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Milan, Italy

Mark Slater

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Not far to the west of Milan (about 12 miles) there is a restaurant called Antica Osteria del Ponte that is more than worth the trip. It will make you feel right at home as it is a R&C restaurant and jacket and tie are required. Not only that, but the food is world class.

The best risotto I have ever had was at Giannino, this restaurant specializes mostly in Milanese cuisine, but has some Florentine specialties dotting the menu. Boeucc is interesting, the food was very good, and the history of the restaurant is even better (founded in the 1600's). While it is the oldest restaurant in Milan, the food is not married to the past.

The most fun I have had at a restuarant in Milan was at Savini, the menu is rather whimsical and filled with stuff that challenges most diners (like Veal cartilage salad).

If you get bored drinking wine, one of the best clubs in town is found at Dolce and Gambana, it is hidden in the store, but they mix a mean cocktail, and have a great room.

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A friend in Milano, Marina Malvezzi, who just attended the Congress of Gastronomy in Spain, recommends these (and I apologize in advance for the advertisement that eclipses part of the screen):

Aimo e Nadia (that's her write-up, with recipes from the chef)

Cracco-Peck: here is the (official website)

Her other recommendations for great Italian chefs are here.

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Aimo e Nadia had two Michelin stars, now one. We went about four years ago and thought it was the brightest dining room we have ever been in. So bright that it was not just a quibble but a distraction. Overall it was excellent. But great? Two stars great? No. Nor was it worth Euro 400 for two which was our approximate cost then.

Al Porto is another matter. One of the absolute best seafood restaurants in all of Italy. Exemplery fritto misto, sardines worthy of crossing several oceans for-a wonderful, wonderful restaurant that I miss. An absolute must for any trip to Milan.

Perhaps, "the Alle Testiere of Milan."

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Last October we had an incredible lunch at D'O in Cornaredo 14 kms west of Milan. The personable young chef, Davide Oldani, came and chatted with us and helped us select both food and wine. I had been advised to reserve 3 months before my visit, and when I called the restaurant in the evening, got a recording saying to call at 10 am for reservations. So, I did get up at 4 am to call Italy, spoke with the chef and got the reservation (6 weeks beforehand). Very definitely worth the effort!!! It's not expensive, but don't let that discourage you. They're closed Sun. night and all day Monday. Don't take credit cards. Might be closed for vacation in Dec. or beginning of Jan. Tel. 02/9362209 Just stumbled on a site "todine.net" which makes reservations for you. Haven't tried it so don't know if it works.


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Whoever thought up the phrase "Sunny Italy" sure hasn't been to Milan in January. 6 days in a row of gloomy fog and mist. As an intrepid taster for Tasted Magazine, I did my duty during the day plowing through almost 500 wines last week. The evenings were taken up with dinners at various places around Milano. The hectic schedule left no time for sight-seeing or (gasp!) shopping. The first and last nights were spent in cozy, tiny trattorias with unpretentious menus and surroundings. The remaining four nights were interesting in the "holy shit, I can't believe people pay money for this" kind of way. The best of the lot (in my opinion) were the two dinners we had at Antico Ristorante Boeucc (for some reason pronounced "Butch") a block from La Scala. The restaurant is a baroque palazzo and claims to have been founded in 1696. It is a very attractive, classic setting specializing in Milanese regional cooking. The service was suave and very attentive - the captain actually took the order for 7 of us the first night in three languages. I was amused by the hilarious misspellings on the English menu ( mached potatoes ). I had a tasty, if ordinary, prawn cocktail. The dish I looked forward to - spaghetti con vongole - was vile. The clams were tiny and fresh, but no herbs or garlic were apparent in the nasty broth, the spaghetti hard and an odd aroma about the whole plate. The main course was a fine rendition of costelleta Milanese - a plate filling pounded and breaded veal chop - served without any kind of sauce or accompaniment. A little lemon brought it to life. They were very kind to let us bring 10 bottles left over from the day's tasting. We also bought off the wine list. The second dinner was an arranged affair for 30 people and was pulled off without incident. A fine beef carpaccio started things off. A middle plate of risotto was fine. I just don't understand the allure of eating a plate of rice alone like that. The main was a decent osso bucco.

Milano being the center of fashion in Europe, all the top designers have their own restaurants and hotels. Tuesday night we were invited by our hosts at San Pellegrino and Robert Bava of Azienda Agricola Bava for dinner at the brand new ristorante owned by Dolce & Gabbana called Gold. It has been open one month. Very glitzy and shiny, very trendy, all the fashionistas were there. The chef is Giacomo Gallina. For a wine dinner in January, the first course puzzled me by consisting of artichoke, asparagus, cherry tomato and foie gras. Puzzled first because this was January and those are not the vegetables one associates with winter, puzzled second because those vegetables are anathema to wine. The whole dinner was good but not great. The wines were very good. The service was gracious and attentive.

Two nights later we were invited to dinner at the Bulgari Hotel. This is a very expensive and exclusive hotel tucked away in an alley. A traffic jam of Ferraris graced the porte-cochere. The restaurant here was understated, dark and "casual". This evening there were almost 20 of us parked at 2 adjoining tables of 8 or 9. One waiter had been assigned. Getting drinks and dinner started was a major ordeal. The mood was set by the shreaking children from the next table running wild around the tables. I asked for a martini..... The first dish of gummy, thick tube pasta with small clams, bottarga and cuttlefish was downright awful. The food was so un-memorable that I've already forgotten what else was served. For a hotel with $3,000 a night rates, this was deplorable.

Luckily, the bartender at our hotel (the Milan Marriott) on via Giorgio Washington ( :lol: ) knew how to construct an excellent dry gin martini - that and a comfortable bed gets my vote for great accomodations in Europe these days. The traveling to and from Europe, as has become the norm these days, was the usual pain in the butt. I felt so proud of myself that I made it through TSA screening with my little one quart sandwich bag filled with tiny bottles of gels and liquids without getting the slightest scolding. The food in economy on Continental Airlines was uniformly disgusting. Crappy critter label chardonnay now costs $5 a pop.

It feels good to be home.

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Great dinner at uno piu milano--a bit out of the city center (Via Traiano Marco Ulpio, 62), but it had come highly recommended as a small family-run but well-designed restaurant. The pappardelle della casa was fantastic--housemade pasta with a tomato/cream sauce and pancetta. I followed up with pizza quattro stagioni, and while Milan is not the center of the pizza universe, this was a really good thin-crust pizza, made in a serious pizza oven.

I won't hesitate to go back--great food, full for a Sunday night (with locals), and friendly service.

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