Don't-Miss Dishes in Milan
Milan may be best-known for its sophisticated fashion and design, but the city also draws gourmands with its proud culinary history and lively contemporary food scene. From traditional, saffron-laced risotto to trendy finger food, here are the old-school and too-cool-for-school dishes to try out in Milan.
Risotto alla Milanese
Saffron is, by weight, the world’s most expensive food; it’s only fitting that this creamy rice dish flavored with its precious strands is extravagant Milan’s most beloved recipe. With a bright yellow hue and rich, buttery flavor, risotto alla milanese is simple yet complex and calls for heirloom riso carnaroli to be considered authentic.
Risotto alla milanese may be a dish for the wealthy, but humble polenta is also a Milanese classic. The city manages to take it upscale by serving the simple corn potage topped with creamy cheese fondue or rich meats like osso buco. It takes long, slow cooking to bring out the best in polenta, so search it out in a traditional trattoria.
Cotoletta alla Milanese
A staple found on menus across the city and also a straightforward dish to make at home, cotoletta alla Milanese is simply a cutlet of milk-fed veal, breaded and pan-fried in clarified butter. There are different schools of thought regarding the thickness of the cut and the presence of the bone, but the quality of the veal and precise frying time are universally considered the keys to success.
Though Milanese cuisine has storied classics, today by far the city’s most popular dining ritual is the aperitivo—cocktails and finger food served through the dinner hour. The quintessential drink is the Spritz, accompanied by a selection of artisan charcuterie and cheeses, crostini with a variety of toppings, tramezzini (small sandwiches), and other nibbles.
Milan is Italy’s capital of international cuisine, and sushi has become the city’s unofficial official dish. You can find classic, Peruvian, Brazilian, and other fusion varieties in chic eateries across the fashionable Brenta and Navigli neighborhoods, and many aperitivo spots also serve maki and other sushi-inspired bites as part of the cocktail spread.
Italy’s craft beer movement, a close cousin of the aperitivo culture, was born in and continues to thrive in Milan. There are a number of microbreweries inside the city limits with tasting rooms and pubs, as well as hip beer halls crowded in the evenings with locals sipping innovative brews paired with the city’s ubiquitous finger foods.