You’re never short on places to eat in Milan. Italy’s second-largest city is home to a wealth of restaurants, from Michelin-star establishments to traditional trattorie.
Since the ’80s, Milan has been establishing itself as a place where Italian and international chefs have relocated to learn, experiment with new types of cuisines or to open their own ventures. It’s no coincidence that Milan offers the many types of international cuisines, which can be harder to find in other Italian cities. This diversity is also appreciated by local residents, who are eager to discover new flavours and thirsty for innovation and creativity. Here is a round-up of the best restaurants to visit in Milano.
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
Located inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel’s second courtyard, this Michelin-star restaurant has wide glass windows that allow you to see chef Antonio Guida at work. With deep roots in Southern Italy’s Puglia region, the chef adds influences from Tuscany and France (where he studied) to Pugliese recipes. The menu is full of deliciousness, with dishes including tortelli stuffed with duck, pumpkin, pecorino cheese and red wine sauce; roasted blue lobster with Loazzolo zabaglione, potatoes and matcha tea; and lamb scented with herbs, squid-ink polenta and stuffed bell peppers. One of the best ways to savour Guida’s abilities is to order the tasting menu, where you can experience a bit of everything, starting with appetisers and ending with desserts made by Nicola Di Lena.
Enrico Bartolini is probably one of the most acclaimed Italian chefs. He is the only chef in the history of the Michelin Guide to have been awarded four stars at the same time, including two for his popular restaurant at Milan’s Museum of Cultures (MUDEC). Located at the centre of the Design District, the restaurant is on the third floor of the museum. It offers what experts of the industry call haute cuisine, because of its harmonious simplicity that marries an array of seasonal ingredients that are placed on the plate, much like a piece of art. There are two tasting menus, Be Contemporary and Be Classic, and a series of dishes à la carte. The Be Classic includes dishes such as the bottoni with cacciucco and grilled octopus, and the risotto with red turnips and gorgonzola cheese sauce.
Iyo experiments with modern Japanese cuisine that combines traditional recipes with Italian flavours. The restaurant has 80 seats, and from the open kitchen you can see chefs expediting the dishes. There are also glossy counters in the middle of the room, where the chefs make sushi. Highlights at Iyo include the nigiri, carpaccio and tempura.
Creative minimalism is what defines chef Andrea Berton’s cuisine. From the choices of the ingredients to the composition of them on the plate, Berton isn’t tied to any particular Italian culinary tradition. Still, he likes to innovate, putting together different regional food influences. You can taste the creativity in dishes such as the pigeon lasagna and the rack of lamb alongside a pepper stuffed with ricotta cheese, onion and green sauce. There is also a tasting menu, which due to its complexity, the chef suggests sharing with the rest of your table. The restaurant has huge windows that offer views of Porta Nuova.
Carlo Cracco is one of the most established Italian chefs working today. The chef opened his own restaurant inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an exclusive shopping arcade. Covering five floors, the restaurant is conceived as a food empire. On the ground floor, there is a café-bistro, which is perfect for breakfast or lunch. Upstairs is the refined restaurant, with three dining rooms and two private areas for intimate dates or special celebrations. The menu includes a host of Milanese classics, such as risotto with saffron, grilled bone marrow and liver ragout. The fifth floor’s Sala Mengoni is reserved for events.
Fine Dining, Michelin-Starred, Gourmet, Stylish, Romantic
Chinese culinary tradition meets the Italian kitchen at Serica. This fusion is the philosophy behind chef Chang Liu’s Milan restaurant. The dishes here represent the union between the two cultures in form, ingredients and technique. Additionally, the kitchen focusses on seasonality. A few examples? Wonton with Emilian filling and parmesan sauce, and pigeon xin jiong with pumpkin confit, chanterelles and spinach sauce.
The atmosphere at Da Giannino is warm and friendly – a classic mark of hospitality from Abruzzo, a region in Southern Italy. The portions are abundant, so if you are looking to try different recipes, the family-style approach is always a good option. An excellent choice includes the spaghetti alla chitarra with lamb sauce.
Joia is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city. Holding a Michelin star since 1996, it is the temple of chef Pietro Leemann. The design of the restaurant is minimal and sophisticated, which is in sharp contrast with the colourful dishes. The menu highlights the seasonality of the ingredients; the saracen rolls stuffed with cauliflower and harissa are very popular.
Business, Fine Dining, Gourmet, Stylish, Michelin-Starred, Modern, Unusual
L’Alchimia Ristorante and Lounge Bar
You can spend the whole evening here. L’Alchimia is a cosy restaurant with 50 seats and wooden tables with no tablecloths. If you prefer a more intimate atmosphere, plump for the private room with an eight-seater table that looks out onto chef Davide Puleio’s kitchen. The owners keep the menu small, with the risotto Milan-Rome – a classic Milanese risotto with a Roman twist (as the chef is originally from the Italian capital) – especially good. Finish the night at the lounge bar, comfortably seated on a sofa while sipping a La Mia Milano, a cocktail made with Cocchi Storico vermouth, Campari, Rabarbaro Zucca and ginger.
28 Posti helps prisoners reintegrate into society | Courtesy of 28 Posti
After leaving this bistro, visitors will likely talk a lot about the food – but also about the restaurant’s interior design. The furniture is made by the inmates of Istituto Penitenziario di Bollate, thanks to the collaboration between 28 Posti and NGO Liveinslums. Founded by Silvia Orazi and Gaetano Berni, the programme aims to teach inmates a craft that could help reintegrate them into society. Everything you see inside the restaurant is made using recycled materials, and the menu changes every two months. In the kitchen of talented chef Marco Ambrosino, sustainability plays a significant role, most of all in sourcing the ingredients.
Both a burger joint and a fine-dining restaurant, Al Mercato combines street food philosophy with the intention of haute cuisine. There are two types of burgers here: the classic with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onion; and the tartare burger with mustard, goat’s cheese and chives. The special burgers change every day, and are all served with onion rings, cheese and fried potatoes.
Chef Matteo Fronduti’s menu includes meat and fish options, with recipes based on the Lombard tradition. Even the names of the dishes are intriguing: try the All Smoke, which is spaghetti with turnip tops, horseradish and smoked herring. Among the main courses, the baccalà creamed with polenta taragna and spiced orange chutney is very tasty.
Located in a farmhouse, Ada e Augusto is the brainchild of Japanese-born chef Takeshi Iwai. He expresses himself with dishes that are an intriguing mix of Italian and Japanese cuisine. Some favourite items on the menu are red turnip and almonds, tempura, capocollo and passion fruit, beef with bread and spiced marrow. See off the meal with the chocolate hazelnut and smoked ice-cream puff.