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, Milan’s Centro Storico is sure to satisfy.
Milan is Italy’s most international, cosmopolitan city, 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 these aged traditions more than in the city’s Centro Storico (historical centre), 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 10 of the best restaurants in Milan’s Centro Storico.
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
Cracco’s, Milano | Image courtesy of Ristorante Cracco
Carlo Cracco has been the leading light of Milan’s fine-dining scene for the past decade. In 2018, when Cracco decided to move his eponymous restaurant into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it seemed like a natural home for the chef’s gastronomy. Cracco is an upmarket restaurant, both relaxed and elegant at the same time. Perfect for a special occasion, it caters for all times of the day. The café and bar are open all day for breakfast or post-theatre drinks, while the dining room has set times of service where you can enjoy dishes such as the red snapper with yuzu jelly and shaved scallops. It’s ideal for those making the pilgrimage to the city’s La Scala theatre for the opera, or those perusing the gallery’s flagship designer stores.
Fine Dining, Michelin-Starred, Gourmet, Stylish, Romantic
Felix Lo Basso
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
Michelin-star Felix Lo Basso is fantastically located in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, overlooking the Duomo | Courtesy of Felix Lo Basso
On the top floor of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, you can find chef Felice Lo Basso’s Michelin-star restaurant overlooking the Duomo. It occupies one of the most outstanding locations in the city and offers two tasting menus. The chic establishment serves Italian cuisine with a modern treatment by the talented Lo Basso, such as the roasted pigeon in a pistachio and black truffle crust with foie gras, chestnuts and raspberry jelly. There is also a terrace with some of the best views in Milan, from which you can enjoy an after-dinner drink.
Old-school chic (think Fellini) meets modern Milan at Savini. On the first floor of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it’s a favourite of generations of Milanese. Join impeccably attired businessmen and businesswomen lingering over working lunches, or slip in among the local families and visiting tourists in the evening for a dinner that is as much a part of the experience of visiting Milan as the Duomo itself.
Antonio Guida’s two-Michelin-star restaurant lies inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel | Courtesy of Seta
Located in the five-star Mandarin Oriental, Seta has established a reputation for gastronomic excellence. The plush surroundings of the hotel, along with the restaurant’s cool and design-heavy interior, remind you that you’re eating at the higher end of the scale here. The food is consistently excellent, with the passion of chef Antonio Guida, a genuine leading light of Milan’s restaurant scene, evident in every morsel. The base is, of course, Italian, leaning heavily on Tuscan cuisine, with French techniques coming through. Highlights include the red wine-glazed eel with foie gras and rosemary sauce and the oysters with potatoes, friggitelli peppers and champagne sauce.
SPAZIO NIKO ROMITO is a stylish Milanese restaurant that offers something for everyone. As it’s open all day, you can wander in for drinks or book a table in the evening for your party. Its traditional Italian fare with a modern twist is excellent – try the pan-seared amberjack with broccoli rabe and marinated endive. SPAZIO captures the modern, cosmopolitan spirit of Milan.
Nero 9 is very serious about its meat | Courtesy of Nero 9
Nero 9 is for those who love meat – there is simply no better fiorentina (T-bone steak) in town. The owners here pay great attention to detail when it comes to their meat, including its origin and preparation on the menu. The beef comes from some of the best breeders in the country, while the wine list draws from across the peninsula, with red meat in mind, from robust Tuscans to refined Piedmontese. Nero 9 is guaranteed to satiate even the fussiest carnivore, and the pared-back interior has a stylish-rustic quality, making it a good fit for any occasion.
Located in Milan’s design museum, the Museo del Novecento, in Piazza Duomo, Giacomo Arengario is the epitome of Milanese style. The whole concept is designed to be in line with the museum’s collection and the Art Deco building in which it resides. The balcony is stunning, clad in an iron-and-glass structure from which you can watch the goings-on in the piazza. The food is firmly rooted in the Milanese classics, augmented with dishes from all over the peninsula and presented in a modern format. Easy-going and super cool, Giacomo Arengario is a restaurant where fine dining meets design.
Thank heavens there are still places like Al Cantinone in Milan, a genuine trattoria serving traditional food in a lively, homely atmosphere. It has been a fixture in Milan’s Centro Storico for generations, and not much has changed in that time, with friends, families and couples all gesticulating wildly and talking throughout their meals. Delicious, hearty Milanese food – such as risotto milanese or osso buco – is what this place is all about. It makes for a very Italian and most enjoyable evening. Al Cantinone has a second location on Via dell’Unione on the opposite side of the Duomo.
VUN Andrea Aprea, Milano | Image courtesy of Ristorante Vun
VUN Andrea Aprea is the two-Michelin-star Italian restaurant in the Park Hyatt Milano. It takes its name from the Milanese dialect for ‘one’, perhaps indicative of head chef Andrea Aprea’s ambitions. The dining room is typical of a hotel restaurant, with lots of upholstery and carpet, but in a sleek modern way; it is refined, elegant and perfectly lit. The à la carte menu is small but perfectly formed, with just four delectable choices for each course. There are also two tasting menus on offer. VUN Andrea Aprea only runs a dinner service, so make sure to call ahead.
Michelin-Starred, Business, Quiet, Stylish, Traditional, Modern, Gourmet, Fine Dining
Gino Sorbillo Lievito Madre al Duomo
Pizzeria, Italian, $$$
If you’re going to get pizza in Milan, it should be at Gino Sorbillo | Courtesy of Gino Sorbillo Lievito Madre al Duomo
Gino Sorbillo’s pizza is said to be among the best in the world – that’s quite a reputation – with the pizzaiolo building an empire that is consistently lauded by connoisseurs of Italy’s greatest food export. It specialises in Neapolitan soft-crust pizza, which can be both filling and light at the same time. There is always a rush for reservations at Lievito Madre al Duomo, so book early and be prepared to queue. However, if you’re in the mood for pizza and nothing else will do, it’s worth the wait.