Eat Like a Local – Milan

Milan Marco Polo Guide

This city is always on the move and it doesn’t rest when it comes to food: no sooner is a restaurant the hot new spot when it is replaced just as quickly by another. There is no shortage to choose from and the selection ranges from pizzerias to gourmet restaurants (in the middle of May there is a gourmet weekend at the San Siro racecourse, But the problem with Milan’s restaurants – and with its accommodation – are the prices. Having a traditional meal is very expensive. Anti pasto, primo (pasta, rice or a soup), secondo (main course of meat or fish) with contorno (side dish), dolce (dessert) and/or formaggio (cheese), a good bottle of wine (not to be missed), mancia (the tip) and, of course, pane e coperto (bread and place setting) – all that easily adds up to €80 or €90 for two. 

Those who watch what they eat and/or what they spend may skip one or two dishes, no proprietor will feel offended (but you should really have a primo or a secondo). Thankfully, some restaurants now offer large salads for lunch or a piatto unico, a one-course daily menu. The inexpensive house wine (vino della casa) usually goes well with that. There is also a large variety of sandwiches (€3–4), salads (€4–5) and delicious primi (from €5) available at many bars during lunchtime. Nowadays most office workers eat this way. Those who want to save money go to a pizzeria (in the evening) or to a traditional latteria.


Local specialities to try on your visit to Milan:

Amaretti – small, round almond biscuits

Bresaola – dried beef, cut in paper thin slices

Busecca – tripe stew with beans

Cassoeula – pork stew with sausage and cabbage, served with polenta

Cotoletta milanese – crumbed veal, either a cutlet or escalope

Gnervitt (nervetti) – pressed beef cartilage with oil, vinegar and onions, a typical antipasto

Grana – Lombard variant of parmigiano cheese

Gremolata – spicy sauce with herbs, garlic and lemon zest, often served with ossobuco

Mascarpone – full-fat, very creamy cream cheese, ideal for desserts

Minestrone alla milanese – vegetable soup with rice and toasted croutons

Ossobuco – sliced veal shank braised with vegetables

Panettone – a light Christmas sweet bread with raisins and candied orange that originated in Milan

(Pesce) persico – perch, e.g. deepfried, speciality of Lake Como

Pizzoccheri – short, flat ribbon noodles made from buckwheat flour served with Savoy cabbage and potatoes, speciality of Valtellina

Risotto milanese – rice from the surrounding areas (best types: Arborio, Vialone or Carnaroli), sautéed with onions and butter and simmered with saffron and stock, served sprinkled with Parmesan – a culinary delight

Taleggio – an aromatic soft cheese from the Lombardy mountains

Tortelli di zucca – small pasta pockets filled with pumpkin, a speciality of

Zuppa pavese – meat broth with a piece of toast topped with a poached egg


Restaurants serving traditional Italian cuisine:

Elegant and traditional: homemade pastries have been sold here since 1817. A meeting place for customers of the exclusive fashion boutiques. Closed Sun | Via Monte Napoleone 8 | Metro: M 1 San Babila

Flower shop and bar – a charming combination. Light meals are also available at lunchtime. Closed Sun | Piazza Mirabello 1 | Metro: M 2 Moscova

You will probably have to queue to get one of Milan’s best ice creams. Branches include one on the Corso Buenos Aires 13 (Metro: M 1 Porta Venezia) and the Via Santa Margherita 16 (Metro: M 1, M 3 Duomo) |  | Daily

This eclectic elegant restaurant south of the Università Cattolica proves with its inexpensive lunch that Milan is a good place to eat fish. Closed Sun | Via Ausonio 23 | tel. 02 89 40 61 72 | | Metro: M 2 Sant’Agostino, Bus 94

Pappardelle with duck ragout, roast boar and juicy steaks: fans of Tuscan meal dishes will get their money’s worth in this restaurant, close to the Giardini Pubblici. Brunch available on Sundays with a babysitting option. Daily | Via Panfilo Castaldi 33 | tel. 02 29 52 66 68 | | Metro: M 1 Porta Venezia

This restaurant’s small, frequently changing menu is based on what is offered in the markets in the morning. Daily | Corso Garibaldi 127 | tel. 0 26 57 06 51 | Metro: M 2 Moscova

You should know at least a little Italian if you’re thinking of coming here because there is no menu: the hostess will tell you what is on offer. You can’t go wrong with any of the home cooked traditional Milanese and Lombardy dishes. Closed Sat for lunch and Sun | Via Mercalli 3 | tel. 02 58 30 96 04 | tram 15, bus 94


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Milan Marco Polo Guide

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