Our travels through Italy were spectacular, which started and ended in Milan. Milan in many ways has a unfair reputation for being too industrial or just about fashion, but we found it to be filled with interesting art, churches, walking areas and great food.
We landed in Milan quite late, so after an exciting cab ride, we checked in to the Excelsior Hotel Gallia Milan. The hotel had been originally built in 1932 but, recently renovated and the rooms were elegantly done with spa tubs and separate walk-in showers.
Before unpacking, we headed to the rooftop terrace for a small bite and a glass of wine, it had been a long day from Los Angeles to Milan. The terrace was chic and had a clubby feel with a nice staff and gorgeous views of the city and train station.
We enjoyed the Vegetable Tempura with Bagna Cauda Dip.
The next day we headed to a cafe for lunch that was recommended by our concierge, Il Salumaio. The cafe was located in a courtyard by the fashion district and it was filled with local business people and models. The waitstaff spoke English, which was helpful and the food was nice. To start, we shared a plate of Burrata, Watercress with Cherry Tomatoes and I must say, the portion was huge, but incredibly fresh. It is definitely a challenge in the states to find mozzarella this good.
I had a simple Risotto with fresh Shrimp & Zucchini, it was a great start to a fun day.
After our lunch, we walked around the shops and I spotted a cute candy/coffee store called Marchesi. The gift boxes were as cute as the sweets inside, just looked though.
We met our tour guide, Alice Salvagnin, who I had found on tripadvisor, at the Duomo to begin our three hour tour of Milan. Alice (Aleeche) was sweet and very knowledgeable about Milan. We started at the Duomo, which was the busiest place in the city, but having a guide, we skipped the lines and headed on inside. Alice explained the history and art of the Duomo, as well as the stained glass windows, which were put back into the church out of sequence?! Milan had been 60 percent destroyed in World War II, so many parts of the city have a unique mix of architecture combining the old with the new.
This statue of St. Bartholomew with his own skin wrapped around his neck was created by a sculptor named, Marco d’ Agrate. The Cathedral is loaded with amazing pieces of art that are only found here in Milan.
The Duomo during the day.
And at night!
Another great reason to book a tour with Alice Salvagnin was to get inside the Museum with the Last Supper. There are only a certain amount of tickets each day and each group was only allotted 15 minutes per visit.
After departing with Alice, we headed back to clean up before our dinner at Ristorante Berton. The Michelin Star Restaurant had a modern interior and food to match. The staff was very friendly and spoke fluent English, which was helpful when it came time to explain what was on our plates. The breads and rice chips with flavors of olive, turmeric and seaweed were amazingly unique.
The Amuse Bouche with Paprika Bread and Avocado Cream, a Chilled Vegetable Sphere and Goat Cheese Crisp were flavorful and interesting as well.
We selected a lighter bottle of red wine to go with our meal because the courses were a mix of fish, vegetables and meat.
The first course of New Scallops with Liquorice Puree was delicately done. The hint of licorice actually went nicely with the seafood, sort of a roasted fennel flavor.
The next course with Seared Watermelon, Eggplant and Ginger Sorbet left me feeling refreshed more than anything.
The Conchiglioni or Shell Pasta filled with Balsamic Herb Sauce was pretty, but it tasted a little bitter without any cheese to round it out.
Roasted Eel with Beetroot and Goat’s Milk was the best dish of the night. I loved the umami flavors of the eel, combined with a hint of sweetness from the beet puree and rice.
The Lamb Shoulder with Creamy Fried Potatoes was perfectly prepared and the contrasting bitter Swiss Chard made the plate come into balance.
The desserts were many…some great, some more interesting than great. My favorite was this first one, White Chocolate Ice Cream with Meringue and Dark Chocolate Puree.
This one was pretty, but a bit odd — Tomato Strawberry & Mint Sorbet…hmmm??
But, I loved the Rolled Mango with Smoked Ice Cream!
The Creamy Pistachio and Iced Basil with Capers Ice Cream was a little too wild for my taste.
But the Petit Fours always make the perfect ending.
The second part of our Milan visit began after our trip to Como, with dinner at Nerino Dieci Trattoria. I had booked this restaurant the first night in Milan, but we missed our dinner due to a flight delay. The restaurant was busy with a peek-a-boo kitchen, while walking to our table. I had read about this restaurant on tripadvisor and sometimes I am a little leery to book recommendations from this source, because they tend to be a little touristy. This place did have a lot of Americans, but the food was freshly made and nicely presented. We began our meal with a nice bottle of wine and a cheese course of fresh Mozzarella.
Our next course of Spaghetti with fresh Tomato & Basil with Grana Padano was prepared tableside inside of the cheese round. Check out this video of how she prepared it!
The Beef Tornados with Foie Gras Sauce was delightfully rich and decadent.
And the Salted Crust Prawns were another great addition to a spectacular dinner. I love this salt preparation because the shrimp stay so sweet and juicy.
The DIY Cannoli were outstanding too! Believe it or not the menu said, “DIY!” Hah!
The following day we headed to some more landmarks in Milan. San Bernardino alle Ossa was a church in Milan that was best known for its ossuary, a small side chapel decorated with human skulls and bones. This chapel was originally a chamber, which was built next to a cemetary to house remains.
After a morning of spooktacular viewing, we popped in to the best Gelato place of my life, Gelato Giusto!
The Pistachio and Fig gelato tasted like their true ingredients, not manufactured fluff like many places.
After a little gelato, it was time for me to head to my private cooking lesson at La Cucina Italiana, an Italian cooking magazine that used to publish in the United States. I arrived and was greeted by Vittoria, who introduced me to Chef Davide Negri in the kitchen.
Chef Davide and I really hit it off. He had opened restaurants in the United States and has an uncle who lives in Los Angeles. We started off my making the fillings for the pastas – the veal and vegetables went into the oven to roast, while we ground the spinach for the ravioli.
That day we had made; orecchiette, cavatelli, ravioli, agnolotti and macaroni. I can’t tell you how fun it was for me to get some in depth, hands-on experience making pasta!
Here’s Chef Davide and I in the kitchen!
Afterwards, my husband and I headed to the Milan World Expo, which was focused on sustainable food. The crowds were awesome, so we didn’t stay long.
We made it back in time for dinner at a local ristorante not far from our hotel called, Il Tavolino. The place was packed with guests, but the service was friendly and fast. We had a delicious Risotto with Prosciutto & Squash Blossoms and the best Veal Milanese of my life.
They threw in a shot of Jagermeister for a digestive. I found it funny to be sipping on Jaeger after a long day of cooking and touring the expo. I haven’t had Jagermeister since I was in my 20’s!
Our final day we wanted to stroll around and take in the sites and a few shops. There was an area where up and coming designers were selling less pricey fashion on a street called, Via Tortona. I loved the small stylish purse shops and I bought a few for gifts. The canals were close by, where we had our final lunch at Al Pont de Ferr. The restaurant had been there for 30 years and had a nice pre-fixe menu for lunch. The food was nice, but I think we had hit our maximum food capacity. The best dish was the Farrotto Soup and of course a nice bottle of wine.
Our walk back through the city streets was pleasant. There was nothing like strolling through the remains of old city walls, surrounded by more modern structures.
One final Gelato to top off our trip — Cioccolat Taliani made the best Gelato Sundaes I’ve ever seen!
That evening we packed up our things and got ready for the trip home. We had one last glass of red wine in the hotel lounge before heading to bed. I love this picture!
Cappuccino at dawn in the Milan airport — one for the road with style of course!