Milan restaurants

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Joia

Price guide: Expensive
#5/25
expert-rated restaurants in Milan
Expert overall rating:4.8 (out of 5)

Vegetarian heaven in Milan – meat-free cuisine with a Michelin star.

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Pizzeria Spontini

Price guide: Budget
#24/25
expert-rated restaurants in Milan
Expert overall rating:4.2 (out of 5)

Cheap and cheerful comfort food in Milan – gooey pizza by the slice.

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I have had many discussions in my life about which is the greatest cuisine in the world. The Turks always try and throw their hat into the ring, but while their food is good, they really haven’t a prayer. It usually comes down to a straight fight between the French and the Italians. From then on, it’s a matter of personal choice. I adore Italian food and even more, I love the food of northern Italy. This is risotto territory and there is simply nothing on earth as fine as a good risotto.

Milan, for all its designer glitz, has a simple stomach. Its gifts to the culinary world include minestrone, a stonkingly good meal-in-a-bowl vegetable soup; the simple but utterly delicious saffron-perfumed risotto alla Milanese; osso bucco (veal slow braised in white wine); and the cotoletta alla Milanese (better known to many as the Vienna Schnitzel). It was first mentioned in a Milanese recipe book as far back as 1134. In the 19th century, Austrian Field Marshal Radetsky was served the dish, and liked it so much that he introduced it to the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Court where it was renamed.

The city’s final gift, quite literally, is a Christmas present – panettone, the sweet bread stuffed with dried fruit and candied citrus that is traditionally served over the Christmas season with a sweet wine or crema di mascarpone (another local speciality).

Oh, you can eat so well in Milan and oh, you need deep pockets to do so! The city was recently awarded the dubious honour of being the most expensive city for leisure in Europe. Even as a Londoner, I was reeling at the price of a relatively simple meal. In even a simple bar or pizzeria, you will be unlikely to leave paying less than 30 euros for a three course meal without wine. If you want to live cheaply, be prepared to take to the sandwich bars and takeaways, drink your coffee standing at the counter, or cut back to a single course.

Most people don’t eat until 8/8.30pm at the earliest. If you do want to eat earlier, look at the cocktail lounges. Many of them lay on a groaning buffet alongside their happy hour cocktails – for more, please see my guide to Milan Nightlife.

For more tips on the eating out in the city, see my Insiders Tips guide.

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Selecting restaurants in a city like Milan is incredibly difficult. There’s simply too much choice. It’s rather like standing in front of a huge box of Quality Street and being asked to pick a selection – for other people. I could choose purely on the basis of my personal favourites, but while I love nuts and chocolate I don’t like them together. It wouldn’t be fair to pick a whole selection of restaurants without nuts – so to speak. So I’ve tried, as best as I can, to pick a range of places across the prices and geographical spread, concentrating on tourist areas. I’ve thrown in some ice-cream shops – who wouldn’t go to Italy and eat ice cream? There are pizzerias, relaxed trattorias and trendy restaurants. Hopefully there should be something for every mood and occasion. They have one thing in common – they all serve great food.

As far as exploring beyond this list – the centro storico does have a few excellent restaurants but tends to be dead as a dodo at night. If you are looking for a livelier atmosphere with lots of smaller trattorie, there are three areas to head for – Navigli, along the canals to the south of the city centre; the slightly bohemian Brera district; and the newly fashionable Garibaldi district to the north of the city centre, where urban regeneration is creating chic new apartment blocks with trendy café life to go with it. If you come up with good recommendations, please do suggest them to me.