Edited by: Matthew Wears
Italy has long had one of the most iconic food cultures anywhere on the planet, and northern city Milan has developed some of the country’s best loved dishes. Like most places in Italy it has a vibrant and exciting food scene, and exploring the huge range of restaurants in the city is definitely one the top things to do in Milan. The Milanese are very passionate about their food so keeping it local and understated is often a good thing. Often the most impressive places to eat in Milan are typical Italian trattoria’s which can sometimes look a bit underwhelming, but the chances are the food will be great. As well as this, Milan is the best place to experience true and authentic aperitivo with it’s wide selection of bars. Hopefully this Milan food guide can not only show you some of the amazing food to try, but also where to try it when you visit one of Europe’s most exciting cities.
One of Milan’s greatest gifts to the world; Gorgonzola. It is one of the oldest blue cheeses in the world and its origin is shrouded in mystery. There are many tales as to how it was discovered, one of which is that a family hid a regular cheese underground, out of site from a thief. When they came back to get it, they discovered it had gone mouldy but was even more delicious. You can get this cheese all over the city but some of my favourite way to experience is through a typical neighbourhood market. These are where you can purchase some of the most authentic and best Italian food in Milan, just like a true local. One of the most popular is Viale Papiniano which has a vast fresh produce section and takes place every Saturday from 8AM to 6PM and every Tuesday from 8AM to 3PM. I would recommend visiting on the Tuesday as early as possible for a more tourist free experience.
Risotto takes the first place for the most famous Italian food in Milan. It is a meal that is eaten all around the world and has become a true icon of the city. It is debatable as to where it was invented and many believe that it actually originated in Southern Italy long before Milan began to produce it. Risotto is traditionally a first course and can contain almost anything, with the only real constant ingredient being the rice. One of the most popular ways to eat it is with the addition of saffron, which gives the rice a vibrant yellow colouring. One of the best Italian restaurants in Milan for risotto is Trattoria Masuelli San Marco, a small and unassuming place located in the east of the city. Owner Masuelli Sr. makes a range of classic dishes in the traditional way and he will even take your order personally and recommend accompanying wines. Be sure to book a table though!
No Milan food guide would be complete without mentioning Cotoletta, a meal that has its roots firmly in traditional Milanese culture. Cotoletta was and still is commonly served in the traditional Italian osteria and is essentially just a breaded cut of meat similar to an Austrian Schnitzel. The meat is nearly always veal, although some variations have been known, and the defining feature is that the bone is still within the meat. Some of the best Italian food in Milan can be found in the Navigli district and traditional Trattoria Madonnina is no exception. The Cotoletta from here is very good, but the entire menu has a great selection of authentic dishes from the city as well as a very extensive wine list. Sitting in the courtyard outside on a warm summer’s evening drinking delicious Italian red wine with this dish is one of the most simple and enjoyable things to do in Milan.
This Milanese sweet bread is a staple at Christmas time in many places, not just in Italy. It was originally made in the city by just one baker but has since spread to the rest of the world, especially Europe and South America because of Italian immigration in the early 1900s. Usually, it contains raisins and is enjoyed with a warm drink, liquor, or even sweet wine. This is the country's go-to holiday season snack and sitting in one of the city’s many Christmas markets tucking into a piece alongside a hot chocolate or a mulled wine is one of the most festive things to do in Milan. The most popular is Mercatino di Natale which takes place on Plazza Duomo, just outside of Milan’s cathedral. The market sells food items as well as crafts, gifts, and home decorations, and is one of the most picturesque in the entire city!
If you really want to eat like a local in Milan then you have to try ossobuco. It is essentially a hearty stew with meat and vegetables and a perfect winter warmer! The meat used is nearly always veal, which is always left on the bone. The bone marrow is considered a real delicacy in Italy if you’re brave enough to try it. This is another dish that can be found in most trattorias and restaurants in town, but one of my favorites is Osteria dell’Acquabella. This is a small family run place located in the center of town and they specialize in traditional Lombardy food cooked in the original methods. Definitely one of the best Italian restaurants in Milan for serving good, honest food at very reasonable prices.
Despite being over one hundred kilometres from the Mediterranean ocean, Milan has developed a deep appreciation for fresh seafood. Fish is delivered into huge market halls across the city from all over the country and the fish can be even fresher here than on the coast. Seafood is commonly served as aperitivo and some of the best places for this are in the popular Navigli area. A real standout is Sabbia d’oro, a restaurant mostly famed for its extremely fresh seafood but also a place where you can get some of Milan’s best pizza. Clams and Lobster are all served alongside authentic and delicious Italian pizza in a typically rustic Milanese style restaurant. Be warned though, this broad range of dishes make it one of the more busier places to eat in Milan so make sure you book before you go!
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