Milan may be known for its fashionable lifestyle and fabulous examples of Gothic architecture, but one thing people don’t give the city enough credit for is its diverse food culture.

You see, that polenta you had last week comes from this gem in northern Italy, as do the cotoletta, the risotto alla Milanese, and the list goes on.

When I first started my Milan food tours, I spent a significant amount of time in the city trying the good bites and the bad so I could give my customers a real taste of the food scene here. To break it down, I’ve put together this list of the most delicious foods that Milan has in store.

Cotoletta alla Milanese

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Tender, soaked in butter, and tossed in breadcrumbs, cotoletta alla Milanese is one classic dish/street food you can find in every corner of Milan. 

Milanese are picky when it comes to their cotoletta, but the traditional way to make it is with veal on a bone, cooked with clarified butter, and fried in a pan.

The origins of this comfort food can be traced back to 1148; it was mentioned in one of the menus from the monks who resided at Milan’s Sant’Ambrogio Basilica. The recipe still remains the same today, and it’s tastier than ever.

Where To Eat It?

I like to visit this gorgeous osteria in the vibrant Corso Garibaldi called  Osteria Brunello for a nice apertivo like Prosecco and some cotoletta alla Milanese. The vibe here is a mix between classy and casual, and they specialize specifically in the famous breaded veal cutlet, so you’re in for a treat.

The cutlet wasn’t overly big or too small when I ordered it; I found it to be perfectly sized. The piece was sprinkled with salt and served alongside some garden veggies. 

The crispy breaded coating had a nutty crunch, and when I bit inside, the delicate texture and sweet juices that blended in with the bread crumbs were phenomenal.

Osteria Brunello (€€€)Corso Garibaldi, 117, 20121 Milano MI, Italy – Monday to Friday, 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm

Polenta

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Loved globally and cherished in the north, polenta is a creamy cornmeal that looks almost like porridge. Its main ingredient is coarsely ground corn, which is mixed with butter, water, salt, and flavorful parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Polenta is usually served as a base for another Milanese dish; normally, something else is placed on top of it for some added flavor, like a protein such as grilled sausage.

Back in the 16th century, maize was only found in Italy, particularly in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy, and it was widely eaten by the lower class. 

Since they had to eat it with just about every meal, the people got creative with their recipes, and one of those that hailed from it was polenta.

Where To Eat It?

If you make it to Porta Garibaldi on your travels through Milan, there’s no doubt you’ll hear of Sciatt à‘ Porter. It’s one of the best restaurants around for its take on Valtellinan cuisine, a unique mountain cuisine originating from the settlements below the peak that separate Italy and Switzerland.

I had heard that polenta was one of Sciatt à‘ Porter’s specialties, so I set out to taste it there a while back. When I got to my table, I asked the server about the polenta, and they offered me a sample on the house to see if I liked it.

Of course, I snapped up the opportunity. After the first mouthful, I could get why people rave about the polenta here: the creamy texture, the corny, saccharine flavors, and the delicate acidic hints. I never knew polenta could taste this good.

Sciatt A’ Porter (€€€) – Viale Monte Grappa, 18, 20124 Milano MI, Italy – Every day, 12:00 pm to 12:00 am

Risotto Alla Milanese

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When people think of risotto, the first dish that springs to their minds is risotto alla Milanese, an iconic dish synonymous with Milanese food culture.

It takes a lot of work to get the recipe for risotto alla Milanese just right: you need to use arborio rice, rich in starch, and cook it with butter, black pepper, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, flat-leaf parsley, salt, onions, and saffron, which gives it a bright yellow color.

The story of where risotto alla Milanese comes from is truly fascinating. The recipe was discovered by some glassmakers who worked on Milan’s Duomo; they added some of the saffron used for the windows to risotto, and what came was the legendary dish we have today.

Where To Eat It?

