Food February: Milan’s Top Restaurants

It’s simply not worth considering being on a diet whilst in Italy. After all, il Bel Paese, the beautiful Italian country, is world-renowned for its countless delicacies. Milan makes no exception: the city’s culinary tradition somehow “summarises” many different influences.
Let me provide you with a selection of 10 of the best Milanese restaurants, from the most traditional eateries to Michelin-starred gourmet, not to forget vegetarian cuisine, exotic suggestions, and daring-yet-interesting experimental offerings. Whatever your taste, or your budget, you will find what you are looking for here!

The classics

Best Milanese trattoria – Trattoria del nuovo macello (via Cesare Lombroso, 20, bus no. 91 or 93 via Molise)
No stay in Italy can be considered complete until you get the chance to experience the local food. In spite of its cosmopolitan allure, the city is well-aware and proud of its historical heritage, and many ‘trattoria’ and ‘osteria’ are still alive and well. Since 1928, Trattoria del nuovo macello offers the most typical dishes – risotto with or without ossobuco, cotoletta (breaded veal), mondeghili (local-style meatballs), amongst others – at medium-range prices. You can get a four-course taster menu for € 33.
To get an idea of what an authentic ‘trattoria’ feels like, imagine a cosy, rather informal atmosphere, embellished with traditional furniture and serving hearty regional food and tasty wines. If there’s one golden rule about eating out in Italy, it’s following the locals’ example. Do this and you won’t be disappointed, ever!

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Traditional cuisine (credit: trattoriadelnuovomacello.it)

Best pizzeria – Marghe (via Plinio 6, M1 Lima or via Cadore 26, tram 62 or 84 via Cadore/via Spartaco)
Naples is a long drive away, but even in northern Italy’s main city you can get the chance to try the original version of the most famous national dish. While Neapolitan’s historical brand Sorbillo has recently opened a pizzeria by the Duomo, Lievito Madre, we suggest the just-as-delicious Marghe, offering the true, thick-crusted pizza margherita – tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves – as well as some other interesting variations.
Friendly reminder: we know how tempting it is to try out all sorts of creative toppings, but if you want to try the most authentic Italian pizza, just keep it simple, as Neapolitan purists would. If you want to feel like a true Milanese, you can head to one of the Spontini restaurants and get a thick, soft, and incredibly cheesy pizza slice!

For those who dare – TrattoNero (Istituto dei ciechi di Milano, Milan Institute of the Blind, via Vivaio 7, M1 – Palestro)
So varied are the unusual restaurants in Milan that it was hard to pick just one. With this in mind, TrattoNero seemed quite a symbolic and meaningful choice. Like other restaurants elsewhere in Italy, it is related to the Italian Union of Blind and Partially Sighted People (ONLUS) : the location is permanently coated in absolute darkness, and customers are guided to their tables by blind waiters. Dialogo nel Buio (‘Dialogue in the Darkness’) is a project meant to establish a sympathetic connection between those who can see and those who can’t. A little planning is necessary here, as booking is compulsory and the payment (€ 50/person) is made in advance via bank transfer. You will also need to get to the restaurant half an hour before your meal starts and, as the menu is never revealed to the guests, you will need to warn the staff about your allergies and food intolerances. As such, you can try an enriching experience that could add something to your life as well as your perception of reality. This experience will not leave you indifferent.

Special requirements

Best sushi & Japanese restaurant – Sumire (via Varese 1, M2 Moscova)
Compared to other Italian cities, Milan seems more keen on accepting foreign influences. In particular, sushi is taken quite seriously by Japanese food connoisseurs.
Whenever you feel like stepping away from Italian dishes and trying some ‘local non-local’ delicacies, you can head to Sumire, a small restaurant that has managed to create the perfect atmosphere to taste sashimi, sushi and many other traditional dishes that even Japanese customers genuinely appreciate. Due to the restaurant’s small size, you are advised to book a table in advance.

