The restaurant/bar at the Fondazione Prada was conceived by film director Wes Anderson and the warmth and whimsy it adds to the Rem Koolhaas–designed foundation is a strike of genius. Diners sit at color-blocked Formica tables surrounded by cheerful wallpaper and a long bar that holds everything from anti-pasta platters and Panini to large glass jugs filled with colorful candy and tiramisu served in dainty dishes. There's even a jukebox and a Life Aquatic pinball machine. Bar Luce is a good spot for a panino before or after touring the Fondazione. In the early evening, Bar Luce gets packed with a hipster-cool apero crowd.
Cucchi has drawn the city’s smartest and most stylish patrons for years and the people-watching is just as delicious as the old-fashioned pastries and Italian coffee.
When Pisacco opened in 2013, it launched a veritable Milanese food revolution of smaller, hip eateries that blurred the lines between bar/aperitif and restaurant/dinner. Dry, located across the street, is the brainchild of the same owners and its genius blend of cocktail bar-meets-pizza joint remains a huge hit. There are devotees who consider this the best pizza in Milan.
The menu is small and mostly focused on delicious pizzas and focaccio, alongside some small-plate appetizers and salads. The cocktail list is substantial and runs the gamut from the classics (a mean Negroni or Martinez) to the esoteric (like the Lord Byron, a lethal concoction of Campari, bourbon, dry vermouth and a Benedictine herbal liquor). The room up front is where the action is, but it becomes a bit of a scene as the evening wears on, so travelers who want to enjoy a more peaceful dinner can also reserve a table in the serene dining room in the back.
Far from the city center (from most Indagare-recommended hotels, it's a 30-minute drive), this trendy farm-to-table restaurant is a must during the warmer months. Surrounded by a park and located along one of Milan's canals, it truly feels like a jaunt into the countryside. Owner Alice Delcourt is obsessed with all-things natural, organic, low-impact and biodynamic, which shows in the menu and wine list here. The garden setting is exquisite: how unexpected to be dining surrounded by flowers, herb and vegetable patches so close to the city center.
Menus change often and are completely focused around what's in season. Delacourt, who is French and has worked in restaurants in New York and London, has created a truly special place at Erba Brusca and her philosophy can also be seen in such lovely details as the row of red bikes that line the restaurant entrance, which diners can use for a pre-meal or post-meal bike trip along the canal.
Fioraio Bianchi Caffè
The best spot to pass a few hours drinking espresso and reading art magazines is the Fioraio Bianchi Caffè, in the upscale neighborhood of Brera. One of several nice café’s on a leafy square this former flower shop still showcases fragrant blooms on almost every surface. By day it offers a selection of pastries and vegetarian dishes, and in the evening it’s a lively and happening aperitivi destination.
Duck into this lovely place, off via Montenapoleone, for a quick lunch and people watching at its finest. Dine alfresco or in the wood-paneled dining room and afterward, be sure to stop by the adjacent shop to take away artisanal charcuterie and homemade pasta.
A favorite neighborhood restaurant of Brera residents, La Briciola is the passion project of the owner and chef Gianni Battista Valveri, who not only presides over the kitchen but greets his guests like old friends (which many are). The décor merges Italian bistro (mirrored walls and shelves of wine bottles) with bric-a-brac charm (framed photos of guests and collections of objects), while the menu focuses on simple, classic Italian dishes served to perfection. Carpaccio starters include carpaccio of avocados and hearts of palm or of artichoke. Whether you order buffalo mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, risotto Milanese, gnocchi, cacio e pepe or grilled fish, you may find it ranks among the freshest and tastiest you can remember.
Every Milanese resident has their favorite pizzeria, but more than a few list La Tradizionale, in the once-industrial, now-gentrifying neighborhood of via Tortona. It doesn’t look like much from the outside: a former factory with a covered entrance and a glassed-in room to the right. But inside, huge sphere-shaped chandeliers glitter and a stylish crowd fills the many white-linen-covered tables throughout the dramatically open space lined with brick walls. The menu features everything from fish to steak Florentine for two, but most of the regulars stick with pasta or gourmet pizza like the Aristocratica, which is topped with mozzarella, truffle cream, prosciutto and egg.
Those with a craving for seafood should make a reservation at this acclaimed restaurant in the design-heavy Tortona neighborhood (home also to the MUDEC museum and such shops as Nonostantemarras and Biffi). The focus on treasures from the sea is serious: there are whole sections on the menu dedicated to everything from anchovies to crustaceans. Particularly popular are the heaping seafood platters, as well as the Champagne and oyster pairings.
Quality seafood in a landlocked place like Milan comes at a price, of course, so for a lighter, quicker and more inexpensive bite, head instead to the nearby Langosteria 10 Bistro & Bottega (around the corner on Via Privata Bobbio), which serves a more limited but equally tasty menu. The setting in both places is casual-cool (the restaurants would not feel out of place in Brooklyn or San Francisco), and they have a strong local following.
Note: Langosteria is closed for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Latteria San Marco
Originally a small dairy shop in La Brera, Latteria San Marco expanded into a traditional Milanese-style restaurant shortly after World War II. With only eight tables and no reservations, diners should arrive early to avoid waiting in line for one of the coveted seats inside the cozy, authentic eatery. Chef Arturo Maggi, who has owned Latteria San Marco since 1965, serves an oft-changing menu of pastas, vegetables and rice dishes that keeps locals returning time and again to this neighborhood trattoria.
N’Ombra de Vin
Located in the old refectory of the Saint Mark’s Church, this Milan institution is open all day and is a respite from the busy nearby shopping street of Via Solferino.
The industrial Porta Romana neighborhood is on track to becoming Milan's next it-neighborhood, thanks in large part to the opening of the Prada Foundation, but on first glance it's still a bit run-down. There are, however, treasures to be found if only you know where to go, including some of the city's best homemade pasta at the local favorite Pastamadre. Up front, there's a bakery turning out incredible sweets (millefoglie, mousse di zabaione, apple crumble), while the back holds a small restaurant with tables pushed close together; in fact, the dining room looks more like a pizza joint than a restaurant. Dishes present perfectly turned out Italian home cooking. Pastamadre is a good spot for lunch if you're at the Prada Foundation and desire something heartier than the panini at Bar Luce. The restaurant is about a ten-minute drive from the museum.
Salsamenteria di Parma
For a taste of the rustic Italian countryside, this busy osteria serves wines from the Parma region as well as a selection of delicious Italian fare: famed prosciutto from Parma, salamis, dips, cheese platters, homemade regional pasta that looks like wrapped candies and delicious desserts.
Trattoria del Nuovo Macello
Far from the city center, this cozy trattoria focused on Northern Italian food is a good destination for gourmets who want to be surrounded by locals instead of other visitors. Located in a residential area east of the city (about a 20-minute taxi ride from the Bulgari, Armani and Mandarin Oriental hotels), Nuovo Macello looks like an old-fashioned place, with dark-wood bistro chairs, white table cloths and cheerful wallpaper, but the dishes are elevated, innovative and beautifully presented (banish all thoughts of heaping plates of pasta). It's the kind of place that lists its suppliers with pride ("Veal meat: Rissa Emanuele Giuseppe, our historical supplier since 1970") and whose friendly staff can expertly pair wines with the well-focused menu.
Trattoria del Pescatore
Since 1976, Trattoria del Pescatore has specialized in Italian fish dishes with a Sardinian flare. Dine on large portions of lobster pasta (and appetizers great for sharing) in a rustic space with exposed brick walls.
Recommended by Indagare Insider Bea Bongiasca