There’s no consensus, other than you simply must try it.

Another meaty favourite is cassoeuela. Order this and you’ll be served a warming bowl of pork (usually sausage alongside all the best cuts – head… trotters… ears…) and cabbage, paired often with polenta. Wash down with a robust red wine for maximum heartiness.
Need something a little lighter? Look no further than piadina – Milan’s answer to the panini. A thin and crispy Italian flatbread, piadina are a lunchtime staple in Milan and often stuffed with meats, cheese, salads and occasionally vegetables.

And now for dessert. If you don’t have much room after all that meat, go for a cannoncino. A kind-of cross between cannoli and a croissant, these sweet treats are an irresistible combination of buttery puff pastry and lavish cream or zabaglione (think: eggnog.)

If you’re there in the festive season, there’s one Milanese speciality you really ought to make time for: panettone. Yes, there are thousands of these in British supermarkets at Christmas, but if you want the best, you should go right to the source. Pasticceria Martesana is the place to go for this festive staple, once voted as the best in Italy. If you want a panettone with an Austrian twist, order their Sacher torte panettone – panettone, covered in dark chocolate and filled with apricot marmalade.

Where to eat?

So, now you know what to eat, we should probably break down where to eat in Milan. If there’s one thing that Milan does exceptionally well, it’s the Aperitivo bar. The custom of enjoying a drink and some nibbles (olives, focaccia, bruschetta, cheeses and the like) originated in Milan, and there are plenty of places to partake in this Milanese institution before heading on to your main dining destination. We recommend Bar Basso, the bar that pioneered Aperitivo in Milan. What to order? Negronis are commonplace across town, but there’s only one option if you end up in Bar Basso: the legendary Negroni Sbagliato, an accidental, but no less delicious, creation that uses prosecco instead of gin.

If it’s old school Milanese cooking you’re after, be sure to visit Trattoria Madonnina for fine comfort food in the form of cotoletta, ossobuco and the like; Ristorante Ribot for meat, meat and more meat; and Dongiò for Calabrian classics in a warm, unpretentious dining space. 

If you fancy something a little more ‘new school’, head for Trattoria Mirta, where Uruguayan head chef Juan Lema serves up unconventional dishes like braised beef cooked in chocolate and blueberries. For more creative takes on local favourites and traditional Milanese fare, you could also visit Ratanà or bistro 28 Posti.

For sensational seafood, set course for Latteria Maffucci. Keep your wits about you though, as some unexpected flavour combinations could be headed your way (squid, rocket and strawberries, anyone?) and a 50€ tasting menu that comprises eight starters, a first course, a second course, dessert, coffee and a glass of mirto (a bitter berry-flavour liqueur). 

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