Navigli is an area in the southwest of Milan formed around a group of canals, with Navigli Grande at the centre. The area dates as far back as 1179. This part of the city has a different feel to the centre of Milan – the buildings are painted in rusty hues of yellow and pink, and narrow side streets can lead you to both vine-covered courtyards or graffiti-covered walls. Here are some of our favourite restaurants for romantic dinners or casual meals with friends.
El Brellin successfully combines typical Milanese specialities with personal variations of classic recipes from the Lombardy region, all while keeping in mind the preferences of its increasingly international clientele. The restaurant’s five dining rooms, which are spread out over two floors, as well as a charming back garden create the authentic flair of a high-class Italian tavern. El Brellin’s menu ranges from tasty hors d’oeuvres, like the inventive salmon tartare with guacamole and gazpacho (cold soup made from raw vegetables), to traditional lasagne and classic Milanese risotto with saffron. This culinary diversity is complemented with an exquisite list of wines from the Lombardy region. There is also a selection of champagnes and whiskeys.
The epic shellfish plateaux at Zio Pesce restaurant, Milan | Courtesy Zio Pesce
A modern seafood restaurant on Via Cicco Simonetta, Zio Pesce features a diverse menu with exquisitely presented, imaginative seafood dishes in an informal environment. Try the magnificent shellfish platters or classic spaghetti alle vongole. For fresh seafood and a central location, the dishes are very reasonably priced. The relaxed atmosphere makes Zio Pesce popular with groups and casual diners so definitely call in advance to book.
This restaurant’s beautiful, hidden back garden is a true oasis in the centre of Milan and provides a welcome change to the busy Corso di Porta Ticinese. The menu at Trattoria Toscana is not particularly in line with the restaurant’s name, but this does not detract from the quality. There is a great variety of fresh fish and meat courses and a fine selection of Tuscan, Lombard and Sicilian wines to complement every delicious bite.
This small, unpretentious restaurant along the Ripa di Porta Ticinese is a real find, with some of the tastiest Mediterranean dining in Milan. Greek Fusion combines fast service, a relaxed atmosphere, and fresh ingredients on a satisfying menu. Greek specialities to try include gyros, kabobs and baklava. The restaurant gets extremely busy after 9pm (the start of Italian dinner time), so if you’re looking for quiet come between 7pm and 9pm.
Casual, Loud, Family Friendly, Relaxed, Fast Casual
Bistro, Restaurant, Italian, Seafood, $$$
Sabbia D’Oro is renowned for its authentic wood-fired Neapolitan style pizzas and quality seafood. The setting is stylish and modern with exposed brick walls and white tablecloths, yet its atmosphere is relaxed and convivial. It is justifiably popular and attracts a lively post-aperitif crowd so reserve a table in advance. Request a table on the quiet outdoor patio area and you’ll get a great view of the Darsena too.
Le Striatelle is an informal café famous for its fresh, homemade pasta and a special type of Italian flatbread sandwich called Striatelle. Striatelle is from the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy and comprises a warm pocket of folded bread, somewhere between a pizza base and a flatbread, stuffed with any number of meat or vegetarian fillings. We recommend trying one with spiced salsiccia (sausage). In addition to the wine menu, it has a small selection of brilliant beers from local Milanese breweries on tap. Don’t be mislead by the cheap and cheerful interior, the food is top quality. Le Striatelle di nonna Mafalda is the perfect place to come for a quick lunch or relaxed dinner with friends.
Officina 12 is a popular dinner destination for locals, who come for a seafood-heavy menu that draws heavily on regional cooking styles. Inside, the vibe is romantic: crimson walls are punctuated by industrial brickwork, and there is a glass ceiling and gallery-dining looking over the first floor. Alternatively, eat al fresco in the vine-bordered garden terrace or just have some great antipasti at the bar.
Erba Brusca is named after the fields of sorrel that once filled its orchard, a herb that in local dialect would be referred to as ‘erba brusca’. The attention to detail and use of wood and natural materials for the décor reflect the natural philosophy of the restaurant. The menu showcases a classic choice of dishes, most of which feature herbs that are grown in their vegetable garden, including parsley, basil, oregano, mint, sage and chamomile. Erba Brusca is a delightful restaurant for those who are seeking a tranquil evening amongst nature. It is located at the far end of the Navigli Pavese away from the chaos of the grand canal. We recommend cycling there on a warm day, or take the tram for 20 minutes from Porta Genova.
The interior of this Indian restaurant is full of beautiful murals and woodwork and the sumptuous smells of warm spices. Indian food is a rarity in Milan, so Shiva is a treat, with speedy service, fair pricing, and (unusual among its competitors) an impressive wine list and bar. The vegetarian thali plate (served only at lunch) is particularly good value. Try to book a table in the upstairs gallery if you can, to enjoy views of the Naviglio Grande with your meal.