In a country that fiercely clings to regionality, it’s widely agreed that Milan is Italy’s most cosmopolitan and outward-looking city, driving forward industries as disparate as design, fashion and, of course, food. Anyone looking to experience Italian food at its most global will be well-served in Milano, from the Cantonese and Sichuan communities of Sarpi to the Peruvian expatriates in Loreto to the Eritrean population in Porto Venezia.
And, when it comes to produce, the city has the pick of the proverbial litter. Everything from seafood-centric trattorias to Japanese restaurants are stocked by Mercato Ittica, making landlocked Milan one of the best places to eat fish in the country, and the wider region of Lombardy that surrounds the city is veritably pullulating with farms and vineyards. Are you in possession of a curious palate? Put Milan front and centre on your Italian itinerary and prepare your appetite.
That being said, the province of Lombardia in general and the city in particular have their own long standing culinary traditions, terroirs and identity, and those wanting to lean into classic delicacies such as saffron risotto, oso bucco, veal cotoletta, panettone and all the pasta will leave with full bellies (ours is rumbling, just thinking about it). Milan is a city where you can have your cake, and eat it too. Without any further ado, gird your loins and loosen your belt for our guide to Milan’s best bars, restaurants and hotels. You can thank us later – buon appetito.
Where to eat in Milan
Via Giorgio Vasari, 1, 20135 Milano MI, Italy
Nose-to-tail eating à la Fergus Henderson and St John, although commonplace in Italy for millennia, has reemerged as a hip component of the Slow Food movement in recent years. Case in point is Trattoria Trippa, notoriously one of the most difficult spots to book in Milan. Here, Diego Rossi has repurposed classic cucina povera dishes, with devastatingly delicious takes on vitello tonnato and, of course, tripe. Wines at Trippa are predominantly low-intervention, something it has in common with early-adopting London bistros such as Brawn and Saltine, they’re reasonably priced and adeptly matched with the excellent food. We’ve been to Trippa on previous visits and will go on future ones. It’s easily one of the best and most interesting restaurants in the country.
Via Tivoli, 2, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
A short stroll from the Duomo area, and yet a million miles away from touristville, Rovello 18 is more of a locals’ joint than somewhere frequented by visitors. And yet, this is easily one of the city’s best trattorias. Classic dishes are imagined through a vaguely modern lens, but not tampered with too much, while, at over 800 bottles, the wine list is one of the most impressive in Milan. Settle in for plates of meaty anchovies sitting pretty next to featherlight slices of brioche, piles of casarecce bedded down with sausage, pancetta and leek cream, the very Milanese vitello tonnato and other classics. Not stoically regional, Rovello 18 expands ever so slightly beyond the boundaries of Milanese cuisine, while still feeling firmly anchored in the city.
Via Savona, 10, 20144 Milano MI, Italy
It’s not easy for a restaurant to be fun and also be taken seriously as a culinary contender, but Langosteria manages to do just that. Now boasting four restaurants in Milan, alongside three more around the world and one coming soon in London, the original remains as delightful as ever. This vibrant, high-energy space is multifaceted, somehow managing to deftly move between cosy date night spot, vibrant birthday dinner setting and raucous girls’ night, while never losing its glossy sheen. The menu, unsurprisingly given the restaurant's name, is centred around seafood, with as little intervention as possible to allow the incredible produce to shine.
Pizzeria da Zero
Via Paolo Sarpi, 27, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
We’d be remiss, criminally negligent and perhaps even crazy not to include a pizzeria on the list when rounding up where to eat in any Italian city, let alone Milan, which has some of the most innovative pies in the country. If you’re looking to scratch that itch, pop Pizzeria Da Zero into Google Maps and stroll down to one of its two outposts, in the equally swish neighbourhoods of Brera and Matera. It’s all in the name here, which encapsulates the eatery’s philosophy of using 00 flour. There are some flavour combinations here so beguiling that they verge on the emotional (we’re looking at you, porchetta with provolone fonduta)
so don’t be shy to venture out of your pizza comfort zone, you'll be thankful for it.
