Milan – The joys of Gioia

Work used to put us up in a hotel near Porta Venezia (see separate post) but this year we were at the Hotel NH Verdi in Gioia. The exterior is rather grim but the receptionists are great, the rooms spacious and the breakfast not bad. There’s also a small gym but I preferred running in the nearby Parco Sempione which contains the beautiful  Castle Sforzesco.

You should get a good view of the Unicredit Tower from your bedroom window. The hotel is also very near this spectacular development at Porta Nuova.

The hotel is very near Corso Como and its continuation Corso Garibaldi, both of which are lined with bars and restaurants, so plenty of choice to suit all tastes.

For my work colleagues an easy option for food would be the Cinghale Rosso at 6 Viale Monte Grappa, on the same block as the hotel, down a side street. Although I didn’t have time to go myself, I’m told the menu looks very interesting and the owner was flexible enough to do smaller portions so more dishes could be sampled.

Personally though I was more interested in trying this high end place recommended by the New York Times who are usually quite adept at nosing out the good stuff.

Antica Trattoria della Pesa (Advanced A-), 10 Viale Pasubio, (about 5 minutes from the hotel), Tel. 02 6555 741

This formal place ain’t cheap; the four of us spent €200 of which €64 was down to me. The others were a bit disappointed with their first course of asparagus but happier with their seconds (fusilli in tomato sauce and risotto with minced beef wrapped in cabbage leaves. I was over the moon with both my choices though.

20130507_201928I started off with an Insalata Caprese, made from creamy mozzarella and fantastic fully flavoured tomatoes (A).

20130507_203939I decided this was the place to try the local classic Ossobucco, a cut of oxtail with flaking tender meat falling of a vertebrae containing gelatinous marrow, cooked in a tasty sauce with a big helping of golden Risotto Milanese on the same plate. It cost €34 but was worth every penny for me. It was great (A+) but very filling and there was no chance of fitting in a dessert in afterwards.

20130507_201708We shared two bottles of house wine (no carafes here), with white following by red. The first was a refreshingly subtle Tuscan Chardonnay (Ruffino – Libaio 2012) and the second a red called Quadrio from Vendemmia  made by Niuo Negri. Both were €20 each and scored highly (B+).

20130507_204039Besides the size of the bill, the only other downside was our waiter who was rather snooty, hence the minus in my rating. He did his job though and the decor and general ambience of the place (lace curtains, wood burning stove) made up for his sour puss.

Although there are doubtless lots of cheaper places around, I’d still come again for the Ossobucco which I doubt gets any better than here.

There are lots of good shops in the area too (Corso Como is another fashion hub outside the centre), including one of my all time favourites for home wares, High Tech at 12 Piazza XXV Aprile. It’s a little hard to find as it’s not visible from the street. From the main square you have to go through an arch into another little square and you will see the shop in front of you. The building is a labyrinth of rooms (it was once a former ink plant for a local newspaper) that contain everything imaginable for the modern home, especially kitchenware. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, a small door in the corner will take you off to a new floor and several more antechambers, each dedicated to a different room in the house. You need at least a couple of hours to get round it, and plenty of room in your suitcase.

A fantastic enoteca is Cotti at 42 Via Solferino, which has a huge selection of wines and spirits. It’s a fun experience in itself just to come here to see the displays.

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