10 Corso Como
Tel: 36 02 653 531
Carla Sozzani's small retail, dining, and accommodations empire was the chicest address in town for a long time, and though it's pretty much relinquished its queen's crown and scepter, it's still a place first-time visitors should check out. Designed by American artist Kris Ruhs, the black-and-white dining room, which looks out on a plant-filled, Parisian-style courtyard, is full of the women who shop here for their Alice Temperley and Comme des Garçons, their cult cosmetics, their homewares, and (upstairs) their ambient soundtracks and photographic monographs. Women who, in short, don't eat. Yet the organic food is good, the risotto al salto (vegetable risotto pan-seared into a crusty cake) is sublime, and even the low-carb menu works. The real point of this café, though, is aperitivi: Come 6 p.m., it's a hot perch for your Negroni; ditto brunch on Sunday.
Closed Monday lunch.
4 Via Victor Hugo
Tel: 39 02 876 774
This innovative Italian restaurant has put central Milan back on the foodie map of Italy with its unrepentantly contemporary Italian food. Chef Carlo Cracco added a second Michelin star to his tally in 2004 and long ago shook off the "trained under Alain Ducasse" qualifiers to emerge as a major player in his own right. Still, not all Cracco's gambles come off: The spaghetti with sea urchins and coffee tastes as strange as it sounds. However, the secondo of steamed spigola (sea bass) is a tribute to simplicity, despite the oddness of the accompanying purple Peruvian potatoes. There is really no need to order more than two dishes, as there is a regular stream of amuse-bouches. For those determined to spend, there are two tasting menus at about $170 and $210. The ambience of the basement dining room is austere modernism: all marble facing and somber grays and browns. Service can be a little uncertain and occasionally surly, with a gulf between the assurance of the able maître d' and his young apprentices. But overall, Cracco is worth trying at least once if you want to touch the city's culinary peaks.—Updated by Lee Marshall
Open Mondays and Saturdays 7:30 to 11:30 pm, Tuesdays through Fridays 12:30 to 2:30 pm and 7:30 to 11:30 pm.
6 Via Pascale Sottocorno
Tel: 39 02 7602 3313
Most of the time, fashion-industry people don't eat in the glitzy bars and restaurants they put their names to. They come to Da Giacomo instead. On an anonymous residential street a brisk 15-minute walk from the fashion district, this high-class trattoria has been pulling in the movers and shakers of the rag trade for decades, alongside financiers, designers, architects, and captains of industry. On any given evening, you might see Giorgio Armani tucking into a plate of linguine with scampi and zucchini flowers, or Dolce and Gabbana (actually, these days, Dolce or Gabbana) wrestling with a grilled turbot. But it's far from pretentious: Venerable Giacomo is an able and serious host, the service is affably old-fashioned, and the reliable cuisine is rooted in Giacomo's family's Tuscan origins, with fiorentina steaks backing up an impressive range of just-off-the-boat seafood. Just watch those skinny models attack the dessert cart, and marvel at the elegant decor, a present to Giacomo from late, great interior designer Renzo Mongiardino. It's not even particularly expensive ($95 for a three-course prix fixe), though be aware that the fresh fish and seafood secondi, sold by weight, can push the price up considerably. Booking is essential.
Lunch and dinner daily.
2a Via Carlo Poerio
Tel: 39 02 757 7771
The little mirror trays next to the hand basins in the restrooms say it all. They're ironic, of course (at least, we didn't see any telltale traces of white powder when we went to wash our hands). But like much else in Dolce & Gabbana's new multipurpose bar, restaurant, bistro, and nightclub, the trays craftily celebrate the very lifestyle they're sending up. And most of the gilded youths who have kept this glitzy new venue fully booked since its October 2006 opening are living that lifestyle without the quotation marks. True to its name, gold is everywhere: in the inverted ingot motifs that decorate the lobby desk and the ceiling, in the stairs that sweep up to the restaurant proper, in the latter's '70s-style chandeliers and monogrammed linen. The menu doesn't try to compete with the decor: Though presentation and the mix of ingredients nod at fusion, deep down this is good old southern Italian cooking, with Sicilian, Puglian, and Calabrian influences. There's also a dieters' version of the menu, a necessary thing in the Italian fashion capital. At street level, the bar has become a popular after-hours meeting spot, despite Gold's out-of-the-way location, just east of the city's inner ring road. On the same level, a spangled, mirrored bistro offers lighter (and cheaper) versions of the dishes served upstairs. Book well in advance, especially when the fashion crowd's in town.
Lunch and dinner daily.
