Milan – Navigli – Sunday lunch by the Grand Canal

The Navigli di Milano was a system of navigable canals that radiated out from Milan to connect the city with the Ticino and Adda rivers that run into Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. The network developed over hundreds of years, starting with the Romans, but expanding massively thanks to plans drawn up by Leonardo da Vinci. Such was the system’s importance for trade that, in its heyday, it made Milan Italy’s fourth largest port, after Genoa, Venice and Naples.

Eventually the canals slipped into decline and much of the urban section was covered over in the 1930s. However the Naviglio Grande (Grand Canal) and the Darsena (Dock) still remain and the area where they meet (in Zone Six by Porta Ticinese) has taken the name Navigli. Today it’s quite a trendy area, a bit like Camden to my mind, with lots of independent shops, bars and restaurants along the canal and the streets off it. It’s my favourite neighbourhood in Milan for a spot of R&R, as it is for many other people, so it can get quite busy at the weekend.

I came for lunch one Sunday afternoon in October 2020 (this post) and combined it with a walk along the canal looking at the street art (post here). I was a bit gutted to find out that my favourite restaurant in the area had closed down (my old post on Trattoria Milanese here) but happily I found a new place that was even better …

Al Pont de Ferr (Intermediate A), 55 Ripa di Porta Ticinese,

Named after the bridge it’s located next to, this restaurant has been open for over one hundred years. However, while it looks very traditional inside, the philosophy in the kitchen is very modern.

I was given a friendly welcome by Maida Mercuri, the proprietress, and her young multi-lingual staff.

Some delicious warm bread arrived while I was mulling the menu (A). Shortly followed by an amuse bouche, asparagus soup, garnished with borage flowers, micro basil, chopped pistacchios and a drizzle of oil (B+).

In terms of flavour, the Ravioli Fatti da noi Ripieni di Ossobuco e la sua Gremolada (homemade ravioli stuffed with oxtail and a green sauce made of chopped parsley, lemon zest, and garlic), was my favourite dish (A)…

…although the decorative gold leaf made it look pretty spectacular too.

I also enjoyed the Controfiletto di Manzo alla Brace, Lasciato Rosato e Pure’ di Patate (grilled beef sirloin, cooked rare and served with potato puree), again beautifully presented (B).

To drink, a rather lovely 2019 Vendemmia called Solinghino from Cantina Picchioni in the Buttafuoco dell’Oltrepo Pavese DOC south of Milan.

To finish, a slug of artisanal firewater particular to the restaurant. Upon my toasting him, the young chef Luca Natalini came out of the kitchen to say hello and tell me what I was drinking, although I promptly forgot that part during our conversation. It’s nice to know that as well as being very talented (he was a finalist on Top Chef Italia, the Italian equivalent to Masterchef), he’s a nice guy as well.

The bill came to 59€ which was good value given the quality I thought. In conclusion then, a really good meal, definitely deserving a revisit.

Rather than gorge myself further with a dessert, I ambled down the canal to this gelateria…

La Gelateria della Musica (Elementary B+), 3 Via Lodovico Il Moro,

This is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, gelatarias in the city. Can’t remember what I had, stracciatella and something a bit more risky like chestnut by the looks of it, but I remember thinking it was pretty good (B).

For a spot of shopping, I really liked Tenhoa, a Japanese homewwares shop at 18 Via Vigevano.

You’ll find everywhere mentioned on my map.

And that’s it for Milan, for now. Monza next…

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