It’s easy to find risotto alla Milanese in the city where it originated but to try the best of the best; you’ll have to book a table at 23 Risotti Casa Fontana. While it may be a little bit outside of the main center, it’s totally worth making the trip out to the Piazza Carbonari for it.

Upmarket and breathing elegance throughout, stylish features like the plates hung on the wall and light grey fabrics spread across the walls do it for me at 23 Risotti Casa Fontana.

Even now, I can’t stop reminiscing about the risotto alla Milanese I enjoyed here. It was delivered to me in a huge white bowl; I could smell the distinct honey-scented Navelli saffron before it was even dropped.

Every forkful was slightly velvety, with a cheesy richness from the Parmigiano-Reggiano and some bitter floral undertones from the Navelli saffron.

23 Risotti Casa Fontana (€€€)Piazza Carbonari, 5, 20125 Milano MI, Italy – Closed on Monday, Tuesday, 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Wednesday and Friday, 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm, and 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Thursday, 12:45 pm to 5:00 pm, Friday, 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm, and 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Saturday, 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm, and Sunday, 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Ossobucco

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Ossobuco

Ossobuco, or as some say it, osso buco, is a traditional Italian food that originates from the Lombardy region. It’s made with slow-braised veal shanks, fresh vegetables, pancetta, salt, pepper, veal stock, and white wine.

The term “osso buco” in Italian translates to “hole of a bone,” this refers to the bone marrow, which adds a strong, rich, butter taste to the dish.

If you order ossobuco in Milanese restaurants, it’s typically served with risotto alla Milanese or polenta, so you can try two traditional recipes in one serving.

Where To Eat It?

Close to the Parco della Resistenza, you’ll find Osteria Conchetta, an authentic Lombardian restaurant famed for its special setting adorned with empty wine bottles and exceptional regional foodie fare.

While I’ve dined here quite a few times and tried a good chunk of the options on the menu, the ossobucco stands out among the rest. 

I ordered the ossobucco with the risotto alla Milanese; it came out wedged at the center of the risotto, which allowed the savory veal juices to leak into it. 

The juicy veal fell off the bone when I touched it with my fork, and the wine-based sauce gave it a sweet herbal edge. Luckily, it wasn’t too overpowering, allowing the mild gaminess from the veal to still stand out.

Osteria Conchetta (€€) – Via Conchetta, 8, 20136 Milano MI, Italy – Closed Monday, Tuesday to Friday, 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm, and 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm

Cassoeula

As soon as winter comes along, cassoeula pops up on menus in eateries across all of Milan. Cassoeula is a hearty stew prepared with pork rind, verzini sausages, onions, cellary, carrots, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, white wine, and tomato purée.

The ancient cook pheromone is said to have come from an army officer who participated in the Spanish invasion of Milan in the 16th century. It’s understood he taught his Milanese partner the recipe, which has risen to prominence ever since. 

Where To Eat It?

No place in Milan can make cassoeula like La Cassoeula del Togn beside Piazza Napoli. It’s arguably the most renowned trattoria that serves the delicacy; the establishment has a no-frills kind of atmosphere to it; you could mistake it for being a fast food restaurant with its quirky colors and bright lighting.

However, don’t let that fool you; the cassoule is the real deal. I was impressed when I came here. At first, the server asked me what I would like to have with my cassoeula, and I went for the typical ribs version.

My first thought when the cassoeula was dropped was, how will I finish this huge portion? It was too much even for me to handle. 

The flavor profile of the cassoeula was quite complex. I could taste the spicy maple flavors from the sausage; however, they were complemented by the earthiness from the fresh cabbage, which also had some bitter notes.

La Cassoeula del Togn (€€) – Via Andrea Solari, 43, 20144 Milano MI, Italy – Every day, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Conclusion

You’ve got all the insider knowledge on my picks for the must-try foods in Milan! I always say that the capital of Lombardy’s culinary landscape is incredibly underrated, and you can see why.

 

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