The Second City Profile Milan captures the spirit of Lombardy’s capital through the eyes of a power couple, Domenico Vito and Maria Reppucci. Domenico and I have been friends for about 20 years because we were in school together. We reconnected during one of my trips to Milan and he introduced me to his girlfriend Maria. They are the definition of the power couple: successful, accomplished, well traveled and fashionable. So I asked them to give me a list of their favorite places in Milan and I knew they would steer me in the direction of hidden gems and other more popular restaurant where you can taste the charm of Milan. Their picks are divided by meal times and cuisines, with a specific section to Milan’s traditional aperitivo hour. For an interactive map of their recommendation click here.
A MILANESE BREAKFAST
Breakfast is one of the many meals that people in Milan eat at a cafe’. There are great selections and they all feature flaky and rich cornetti and foamy cappuccini. Bianco Latte has great pastries and their cakes taste homemade and delicious. Pasticceria Viscontea is another institution in Milan, very famous for their elaborate desserts. Pasticceria Sissi in piazza Risorgimento is famous for their cornetti and in the summer they have outdoor tables too. Finally in Corso Magenta there is Pasticceria Conca, with the best brioche in town.
STREET FOOD MILANESE STYLE
Al Mercato is a fairly new type of restaurant in the Milan scene. Two up-and-coming chefs opened this hamburger joint focussing on street food from all over the world. Excellent meat dishes and a very long line outside the door. But the experience is worth the wait. They also opened another, equally good restaurant next door showcasing noodles and other types of street food. Since the hamburger frenzy seem to have migrated from LA to Milan, another great option is Fatto Bene, in the Cadorna neighborhood. You’ll find some of the most creative and seasonal offerings and some delicious vegetarian options too. For the real Milanese Street Food Experience head over to Luini, and get a panzarotto, a fried calzone stuffed with mozzarella and tomatoes or prosciutto. The line is long, especially at lunch and dinner time but the caloric panzarotto is a delicious Milanese tradition.
Aperitivo is one of the most prominent meals in Milan. You can skip breakfast, lunch and dinner, but if you skip aperitivo, your social life will be heavily impacted, and not in a nice way. After all, we are in a northern city, we go to bed early, so aperitivo is the last chance to see our friends out and about before the fog descends on the Duomo. Just kidding most of us go straight to the office after a 30 minutes aperitivo because we have deliverables for the following morning and are pulling an all-nighter glued to our desk.
If you are looking for creative cocktails with a side of art galleries, head over to Rita, in the Navigli neighborhood. This establishment has become really popular in recent years especially for the LOCAL 30-something crowd. They have excellent bartenders and a really good food selection. In Via Solferino there is another local aperitivo place called DRY, offering great cocktails and good, somewhat inexpensive, pizza.
If you want to see the upper crust of Milanese population, including celebrities and grab a (fairly overpriced) drink in a posh and fabulous environment with amazing decor, look no further that the Bulgari Hotel and Bamboo Bar at the Armani Hotel. The Bulgari Hotel has a lovely candlelit garden while Bamboo Bar is on a rooftop, but arrive early or make a reservation otherwise finding a table may be long and not so glamurous.
BRUNCH ALLA MILANESE
One of the coolest brunch places in Milan is Deus Cafe, a small establishment inside (and outside in the garden) of a motorcycle store. The menu and ambiance is very international as is the food. We recommend it also for aperitivo or nightcaps because it’s unpretentious but really fun. If you want to feel like you are far away from Milan, your best bet is Erba Brusca, a great little restaurant with its own orchard and a seasonal menu. If, on the other hand you want to feel close to nature while staying in the city center, head over to Un Posto A Milano. You’ll feel like having a picnic in the country, only a few minutes from home.
If you are looking for the most innovative and eclectic meals, Milan has few gems to offer. Chic’n’quick is the sister restaurant to Sadler, on of the most posh and formal restaurants in Milan. Chic’n’quick is the creative and more experimental modern trattoria, not as formal but a lot more fun. Carlo e Camilla in Segheria is another great option. Serena’s friend Carlo Cracco opened this inexpensive version of his Michelin Starred Cracco in a sawmill. It is a great restaurant with a quirky location and a single commissary table for 70 people. The ambiance is refined but fun and the food has the high standards that you would expect from one of Italy’s leading chefs.
AWARD WINNING RESTAURANTS
Milan has several award winning restaurants. Michelin stars are falling all over the city but our favorite award winning restaurants are really special. Innocenti Evasioni by chef Arrigoni is currently one of the best restaurants in Milan. The location features a large window overlooking a secret garden. The dishes are refined and creative as they give an unexpected and seasonal twist to traditional dishes. Every meal at Innocenti Evasioni is an unforgettable experience.
Another award winning restaurant for seafood lovers is Alice by Viviana Varese. The new location is inside Eataly Milan, so you can pair the meal with some food shopping too.
JAPANESE RESTAURANTS IN MILAN
Unlike many other Italian cities unaffected by the Sushi trend, Milan is one of the European cities who first embraced the Far East and it’s knife skills. There are several excellent Japanese restaurant and, in line with New York and London, sushi joints are popping up all over the city, with alternate results. The most expensive and traditional Sushi restaurant in Milan is Osaka. The clientele is almost exclusively Japanese and the few other patrons are fans of the Japanese Style sushi: simple rolls and sashimi based more of the knife skills and extreme quality of the seafood than on sauces and other more extravagant elements. Basara is one of the newest restaurants in Milan. The food is very creative and keep an eye out of the specials because they usually are hidden gems that you may otherwise overlook. Finally Wicky’s is where the Mediterranean Diet meets sushi with flavors that are as creative as they are delicious. Don’t miss the kobe beef sushi or you may regret it!
MEAT & SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS
When you think of Milan you naturally associate it with cutlets, veal and many other traditional restaurants. But if you are looking for a meat restaurant you may want to consider that other countries have great meat traditions too. El Porteno is an Argentinean restaurant that errs on the loud and noisy side but features some of the best steaks you’ll find in Lombardy. El Bechee is an informal restaurant currently gaining a lot of good reviews for its meat dishes.
The second assumption people make when they think of Milan is that seadfood won’t be very good since the city is far away from the water. Let’s dispel this myth right away. Do you really believe that Sciure (the milanese version of “ladies who lunch”) would load up on carbs? Not really. Our top picks are Langosteria 10, one of the best seafood restaurants in Milan (which recently opened a more popular bistrot, with less expensive prices) and Trattoria del Pescatore, a traditional and excellent restaurant that makes getting a reservation in New York seem easy, in comparison.