Best kosher and best halal restaurants – Carmel (viale San Gimignano 10, M1 Bande Nere, dairy) / Re Salomone (via Sardegna 45, M1 Wagner or M1 De Angeli, meat) and Mido (via Pietro Custodi 4 – tram no. 3 or bus no. N15 piazza XXIV Maggio)
For those of you who wish to respect the kasherut eating code or just want to try Jewish cuisine (which is not that widespread in Italy), the best place in Milan is Carmel. It hosts a Middle Eastern menu, featuring falafel, hummus and many other delicacies as well as a fair supply of pizzas and Italian recipes. Due to the kosher rule of not mixing milk with meat, you won’t find the latter ingredient anywhere. In turn, Re Salomone is the best Milanese restaurant offering meat-based kosher dishes, though it is also possible to find meat-free recipes.
If you wish to abide to the halal tradition, we suggest Mido, an Arabic restaurant where all ingredients are home-made and where you can get several tasters at once by ordering a complete menu.
Both kosher and halal rules are tightly connected to the Jewish and Muslim culture and religion: to avoid disappointing surprises, make sure these restaurants aren’t closed for religious holidays (in general, Jewish restaurants respect the Shabbat between Friday night and Saturday night, Muslim restaurants will likely be closed on Fridays). Remember that most devout Muslims do not drink alcohol, and that pork is an absolute taboo for both religions!

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Colourful dishes (credit: joia.it)

Best vegetarian / vegan restaurant: Joia * (via Panfilo Castaldi, 18 – M1 Porta Venezia)
Dear vegetarian and vegan friends, we have good and bad news for you. The bad news is, it’s more difficult to find meat-, dairy-, and eggs-free restaurants in Milan than it could be elsewhere in Italy, due to the central role of these ingredients in the Lombard cuisine.
Now the good news: there are several organic food shops and vegetarian-friendly eateries all over the city, and Joia is probably the best-ranked of them all! Chef Pietro Leemann’s holistic perspective on nutrition is transformed into surrealistic, colourful dishes. Vegan and gluten-free options are specifically marked on the menu. This airy, minimalistic restaurant is quite expensive, but it shines thanks to its visual, as well as culinary, creativity.

Top-ranked gourmet restaurants

Cracco** (via Victor Hugo 4, M1 Cordusio or M1/M3 Duomo)
Carlo Cracco is more than a chef in Italy – he’s a star. When he’s not working on the latest of his creations, you’ll likely see him onscreen, as a judge of culinary competitions or as a recurrent ad testimonial. Cracco’s recipes bravely mix ingredients from different sources, be it Italian or more exotic combinations. Egg-based dishes and risotto seem to prevail in the menu, and it could certainly be an interesting experience to try out the Milanese first course par excellence, in its original shape or in a unique variation.

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Carlo Cracco (credit: Ristorante Cracco)

Sadler** (via Ascanio Sforza 27, M2 Romolo)

Fish and seafood certainly play a central role in Chef Claudio Sadler’s restaurant, located on the quay of Naviglio Pavese. Sadler’s culinary research is influenced by the Japanese tradition, which he fearlessly combines with local and non-marine ingredients. All in all, freshwater salmon, sturgeon, and caviar are central features to this restaurant’s offering. On top of this, you can also find interesting meat-based or vegetarian creations. To get the chance to enjoy several samples of Sadler’s creations, you can opt for a menu, ranging from € 80 for the ‘Young’ menu to the € 180-worth ‘Creativo’ menu, mainly intended for group meals.

Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia (via privata Raimondo Montecuccoli 6, M1 Primaticcio)
Aimo and Nadia are no less than an institution. The Tuscan couple and their staff, now led by their daughter Stefania, have always taken the conception of food as an art very seriously. This has resulted in original interpretations of Italian cuisine, created from certified Italian products. Inspiration comes from all across the peninsula, especially from the centre and the North. Prices are, alas, quite high: on the other hand, this will likely be the ultimate Italian food experience, and it may be worth it to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.