Via Paolo Sarpi, 27, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
We’re not sure exactly why we find this amusing, but the word for Asian-style dumplings in Italy is ravioli, and a dumpling shop is referred to as a ravioleria. While drinking at Cantine Isola dal 1896 (more on that soon), ensure that liquid is balanced with solid comestibles and join the queue across the street at Ravioleria di Sarpi, the shop owned by Hujian Zhou with third-generation-butcher and partner Walter Sirtori, which pumps out delectable jiaozi dumplings bursting at the seams with beef and leek or pork and cabbage. Unorthodox but utterly delicious, these little flavour-bomb parcels were the perfect foil to full-bodied, high-acid wine.
Piazza S. Materno, 12, 20131 Milano MI, Italy
Located in the Casoretto District in the east, Trattoria Mirta exemplifies the Italian saying brutto ma buono – ugly but good. Guests dine at roughshod wooden tables in an intimate, lived-in, whitewashed room, enjoying healthy, seasonal dishes that prioritise depth and complexity of flavour over ornate presentation. A crema of radicchio and chestnut was perfectly autumnal, followed by fresh handmade cavatelli bathed in a luscious ragu of pork, beef and veal. Chef Juan Lema hails from South America, and peppers his cooking with Uruguayan techniques.
Where to drink in Milan
Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 43, 20143 Milano MI, Italy
Before you arrive at Mag Cafe, take a minute to absorb your surroundings. As the sun sets over the Naviglio Grande canal and the lights of the surrounding bars and restaurants reflect along the waters, there are few views more beautiful than the one you’ll encounter while strolling across the Ponte Alda Merini. Once you’ve drunk it all in, drink something a little more quenching at Mag Cafe. With its comic book-themed menu, laid-back environment and cracking cocktails, this is exactly the kind of bar you could mislay a few hours in. Our tip? Befriend the bartenders and subtly enquire about the secret bar next door.
Camparino in Galleria
Piazza del Duomo, 21, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
If aperitivo is a religion, then Camparino in Galleria is its temple. A bastion of all things Campari, this vibrant cocktail bar is tucked just off the Piazza del Duomo and while, yes, downstairs may be packed with thirsty tourists, ascend the first set of stairs to the slightly more low key Sala Spiritello, and you’ll find yourself in a haven of peace. While the lower floor evokes the Italian renaissance, upstairs feels very much like a set from a sci-fi flick, with clean lines, moody tones and sleek bartenders that seem to magic drinks out of thin air.
Cantine Isola Dal 1896
Via Paolo Sarpi, 30, 20154 Milano MI, Italy
Sarpi is traditionally Milan’s Chinatown, but is quickly becoming the place-to-be for Milan’s young and trendy with its mix of traditional Italian and Chinese venues alongside the odd hipster newcomer. We recommend you pitch up outside of Cantine Isola dal 1896, a 120-year-old wine shop that serves more than 5,000 wines by the bottle, and embark on a red wine session taking in everything from natural options such as Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Rosso to heavy hitters like a Giacomo Conterno’s Langhe Nebbiolo.
Where to stay in Milan
Avani Palazzo Moscova
Viale Monte Grappa, 12b, 20124 Milano MI, Italy
The debut hotel from the Avani group occupies prime position in Milan’s Porta Nuova district, situated just a stone’s throw away from the Garibaldi train station and the active nightlife neighbourhood of Corso Como. With 36 well-considered rooms and suites, a subterranean spa and a seafood restaurant worth its salt, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve got a stellar bolthole from which to venture out into the city.
Via dei Giardini, 21, 20121 Milano MI, Italy
Casa Baglioni is perched on Via dei Giardini in Brera, the beating heart of the city’s thriving fashion scene, and rather than leaning into the gilt, old school glamour that permeates historical Italian properties, the hotel has gone for a much more understated, townhouse approach. Its 32 rooms are replete with chestnut wood and cream-washed ceilings. Make sure you don’t miss the food from the hotel’s star chef, Claudio Sadler, who takes a finessed approach to Milanese cuisine.