Archive for the Lombardy Category

Milan – a night in Navigli

Posted in Italy, Lombardy, Milan, Navigli with tags on May 16, 2013 by gannet39

For me Navigli  is the nicest area in Milan to spend an evening. The canals and old buildings give it a certain atmosphere you won’t find elsewhere. The canal side is lined with buzzing bars and interesting little vintage shops. It’s also home to my favourite restaurant in the city…

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Trattoria Milanese
(Intermediate A), 30 Viale Gorizia, Tel. 02 835 7670, www.trattoriamilanese.com

This local institution is the best place to come for traditional Milanese fare that I know of.  It’s old school and atmospheric; popular with locals and tourists alike, and is the latest entry in my list of favourite restaurants of all time.

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I like the staff and the old school ambience but the food is just fantastic.

20130506_194442I reserved a table for when they opened at 7.30 on a Tuesday fearing I wouldn’t get in. I needn’t have worried as there were only other two tables in by 8. However, everyone else arrived at 9 and there wasn’t an empty chair in the place. I’d imagine it’s still probably a good idea to book if you’re going at the weekend though.

I’m usually pretty good at understanding Italian menus but this one defeated me, with lots of dishes and food words I’d not come across before, all local specialities.
I started with Insalata di Nervetti (A), a tasty combination of onions, cannellini beans and veal cartilage, which was the best I’d ever tasted.

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Ok so it was only the second time I’ve ever had it (see Altri Tempi in Palermo)  but it reinforced my opinion that you should try offal in good places like this as you may be pleasantly surprised.

The second dish of Polpettine di Sanato con Porcini (A), veal meatballs in boletus mushroom sauce with roast rosemary potatoes on the side (B+) was also excellent.

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The half litre of Barbera d’Alba, one of the best house wines I’ve ever had, went with the food sublimely. With good legs and a great nose, it was a real bargain at only €7.

The only let down was the dessert, a slice of Meneghina cake with ice cream and Grand Marnier. I found it quite tasteless (C) which my reinforced my belief that puddings are one area where British cuisine excels that of the Italians (controversial I know).

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I was cheered though by the five-year-old house grappa that I had with it, both glasses courtesy of the kindly waiter.

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The bill came to a very reasonable €39. I left the place purring, and resolving to come back as soon as possible. After a gentle promenade along the canal I hopped on the metro back to the hotel and slept like a baby for eight hours, which is very unlike me. Such is the power of good food and drink. Trattoria Milanese is unmissable as far as I’m concerned.

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Milan – The joys of Gioia

Posted in Gioia, Italy, Lombardy, Milan with tags , , on May 16, 2013 by gannet39

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.

Milan – Centro Storico

Posted in Centro Storico, Italy, Lombardy, Milan with tags , , , , on May 16, 2013 by gannet39

In my opinion the most beautiful old building in this rather unlovely city is the pink-stoned Duomo in the central square. The top floor cafe in the neighbouring Rinascente department store (itself a heavenly paradise, albeit for shopping) has fantastic views of the higher levels of the cathedral with the gargoyles looking you right in the eye as you drink your coffee.

The nearby glass domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is pretty impressive too and is the oldest shopping arcade in Italy, completed in 1877. It was the model for the Galleria Umberto I in Naples.

Sorry about the lack of photos but my battery let me down for this one. Lots of good photos of the cathedral here though and the galleria here.

Luini (Elementary B), 16 via S.Radegonda, down the side of Rinascente.

Perhaps the most famous bakery in Milan, since 1940, this is the best place to try panzerotti (deep fried pizza dough filled with mozzarella, garlic and tomatoes) as well as bread and other hand-made specialities. A panzerotto costs about €3 and a coke €1.50.

Pizzeria di Gennaro (Intermediate B), 16 via S.Radegonda, next to Luini.

Milan’s oldest pizzeria, not particularly special but friendly efficient service and the food is fine. I had a margherita for €6 which was ok.  A good place to rest your feet after shopping in Rinascente.

For followers of fashion, the nearby district of Monte Napoleone, at the end of via Buenos Aires, is the principal shopping district. One of my favourites is Missoni on Via Sant ‘Andrea.

If  you like Alessi designs, you should visit their stores at 9 Corso Matteotti and 14 Via Manzoni.

Milan – Centrale

Posted in Centrale, Italy, Lombardy, Milan with tags on May 14, 2013 by gannet39

20130506_170415To be honest I’ve never been a huge fan of Milan in comparison to other Italian cities as there is very little to love in the way of architecture, barring the beautiful Duomo in the centre.

20130506_165606It’s difficult to decide whether Statzione Centrale,  is beautiful or not with its inhuman size and brutal style (actually a blend of many architectural styles, particularly Liberty and Art Nouveau). Although commissioned in 1906 it was redesigned and completed on the orders of Mussolini as a gateway to Italy from Europe and a symbol of fascist power.

20130506_165922However the station, like the city, has grown on me slowly over the years, since my first visit as a communist student when I was 17.

