Travel notes: Milan top 6

Here’s the challenge…we’ve asked some of our favourite bloggers and foodie aficionados to share their top six foodie finds for a city. They got to choose the city, we got the inside scoop. What a deal!

Choosing a city was no sweat for our first guest blogger, Charlotte Moore. American-born Charlotte has lived in Milano (that’s Milan to you and me) for 15 years and knows it like the back of her mano (ok enough with the Italian). Charlotte is an advertising creative director/art director (check out her work at charlottemoore.it) and blogs on The Daily Cure where she charts her love affair with Italy and France with a healthy dose of food thrown in for good measure.

Stay tuned in upcoming weeks for more Travel Notes from The Chile Trail.


Ciao tutti! Welcome to my city. Milano is, in many regards, an over-grown town waiting to be discovered, and chock full of hidden treasures. Especially gastronomical ones. If you live here, you end up searching hard for your favorite places (the ones that make you feel happy to be here), and when you find them, you feel like they belong to you and to no one else. So, these are my neighborhood secrets. Shhhh.

1. La Macelleria di Walter Sirtori, Via Paolo Sarpi 27. If you’re a meat eater, you just died and went to heaven. Actually, you’re in an Italian butchershop sitting in the middle of Milan’s Chinatown, but let’s not be sticklers for detail. Here you’ll find an awe-inspiring range of meats and poultries—plus rare bits, bobs and preparations—that always surprise with their sheer outer and inner beauty. This is food handled with love, care and knowledge. Features: organic meats; ready-to-cook meatballs, loaves, and cutlets; all possible Italian salumi; and fresh pastas, salsas and sughi. Not to mention string shopping bags for who’s come empty-handed, and goose eggs when the farmer has any available. And its all exquisitely wrapped up in an atmostphere that makes you wish you had to wait in line just a little bit longer.

2. Trattoria Ottimofiore, Via Bramante 26. A little deeper into China town, and off to the right, you’ll find this tiny piece of Sicily. Mamma’s often a bit brusque with the costumers, but she’s always right, and after eating her pasta alle sarde (a Sicilian preparation featuring fresh sardines, wild fennel, pinenuts, raisons and breadcrumbs) you’d forgive her anything. There’s a beautiful table of mixed antipasti (my favorites: eggplants crusted in almonds and an exquisitely agrodolce—sweet and sour—caponata). Reserve a table; the place draws a crowd particularly on weekend nights when a guitarist is known to materialize in the already packed eatery.

3. Hodeidah, Via Piero della Francesca 8. Coffee bar and purveyor of fine coffee (they roast their own), teas from around the world (green, red, black, white, South African, Japanese, Chinese, unsmoked and smoked), hard to find biscuits, and chocolates (including their own and several varieties from Modena). Step into the rich, authentic aroma of roasting coffee beans, time gone by and an attention to the finest, granular-sized, details. Belly up to the bar and ask for the standards (cappucini, espressi or marocchini) or venture forth with an espresso con panna. During the warmer months, you’ll do well to order granita al caffe con panna sotto e sopra, caffe scecherato (the italianization of “shakerato” i.e. shaken) or an iced infusion of sotto boschi (wild woodland berries). You pay in the back, which is a trap of sorts, as the cash register is surrounded by a closet-sized dreamland of floor-to-ceiling candies, fudges, jellies and sourballs. Browse with a basket and fill it to your heart’s delight.

4. Vegetables. I know. That’s not a specific restaurant, supplier or location. Suffice it to say that Milan, like most of Italy, knows how to “do” vegetables. There are fresh fruit and vegetable vendors everywhere, and while some are certainly better than others, they are for the most part exquisite everywhere. My personal favorite is probably All’Ortolana in Via Canonica, 59. Run by a crew of youngish men (the owners are brothers) this shop overwhelms with fresh options, in a polite, no frills, rough and tumble style (they’re too busy to be otherwise). Aside from supplying many restaurants (Ottimofiore is one of them), they’ll fill your bags, baskets and carts with the best that Campania, Sicily, and Liguria have to offer at terribly reasonable prices. They also deliver. By bicycle. What else?

Otherwise, hit an open air market (I recommended the market of Via Vincenzo Monti on Friday morning) or a covered, communal marketplace (I recommend the market in Piazza Wagner). They are all over the city, every day of the week (schedule here), and the produce is out of this world. Well, actually, it isn’t. It’s mostly from right here, right now (whatever season “now” happens to be) which is precisely what makes it so amazing. Please note, these markets have excellent fresh fish, meat and cheeses as well. Bring big bags, or even better, a wheeled cart.

It is worth noting that 75% of what I’ve learned to prepare in Italy, I’ve learned from butchers, seafood vendors and the fruit & veg shopowners. Shop without a list. Let yourself be inspired. And ask questions. The results are delicious.

5. Panini have become popular the world over. But, here, at De Santis (Corso Magenta, 9) you’ll come face to face with the originals. A tiny, narrow restaurant furnished with what looks like monks’ benches and tables, the De Santis menu features complex and creative combinations of meats, cheeses, salsas and, yes, chiles that are designed to wow. Sandwiches as delicious as the traditional atmosphere in which they are served. Worth waiting for the door to open. The place fills up in a Milanese minute.

6. I’m a bit restaurant heavy here, but it’s hard not to be. We’ve talked where to buy fruits, veg and meat for the home chef, but let’s face it. Sometimes you just have to let someone else do the cooking. When I wish I could board a plane for some other Italian city, but I can’t, I go to Da Silvano (via Londonio 22). This gets my vote for seafood and pasta served in an authentic Italian (Tuscan/Sardinian) atmosphere that always transports me away from the here and now. Career waiters treat you and themselves with dignity. Regulars sit at their regular tables. Tuna tartar is hand chopped to order. And female customers are greatly outnumbered at lunch-hour, which gives it a charming, almost fraternal vibe. Not to miss: the cooked, mixed seafood antipasti.

2 thoughts on “Travel notes: Milan top 6

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