It’s a safe bet to assume that the majority of models flocking to Milan’s Fashion Week steer away from the city’s traditional cuisine. A mouthful of most of the hearty staple dishes of the Lombardy region’s capital probably accounts for a week’s worth of calories to any strict dieter.
Milan is the financial, economic and design centre of Italy as well as the home of leading publishers and designers, but for such a cosmopolitan and stylish metropolis, its core cuisine offering is simple and has retained its authentic comfort food features. From the various invaders, the Austro-Hungarian heritage seems to have left its deepest mark on Milanese cooking, with the debate on which came first — the Wiener schnitzel or the cotoletta alla milanese (breaded veal cutlet) — still open. The common history and its northern location make Milan somehow closer to Vienna and Budapest than Rome and Naples.
Lombardy’s abundant cereal production has given birth to many dishes centred on rice, pasta and polenta (cornmeal), with the most iconic of them risotto alla milanese. Legend has it that in the 15th century, a painter working on the stained glasses of the city’s cathedral wishing to impress the guests at his wedding added saffron to the risotto to give it a rich golden colour.
In terms of meat, most dishes use veal, especially ossobuco. Preserved meats include salami, mortadella, cured beef and ham, available in many shapes and forms. Boiled meats are often served with mostarda, a condiment originating from neighbouring Cremona using pickled fruits in vinegar.
Furthermore, the dairyland region of Lombardy can boast rich and flavoursome cheeses such as gorgonzola, taleggio, stracchino and mascarpone. Desserts generally include panettone or colomba, which are types of brioches, and the amaretti di Saronno, a kind of macaroon.
The Municipality of Milan ensures the survival and authenticity of the region’s classic dishes through its ‘De.co’ scheme— standing for denominazioni comunali, or protected designation of origin. These dishes comprise risotto, ossobuco and mondeghili (meatballs). Visitors can enjoy a traditional Milanese meal in restaurants such as Savini in the elegant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade.
Other good spots for foodies include the Navigli neighbourhood, with its bars and restaurants along the canals, and the Brera
neighbourhood, home to some of the best restaurants serving ossobuco and risotto.
As culture vultures make for the Santa Maria delle Grazie church to admire Leonardo’s The Last Supper, gourmets should visit Peck delicatessen to measure the rich offering of Milan’s food scene.
Full article originally published as ABTA Magazine Food & Drink: Milan
[Photo credit: Milano e Turismo]