Not that I’ve become a fascist sympathiser since then but I have learned to divorce politics from architectural appreciation, not least because my own very leftist home town of Sheffield has itself a few examples of concrete monoliths that have somehow taken on their own beauty over time.

20130508_120902Although it looks somewhat faded and decrepit, there are little gems to be found high up on the walls and ceilings of the huge halls.

Today the 24 platforms handle 330,000 people and over 600 trains a day, so no wonder it looks a bit tired.

20130506_16571820130506_165822On this occasion passengers were greeted by these two characters advertising the coming 2015 Expo Milano.

They were created by Dante Ferretti to represent ‘the basic elements of nutrition and their physical and real transposition of the human figure’. No one could ever accuse the Italians of being understated, another thing I’ve grown to like them for.

If you want somewhere to eat round here fish specialist Al Cuoco di Bordo at 11 Via Cristiforo Gluck is supposed to be good although I haven’t had a chance to go.

Milan – Porta Venezia

Posted in Lombardy, Milan, Porta Venezia with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

Milanese food is sometimes called ‘the golden cuisine’ due to the preponderance of the colour in many of its dishes, such as Polenta, Risotto Milanese (with saffron), and Cotoletta alla Milanese (apparently stolen by the Austrians who renamed it Wiener Schnitzel). Fast food is popular, as you would expect in a city with no time to waste.

Here are some of my favourite places near the Starhotel Ritz, which is off via Buenos Aires (shopping street similar to Oxford St) between Statzione Centrale and Porta Venezia:

L’Angolo D’Abruzzo da Giannino (Intemediate A), 20 via R.Pilo (left out of hotel, cross the tracks and turn left along via Giovanna, take the 20 degree right when you get to Piazza VIII Nov 1917, 10 mins max), Tel. 02 29406526, 3929871505. Closed Monday. GEM ALERT!

A very popular place (book ahead or wait for up to an hour!) that specialises in food from Abruzzo, central Italy. Specialities are grilled Scamorza cheese, roast lamb and potatoes and Arrosticini (small pieces of lamb grilled on a skewer). I had Sagne e Fagioli ‘all Abruzzese (B+), a bean soup with pieces of pancetta and diamond shaped pasta, which can be seasoned with parmesan and chilli oil, followed by the Grigliata Mista of scamorza, salsiccia, arrosticini, lamb steak and lonza (A/B). The house red is very drinkable and only €3 euro a quartino. To start the antipasti misto of ham and cheeses would feed a small army. First courses start at €8, second courses are €9-12, much better value than other restaurants in the area.

Maruzella (Intermediate A), 3 Piazza Oberdan (opposite Porta Venezia), Tel. 02 29525729/29516418, lunch 12-2.30, dinner 7-11.30, closed Wednesdays.

This is my every day favourite, but unfortunately it’s everyone else’s favourite too so you would do well to book ahead to shorten your waiting time. I once waited 20 mins on a Tuesday night but the people after me waited for an hour! It’s popular because they have got everything right, great food at a reasonable price, nice ambience and highly efficient waiters who won’t hurry you even if there are twenty people waiting for your table. Pizzas are 4-8 euro, first courses 7-8 euro and seconds 12-20 euro. Digestivos come in double measures for only 3 euro; try the Grappa di Cabernet, matured in wooden barrels.

If you can’t get in at Maruzella, just turn the corner onto Via Tadino (parallel to via Buenos Aires) which has several ethnic restaurants including Mongolian, Japanese, Argentinean and African options.

New Delhi (Intermediate A), 1 via Tadino, Tel. 02 29536448

Delicious curries at reasonable prices for when you tire of Italian food. When I went, the friendly owner gave the ladies in our party a free scarf as a parting gift and the blokes got a packet of hand-rolled Indian cigarettes. A great deal all round.

Tipica Osteria Pugilese (Intermediate B), 5 via Tadino, Tel. 02 29522574

Large Puglian restaurant with a great ambience, framed photos of the owner with various celebrities cover the high walls. Slightly expensive with pasta courses in double figures but everything we had was good. Closed Sundays.

Azzurra Grill (Intermediate B/C), 11 via San Gregorio, left out of the hotel, first right, straight over Buenos Aires, second corner on the left Tel 02 29406115

Probably the nearest decent place near the hotel and very popular. I have eaten very well here in the past but sadly it was rather lacklustre on my last visit, perhaps avoid the seafood (their speciality!), stick to meat and ask for white wine to be chilled. The antipasti buffet is extensive and imaginative however, lots of choice for veggies.

Cavallini (Advanced A), via Mauro Macchi (near Statzione Centrale).

A bit trad (since 1937) and pricey but serves classic Milanese dishes very well. There is a large courtyard garden out back which made it for me. Service is exemplary and English-speaking.

The internet place at 11 Via Tunisia opens at 9am, rather than 10am like the Western Union office a couple of doors down (No. 7?). Both are much cheaper (1 euro for 15 mins) than the extortionate Ritz.

Last updated October ’09.

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