Italy has always been regarded as one of the world’s great dining destinations but often expensive for most of us. Our editor Sarah Lewis selects her pick of Milan’s best value for money restaurants. Enjoy!
1. La Ricetta di Mamé
Most Milanese, famous for their conservative tastes and high standards, are hard pressed to praise a restaurant for such qualities as being “hip” or “modern.” Despite this, La Ricetta di Mamé—a bright space with an open kitchen, casually hand written menus and chalkboards highlighting local ingredients, a congenial maitre d’ and obvious intimacy amongst the small staff—has garnered honest (if measured) acclaim and attention. The plates, carefully considered and well presented, in the end are effortless in their enjoyment. The recipes are actually quite traditional, tied always to region and season. Recently seen on the menu were glazed chestnut gnocchi with sage and fontina (10 euro), or la tagliata di Fassona Piemontese, with porcini and nebbiolo (22 euro). After dinner a five minute stroll ends up in zona Navigli, the two canals at the heart of Milan’s more democratic nightlife district.
Via Vigevano, 34
02 83 24 17 07
Monday to Sunday 19.00 to 24.00
35 to 50 euro per person
2. Da Mauro
At the farther end of Navigli, where most of the charm and refinement has worn off, three big windows look into a pale yellow dining room, a mess of long tables sat with punks and hipsters, local legends and decades long regulars. Two tops are wedged into the available cracks, and rarely go unseated. Tables in waiting are laid with chubby grissini and cubes of mortadella. The cuisine is Bolognese, and the pasta is all made in house. To try just one plate would be a waste, instead, take a tris di pasta, a procession of three pastas technically to be shared in two (13 euro per person). Look for gramigna (tightly wound tendrils) with sweet sausage ragu, or garganelli with cream and asparagus. Finish the feast with hot fudge and ice cream, a coffee, and multiple rounds of amaro. The staff runs a quick ship, for good service avoid asking for swaps/exchanges/or substitutions (unless you have an immaculate Italian accent).
Via Elia Lombardini
02 837 2866
Tuesday to Sunday 19.00 to 24.00
20 to 30 euro per person
3. Del Binari
Beside the rail tracks that pull in to Porta Genova, Del Binari is a grand succession of intimate dining rooms, a glass and iron encased atrium, and lush garden for the summer season. The menu is classic Milanese, predictable but enormously satisfying, even for this city’s high standards. At lunch there is a fanciful rush as the neighborhood’s fashion industry workforce files in, often ordering without the menu long ago memorized by heart. Though plenty of Italians will disagree, this is my favorite cotoletta alla Milanese, served bare on a white plate with a thick wedge of lemon, and a dish of potatoes on the side. By early evening lunch has devolved into a lively aperitivo, well worth enjoying before settling in for dinner.
Via Tortona 1
02 89 40 67 53
Monday to Sunday 8.00 to 23.00
30 to 50 euro per person
4. Un Posto a Milano at Cascina Cuccagna
Supposedly the last cascina (farmhouse) to survive in urban Milan, Cascina Cuccagna is a rustic sprawl where one may enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks, shop for organic produce or drop in on a workshop. There is wonderful mingle of types and generations: while young kids drink organic beers and pick at communal bread boards of salumi, Milan’s older guard cozies up under umbrellas hung with candles, around tables set with biologic chardonnay and sophisticated plates such as roast pork loin with figs and puree, or fresh pasta with Sicilian beans and mussels. Whatever one’s taste, a corner awaits. (unless of course the weather is fabulous, and all Milan has descended, in which case you should call for a reservation). Near by, zona Porta Romana is a great neighborhood to explore, contemporary, and very alive.
Via Cuccagna 2
02 5457 785
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 to 1.00
8 to 50 per person
5. Malastrana Rossa
On most evenings the corner of Via Palermo and Corso Garibaldi is aflutter with crowds of local VIPS, their posses, and those that just enjoy their style of company. For an outsider, it looks just perfectly Italian, especially compared to Milan’s more international (and more refined) fashion scene. Malastrana is itself an easy restaurant with good pizza and red meat. I, like many of Malastrana’s regulars, rely on either beef carpaccio with with rucola and grana (10 euro), or filet of Chiania al sangue (19 euro). Upon arrival look for Pino, a handsome man in his early forties, simultaneously seating tables and indulging the desires of glamorous females and football players. If he is too busy to seat you himself you can admire his work on the walls: a collage of polaroids starring himself and all his best looking, long maned, hour glass figured clients. After dinner, much of this crowd migrates up Via Garibaldi, either to bar Radetsky of after hours to The Club.
Via Palermo 21
02 8646 2074
Monday to Sunday 18.30 to 2.00
20 to 35 per person
With its interior simple and modern (absent any kitch or Italian stereotypes) few
tourists wind up at this wonderful restaurant off of Corso Sempione. From the miniscule dimensions of its Napoletanean kitchen, a team of verified natives (Gennaro, Ernesto, and Antonio) grind out legitimate plates such as scialatielli with mussels and pecorino, or pasta with potatoes and provalone. Its owner, Pippo, runs his restaurant with an authentic combo of confidence, charm, and mucscle. Though I already wrote of their pizza, its worth reiterating: my favorite in the city. The neighborhood, tree lined and rumbling with trams and traffic, is tucked away from the edges of Chinatown and Parco Sempione. At lunch, an enormously reasonable menu offers either un primo or un secondo for around 7.50 euro.
via Procaccini 73
12.00 to 14.30, 19.00 to 23.30
7.50 menu fisso at lunch, 30 euro per person for dinner
7. Da Giannino l’Angolo d’Abruzzo
On a sharp corner in Porta Venezia, l’Angolo d’Abruzzo indulges the innate desire for a rustic Italian dinner. The kitchen is Abruzzesi, from the mountainous region to the east of Rome, famous for slow roasted meats and unusual fresh pastas. Though orderly during the day, by night this small dining room is a mess of red and white gingham topped tables, and waiters wielding hot plates of chitarra pasta with goat ragu, or pallotte cace ove (fried balls of egg and pecorino, cooked slow in garlic and tomato). Standing since 1965, today this corner of Abruzzo is alive with young people who come to eat and drink like animals (or more accurately, like the pastoral shepherds of Abruzzo). When seated, mention you are hungry and a silver platter spilling with meatballs, fried eggplant and hot salami, should arrive within minutes. The food is rich but easy, the specialties lesser known to those unfamiliar with this region. Following the antipasta, try the scrippelle mbusse (a type of Italian crepe made with aged pecorino and immersed in chicken broth), or the agnello e scamorza alla griglia (goat meat and an indigenous, meaty cheese on the grill).
Via Rosolino Pilo, 20
The opening times are
Monday to Sunday 12.00 to 15.30, 19.30 to 24.00
25 to 35 euro per person