24 Hours of Eating In Milan
Milan is different than the other cities in Italy. It has a stylish grit that cannot be replicated — a beautiful intensity is prevalent in the oppressive stone architecture littered with bright graffiti. Most of the city was demolished in World War Two so there’s modernity in the mix here not present in other major cities. There’s a style all her town. I like to refer to her as your friend’s older gothic sister who’s away at art school. And finding the best restaurants in Milan isn’t the same as stumbling upon a non-touristy trattoria in Rome.
Best restaurants in Milan
From high sushi restaurants and swank modern pizza joints to small trattorias and breathtakingly good croissants, this northern Italian city is full of surprises. There is no shortage of “best restaurant” lists when it comes to Italian cities, but Milan isn’t the site of food pilgrimages like Rome or Naples (hello carbonara and pizza) despite the iconic Risotto, Veal Milanese and Osso Bucco being from there. But don’t get me wrong, this no-nonsense city is full of delicious places to eat! We spent two days eating our faces off at breakfast, lunch, aperitivo and dinner. Here’s how to make the best of the best restaurants in Milan.
Breakfast in Milan
There are so many lovely hotels in Milan offering up gorgeous night stays and rooftop balconies, but please, I beg you, DO NOT EAT THE HOTEL BREAKFAST. Stale pastries, watery cappuccinos and limp scrambled eggs abound at even the nicest hotels, so venture out for la colazione for the classic cappuccino e cornetto (croissant).
One of the best restaurants in Milan serving up pastries every morning is Pavè. This cafe was opened in 2012 by three 30-somethings and offers up some of the best pastries in the city — there is ALWAYS a line, but believe me it’s worth it. We visited Pave on a Sunday morning and it was bopping! Luckily the wait wasn’t too long and once we were seated, our bowl-sized cappuccinos and pastries were delivered to our table overlooking the main cash.
Adam’s croissant overflowed with prosciutto cotto and fontal cheese while my pain au chocolat had some many layers of flaky pastries I just have to show you:
Lunch on the run
While most Italians eat their biggest meal — filled with pasta, bread and meats — at midday, you can have your pick of the best restaurants in Milan for lunch or dinner. Adam and I are usually on the run during the day, opting for a quick lunch. 40 Pizza e Cucina is open for both lunch and dinner, serving huge portions of pasta, pizza and beef. This eatery is always busy serving locals, students and tourists alike at long communal tables. Saying Adam ate a “slice” of pizza is a disservice — the giant slabs come oozing with cheese and toppings. In Adam’s case prosciutto! I opted for a mountainous bowl of spaghetti carbonara.
Aperitivo in Brera
Late afternoon is my favourite time of day in Italy because of two things: Passeggiata which marks the end of the workday when everyone strolls around to chat, gather their thoughts and shake off the day. The second is aperitivo: the end of the workday drink and light meal — essentially it’s the best kind of happy hour you can imagine! Most bars throughout Milan will offer up a buffet of food or bring snacks to your table once you’ve ordered a drink (the classic order is an Aperol Spritz or Negroni).
Just off the Centro Storico, the Brera district is the artsy, bohemian hood with tons of great bars and sidewalk cafes that are perfect for aperitivo. We just plopped ourselves down at one of the tables (I don’t even remeber the name of the bar!) and ordered drinks. And then all the snacks came. All. The. Snacks. Focaccia with cheese, bread with sauce and hardboiled egg, salty pretzels, potato chips and even popcorn!
Dinner a la Milanese
Dinner in Milan you can pretty much eat whatever you want from high-end Peruvian food like Pacifico to modern pizza joints with intimidatingly hip interiors like Dry. We opted for a traditional trattoria landing a hard-to-get reservation at Il Solferino thanks to our sweet-talking concierge!
Il Solferino has been open since 1909 and it’s pretty old school — the waiter mocked Adam when I picked up the tab — but exactly what you want a classic Italian restaurant to be with great service and damn good food. The place was packed with locals when we arrived for our 10 pm reservation so I knew it was going to be good. Solferino is a wine-oriented spot with hundreds of crates of wine lining the walls right up to the ceiling! We drank the most luscious bottle of Bolgheri — I’ll never forget it. But for Adam it was all about the burrata, so good he had to close his eyes.
Plates of pasta followed: squid-ink ravioli filled with seafood for Adam and Risotto alla Milanese for me. This is a must-have dish when visiting Milan and it did not disappoint. I downed that creamy saffron-infused risotto pretty darn quick!
We finished our meal at Il Solferino with the jiggliest of jiggly panna cottas and went back to the hotel for a restful sleep before our departure from Milan. With a bit of research, a little luck and some good vibes (stay away from those English menus people!) we found some of the best restaurants in Milan — I hope you will too! Arrivederci!