7 Via Montebello
Tel: 39 02 2901 4390
One of the city's most original restaurants, the bistrolike Fioraio Bianchi Caffè occupies a former flower shop in the artsy, fashionista Brera district. The fiorista, Raimondo Bianchi, still tends to the blooms and the slightly gothic sculptures of dried plants that adorn sideboards and walls—and they're all for sale. The floral Addams Family decor is charming and unsettling at the same time—rather like the brisk and sardonic manner of the gruff French headwaiter. Even the menu is different: Entrées and primi are grouped together, followed by mid-courses, then desserts. It all feels like it's trying too hard for effect—until the food arrives, and the whole thing falls into place. This is really top-notch modern Italian cuisine, artfully presented, but also convincingly flavorsome, from the toasted tuna chunks with dried fruits on a bed of artichoke purée to desserts like the deconstructed tarte Tatin (a lot less pretentious than it sounds). Another bonus is a really fine selection of by-the-glass wines at affordable prices.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 2:30 pm and 6 to 11 pm.
18 Via Panfilo Castaldi
Tel: 39 02 295 22124
Vegetarian restaurants are thin on the ground in Milan; gourmet vegetarian restaurants are a rarity anywhere. So hats off to Swiss-born chef Pietro Leeman, whose creative way with greenery—and some fish—places this elegant establishment a million miles away from your average Berkeley-style nuts and sprouts café. It's a shame that Leeman insists on extending his creativity to the menu descriptions, too: Dishes have baffling names like "Un sasso rotola" ("A stone is rolling"), a crispy sphere of zucchini, artichokes, and peas in a saffron and hearty mushroom broth; or "Prima a sinistra, poi a destra" ("First left, then right"), a goat ricotta, fava bean, and spicy tomato soup. We forgive Leeman, though, because it all smacks of enthusiasm rather than pretension, and because the food is so darn good. There's a Japanese vibe, with bamboo screens, white tablecloths, and potted palms in the long dining room, which suits the Zen aspect of the food. The prix fixe lunch is a relative bargain at around €35 ($45); dinner is pricier, with tasting menus starting around €65 ($84).
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 2:30 pm and 7:30 to 11:30 pm.
16 Via Santa Radegonda
Tel: 39 02 8646 1917
Like many Italian cities, Milan does not have a highly developed snack-on-the-run culture. One of the few city-center addresses to offer more than the usual desultory tramezzini (sandwiches) is this tiny bakery on a side street off Piazza del Duomo. Though panzerotto—a small, fold-over pizza pie—is a Puglian speciality, Milanesi have taken to it enthusiastically, largely thanks to the efforts of the Luini family. The classic panzerotto is filled with tomato and mozzarella, but the ricotta e spinaci version is good, too. The place gets packed with hungry office workers at lunchtime, so come early or be prepared contend with the hungry masses.
Open Mondays 10 am to 3 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 am to 8 pm.
93 Corso Garibaldi
Tel: 39 02 655 4602
Fast food doesn't come much tastier than this, in a rustic, home-cooking sort of way. Though it's had more than one makeover since opening in 1859, this tiny, buzzing, great-value bottiglieria (wine shop with tables) is still a charmingly local place to refuel on a filling spread of risottos (with nettles, or with pumpkin and vegetables), pasta dishes, megasalads, and meaty secondi like osso buco, all served from a glassed-in buffet counter. Take a seat in the crowded back room, which has a vintage jukebox: The waiter will bring your food and drinks—including, perhaps, a glass or two of wine from a surprisingly refined list. No need to ask for the bill; you simply pay on the way out. The clientele is more upmarket than the mama's-cooking vibe might suggest. After all, Moscatelli's is just a high-heeled hop from the alternative fashion strip of Corso Como.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
14 Via Matteo Bandello
Tel: 39 02 4398 6316
Design guru Rossana Orlandi opened this sophisticated shabby-chic trattoria next door to her warehouse showroom in November 2006. Previously a tobacconist's, the trattoria mixes furniture and fittings from its former life with pieces created or found by Orlandi: Think industrial-style architectural salvage filtered through an acutely Milanese design sensibility. But what makes the place is the laid-back atmosphere and the friendly guiding hand of the three young but experienced Teruzzi brothers, who between them handle most of the cooking, serving, and wine pouring. The good-value food is light Italian, based on carefully sourced organic ingredients, with homemade bread and plenty of risottos and salads; there are also a couple of tasting menus, including a delicious four-course seafood spread currently pegged at about €40($54). Pane e Acqua keeps café hours, with gourmet breakfast on offer from 8 a.m. and dinner service winding down relatively early, at 10 p.m.
