Italy is renowned for its long-standing culinary tradition and in particular for its local specialities, and Milan is no exception. From the creamy risotto alla Milanese, with golden saffron, to the juicy “cotoletta”, a veal cutlet pan fried in clarified butter, its dishes speak of an intensely favourful heritage. But the city is not weighed down by stiff folklore and rigid prescriptions – quite the opposite. Milan has been flirting with experimental approaches, and not just in terms of aromas, but also with architecture and socially-involved programs. On a recent trip to Milan, we set out to find out more about what the city has to offer.
The area around Porta Venezia has undergone major transformations over the past 5 years, becoming one of the liveliest spots of the city, with many new restaurants dotting the neighborhood. Here, Pavé (via Felice Casati, 27) represents a wonderful way to start the day. This artisanal pastry-shop – with an open space lab – crafts some beautiful, mouth-watering brioches, cakes and desserts, in which the most important thing is the high quality of the ingredients.
If you’re looking for some delicious vegetarian food, Milan has many wonderful options. Hosted in an historic building that dates to the beginning of the 20th century, Ratanà (Via Gaetano de Castillia, 28,) specializes in seasonal and local fresh products, mixed together in intriguing new combinations, while also paying homage to the tradition. Radicetonda, instead, is the city’s first certified organic vegan restaurant. Everything in the restaurant is environment-friendly: plates, silverware and cups are made of 100% vegetable fibers, and the microwave is severely banned as a core premise. The ingredients come from organic or biodynamic farming and, whenever possible, with a short supply chain: you’ll find no chemicals or preservatives in these colourful, and tasty dishes.
All contemporary art lovers and film aficionados should not miss Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada (Largo Isarco, 2). Designed by film director Wes Anderson, the cafe sports a colour palette and decorative elements reminiscent of the Pop culture and Italian aesthetics of the 1950s and 60s. Some will also spot some similarities and resonances with The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Our favorite detail? A Steve Zissous-themed pinballs.
It would be reductive to refer to 28 posti as just a restaurant (and pardon the pun). Despite the small size – it can accommodate only 28 people – this site’s reach and ambitions expand beyond food into the field of social engagement, which involves inmates from one of Milan’s prisons, political refugees, and migrants.
The venue was restored by convicts of the Penitentiary Institute of Bollate, who also built the furniture, tables, and doors. Many of the objects decorating the space – lamps, pots, metal containers, placemats – link it to Nairobi and Bogota’, where the founders of this initiative first started collaborating on social projects. Also the recipes follow the same experimental approach, mixing sweet and savory items in daring – and very successful – matches.
While this is just a short sampling, which does not pretend to be exhaustive of the exceptional wave of ferment and innovation that runs through the city, we’re excited to see what’s in store for the months – and years – to come. With the World Expo now behind it, Milan seems to be firmly positioned in the international circuit, and its diversified offer will attract and satisfy the most variegated audience.