Food is at the heart of Italian life, and restaurants are at the heart of Milanese life. Whether you’re after pizza or something more upmarket, Centro Storico in Milan is sure to satisfy.
Milan is the most international, cosmopolitan city in Italy, with a fast-paced lifestyle. However, it’s a place that’s still rich in tradition and culture. This dynamic is especially evident in the food. Nowhere do you see aged traditions more than in the Centro Storico (historical centre) of the city, and there’s no better way to witness the blend of old and new than in the cuisine. From world-famous pizza to modern molecular cuisine, here are the best restaurants in the Centro Storico of Milan.
This Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by Carlo Cracco, one of the top chefs in Italy, is a must-visit if you love luxe interiors and elegant plates. Reserve a table in the main dining room, and enjoy oysters, caviar and truffle-laced risottos. If you want to experience Cracco’s more relaxed side, the all-day cafe and pastry shop are standout options. There’s also a bar that’s perfect for aperitivo or after-dinner drinks.
You probably came to Italy, at least in part, for the excellent cheese. Obicà is a veritable shrine to one of the country’s most famous varieties: mozzarella. The restaurant is located on the seventh floor of the Rinascente Milan food hall, and you’ll want to snag an outdoor table here and take in the unparalleled views of the cathedral. The menu is heavy on cheeses and small plates, but you can also get pasta, pizza and even burgers at this laid-back spot.
Locals love sitting down for a meal at Ristorante Savini; if you like old-school vibes and classic Milanese fare, you will, too. In operation since 1867, Savini is known for its elevated takes on simple, seasonal ingredients. Choose a five- or seven-course tasting menu, or order dishes like spaghetti with sea urchin and white cardamom. If you’re on a budget, the two-course Business Lunch option is a superb affordable deal.
The food at Seta, located inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is classic Italian with a French accent. Expect innovative dishes like red-wine-glazed eel with foie gras and liquorice parfait with crystallized Kentucky tobacco leaves. You’ll want to come back just to sit in the courtyard at sunset and take in the atmosphere. This restaurant is on the pricier side, and there is a semi-formal dress code, but a meal here is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Opened in 2015, Spazio is a casually elegant restaurant with a streamlined menu featuring classic Italian dishes like cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper) and zuppa di pesci (fish soup). There’s an intimate vibe at this 70-seat restaurant, which has a balcony that overlooks the Piazza Duomo. Spazio is an all-day spot, so stop in for lunch and escape the crowds, or make a reservation for a romantic dinner.
A meat lover’s paradise, Nero 9 is the place to go in Milan if you’re after a fiorentina (T-bone steak). The team behind this restaurant is truly passionate, not only about cooking meat to perfection but also about sourcing the best, so don’t feel sheepish about asking where, exactly, your steak is from. The wine list was designed to complement a carnivorous palate, and both indoor and outdoor seating options are available.
After you’ve wandered the Museo del Novecento’s vast collection of 20th-century art, stop by its in-house restaurant, Giacomo Arengario. Located inside a classic 1930s art deco building that feels like a true extension of the museum, you’ll find an eclectic menu including dishes like cuttlefish roll with champignon and thyme mayonnaise. The wine list is extensive, and the glass-walled balcony offers a prime location for people-watching in the piazza.
If you’re looking for the best pizza in Milan, go to Gino Sorbillo. The Sorbillo family has been in the pizza business since 1935, and their Neapolitan-style pizza is about as traditional as it gets. Sorbillo exclusively uses the highest-quality local ingredients, and you can taste the difference. There will be a wait, but it’s worth setting aside the time to wait in line and try this world-renowned pizza.
Princi is a legacy Italian bakery, and Rocco Princi, the man behind the bread, has been baking professionally since 1985. It’s the perfect place to grab a quick breakfast, snack or an artisan loaf to take back to your hotel room. In the afternoon and evening, you can get pizza al taglio (by the slice) or partake in the Italian tradition of aperitivo — the art of chatting over cocktails and small plates before you head somewhere else for dinner.
Bakery, Pastry Shop, Pastries, Dessert, Vegetarian, Italian
Located in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Biffi has been a pillar of Milanese life since 1867. The simple menu highlights local favourite dishes like saffron risotto and grilled seafood, and you’ll love the understated, old-school vibe of the restaurant. Reservations can be made online, but it’s not too hard to score a walk-in table for lunch or dinner.