Closed Mondays. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
77 Via Cardinale Ascanio Sforza
Tel: 39 02 5810 4451 (Sadler)
Tel: 39 02 8950 3222 (Chic'n Quick)
Probably the most famous Milanese chef after Gualtiero Marchesi, Claudio Sadler was sitting pretty with two Michelin stars and a suave city-center restaurant until 2007, when he surprised everyone by moving shop to a relatively down-market stretch of the Naviglio Grande, one of the industrial canals that bisect Milan's southwestern suburbs. Here he opened two restaurants supplied by a single kitchen—upscale, evening-only Sadler, and casual, cut-price offshoot Chic'n Quick. With its more formal table settings, modern theatrical decor, and full-on service, Sadler is the place for a big gourmet night out, while Chic'n Quick, as the name implies, is less demanding—though the food is still authentically Sadler (i.e., creative Italian, with carefully sourced ingredients, high on cooking technique but low on foams and other molecular pyrotechnics). In fact, a Chic'n Quick dish, such as the whole-wheat cannelloni filled with veal stew, burrata, and chanterelle mushrooms, is fully up to the standard of the mothership. So unless you're celebrating a special occasion or are a fundamentalist foodie, we suggest starting your Sadler experience with baby bro—where a three-course à la carte meal comes in at around a third of what you'd pay chez Sadler. Both avatars have fine wine lists, with an excellent by-the-glass selection.
Sadler open Mondays through Saturdays 7:30 to 11 pm.
Chic'n Quick open Mondays 7:30 to 11 pm; Tuesdays through Saturdays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 11 pm.
Sunday brunch has caught on in a big way in Milan over the last few years. Among the city center hotels, Bulgari, the Park Hyatt, and the Four Seasons all offer sumptuous buffets—at a price. Another hot brunch spot, though only during the summer, is Old Fashion, a historic nightclub with restaurant attached in leafy Parco Sempione, right by the Triennale museum. But for our money, the best and most convivial brunch spot in Milan is the Cantina della Vetra, a large, split-level bistro just off Corso di Porta Ticinese, with warm new-rustic decor and a fabulous buffet that takes in a huge range of salads, quiches, cold fish and meat dishes, and desserts, as well as a daily list of hot specials. In Old Fashion and Cantina della Vetra, expect to pay around €30 ($38) a head without wine. In Milan, brunch is generally served between noon and 3 pm, and should be booked ahead.
6 Via Gentilino
Tel: 39 02 8940 9089
You couldn't design a trattoria this authentic (though this being Milan, they probably did). Beer company clocks, framed photos of someone's grandparents, a poster for a Rod Stewart concert in Sweden, and old road signs jostle one another on the walls, while down below, the red-check tablecloth reigns supreme. The menu—basically a photocopied scrawl—takes in filling northern staples like tortellini in brodo or sausages with braised verza (a kind of cabbage), and the classic bollito misto (a dish of mixed boiled meats). The clientele is a mix of old regulars and young hipsters attracted by the buzz and the low prices—if you pay more than $30 a head with wine, you've really pushed the boat out. Despite its out-of-the-way location—in the southern Navigli neighborhood—it's always packed: So book ahead, or take your chances.
Open Mondays through Wednesdays noon to 2:30 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays noon to 2:30 pm and 8 to 10:30 pm.
11 Via Santa Marta
Tel: 39 02 8645 1991
This local institution just around the corner from the main post office does just what it says on the box: It offers great, down-home Milanese cuisine in an upmarket trattoria setting. This is one of the best places in town to sample that local stalwart risotto alla milanese—a delicate, saffron-flavored risotto cooked in chicken broth. But it's equally strong on other filling Lombard dishes like osso buco and tripe. Don't miss the warm Zabaglione dessert. The healthy portions; warm, bottle-lined ambience; and lack of outside space makes this local favorite more of a cold-weather option, but it does have AC in summer—and one or two lighter options on the menu.
Closed Tuesdays. Lunch Monday through Friday. Dinner nightly.
5 Piazza della Scala
Tel: 39 02 8068 8201
The location could not be more central or prestigious: on a corner overlooking La Scala, just across the square from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and within easy reach of both the banking hub and the fashion district. The street-level Café Trussardi, with its elegant contemporary design, has become a favorite lunch and aperitivo stop for those with business in the area (and if you're doing business in Milan, this is the area). If there's a deal to clinch, though, do it in the upstairs restaurant, with its red leather armchairs (perhaps a little too low-slung for comfort) and ringside view of the piazza. It's worth specifying a window seat when you book, as the low ceiling, the aisle layout of the tables, and the soberly minimalist decor—all russets and browns—make the inner tables feel decidedly second-best. The service here is as good as we have seen in Milan, striking a perfect balance between friendly and efficient. And if the restaurant's name suggests another style-over-substance fashion franchise, think again: Andrea Berton's creative Italian cuisine has met with plaudits all over. Dishes might include an antipasto of artichokes, scorzonera (black salsify), mozzarella, and beet juice, or raw and cooked prawns with amaranth grain and red beet gelato. The desserts are cheekily creative—especially the martini-glass variation on tiramisu. And the wine list is both extensive and surprisingly well valued. Excellent pre- or post-opera, but always book ahead.
Open Mondays through Fridays 12:30 to 3:30 pm and 8 to 11 pm, Saturdays 8 to 11 pm.