Mention Milan and I immediately think of fashion. My mind starts picturing designer bag toting, stiletto heel wearing fashionistas… sleek looking ladies… impossibly chic Italian women. I imagine myself joining their ranks for a few days as I pound the pavements, ducking in and out of boutiques… arms becoming laden down with shopping bags as the day goes on… The shopaholic in me is basically in heaven. But this is all just a daydream. Shopaholic Connie hasn’t hit her stride in quite some time, about the same time a certain someone showed up on the scene.
I could spend, and have spent, hours strolling the streets of a foreign city just window shopping, making the occasional purchase here and there. I truly enjoy wandering through new shops, looking at new things, pondering whether I want it enough to squeeze into my luggage, but a certain someone doesn’t and there’s nothing more awkward than trying to shop with someone who hates the looking part.
Instead, shopaholic me has taken a back seat to foodaholic me, where they were once equal partners, I’ve had to change gear a little… oh the sacrifices, right? I don’t wander the streets looking for quirky boutiques or getting lost in large foreign department stores anymore, but I am still always on the look out for a great meal – something a certain someone and I can both enjoy!
There’s no shortage of great restaurants in Milan; the impossibly chic like to wine and dine too of course. We could have chosen one of the fifteen Michelin star restaurants or dined on one of the rooftops overlooking the Duomo; all places I’m sure the fashionable folk frequent and like to be seen but as I’ve given up the daydream of pretending to be Milanese fashionista, we strayed off piste and found some great little places so let me share with you our three favourite hidden gems in Milan…
Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo, San Babila
Pizza in Italy is hardly a hidden gem I hear you protest… no, but this pizzeria is. Close to the Duomo, behind the popular shopping street of Vittorio Emanuele II, and looking out into a carpark, this pizzeria isn’t exactly something you stumble upon. Truth be told, we were actually looking for it and still almost missed it… I was ready to succumb to any old pizza when I spotted the queue of people and knew we’d found it.
I’d heard about this queue, formed of those in the know… they know that at Gino Sorbillo there are no reservations taken, they know that if you don’t respond immediately when your name’s called you’re promptly scratched off the list, and they know that there are only 400 pizzas sold every day and when they’re gone, they close. Why? Because that’s all the dough they’ve got – enough for 400 pizzas, delivered fresh from Naples every day. The pizzas are large, the prices reasonably small for this part of town, but the dough and the toppings are top notch!
Un Posto A Milano, Porta Romana
This was a spot we did stumble upon… without a reservation on a Saturday night, our top dinner choices were fully booked so we wandered around the neighbourhood, contemplating taking a chance on the dodgy pub, until we heard some faint traces of music which lead to a secluded courtyard and a bustling little restaurant. But Un Posto A Milano is more than just a restaurant – housed in a traditional Italian farmstead in the middle of the city, it’s a space dedicated to seasonal Italian food and culture. They pride themselves on knowing their suppliers, most of the ingredients are sustainable and organic, and the dishes are made in-house with great care.
Unable to choose between all the delicious sounding starters, we opted for Chef’s Selection which allowed us to sample five different dishes, the highlights of which were the insanely tender octopus and the tangy anchovy salad. Our mains of stuffed guinea fowl thigh and slow cooked beef with polenta were excellent examples of the fuss free but full of flavour philosophy of the kitchen, both dishes which really warmed your stomach and your soul. Then we finished the meal as the Italians do, with a shot of espresso and something sweet… on this occasion a sbrisolana, a Lombardy biscuit served with a shot of chocolate and rum!
Al Fresco, Navigli
Another place perfect for escaping the hustle of the city is Al Fresco where the setting and atmosphere is just as important as the food. What was once an old warehouse has been transformed into a welcoming restaurant with luscious garden seating outside and relaxed but chic decor inside. We were seated in the cosy, candle-lit conservatory, the perfect spot for a romantic dinner to end our time in Milan… unfortunately a less perfect spot for photos but believe me, the dishes were beautiful.
The menu feels distinctly Italian with dishes like roast potato gnocchi and Milanese veal chop, but it also feels like they’ve had a fresh twist. A certain someone delighted in both a meaty main and starter, with veal fillet with tuna sauce being a highlight. I, yet again, couldn’t resist the lure of the beef tartare and was not disappointed, but my main of grilled octopus was to die for. However, my favourite dish of the night was dessert; a certain someone’s tiramisu was far from traditional and my aptly titled ‘il giardino in aspettato’ really was an unexpected garden filled with floral and fruity notes – simply beautiful and delicious!
So Make a Move
Milan may be better known for its fashion than it’s food but there are plenty of places for you to sate your hunger… When you’re not eating make sure you pay a visit to the Duomo and take in the views from the stunning rooftop!
- Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo, Largo Corsia dei Servi, 11, 20122 Milano
- Un Posto A Milano, Via Privata Cuccagna, 2, Milano
- Al Fresco, Via Savona, 50, 20144 Milano
- The trendy area of Navigli along the canals is also a great place to wander with loads of restaurants – if you’re into gin, stop into Gin 012 for a drink!
- If you’re on a budget, make the most of aperitivo – usually from around 6-8pm, you can buy a drink and help yourself to a bite to eat from the buffet selection.
Are you more of a shopaholic or a foodaholic when you’re on holiday?! Have you been to Milan before?