Tony Mantuano, the chef of Chicago’s acclaimed Italian restaurant Spiaggia and delicious pizza spot Bar Toma, recently traveled to Milan for a James Beard pop-up dinner. Here, the chef shares where to eat, drink, stay and escape to the seaside.
Best Hotel For a Long Stay
“In Zona Tortona, the hip fashion design district, stay at Magna Pars Suites Milano. The 39 modern suites are really spacious and built around a former perfume factory. We stayed in a suite that overlooked the courtyard garden. It made us feel like we were staying in a chic, private home rather than a hotel. Our comfy room had space for entertaining with a giant L-shaped couch, wet bar, dining table, refrigerator, and espresso machine. Added bonus: Armani Silos, Giorgio Armani’s open-to-the-public design exhibition space is just a few blocks away.”
Best Neighborhood Sandwich Spot
“Around the corner from the Magna Pars Suites Milano is Morna, a fun little bar and restaurant. We really enjoyed the bar area that opens out on to the the street. Nice wine list, low lighting, and great rock and roll music blends with the local banter. The menu consists of delicious panini, insalate, and piatti unici (unique plates), and grilled items. We loved their sandwich called piadine with prosciutto, arugula, and, tomato. They even have happy hour.”
Hipster Coffee Bar, Cocktail Bar and Shop
“Not far away from Via Tortona near Porto Genova in the Navigli district is Taglio, a caffe and coffee bar. When you walk in, it almost feels like you’re in Brooklyn with the friendly bearded and tattooed staff, the small-batch coffee, and the micro brews. The thing we love most about Taglio, though, is that it serves creative versions of traditional food (their Risotto Milanese, enriched with bone marrow and topped with saffron and crunchy toasted nuts, was just insane). They even sell their food stuffs: dried pastas, wine, cured meats, and excellent local cheeses and coffee. Be sure to check out their fantastic craft cocktails. And in spite of the buzz from the article in the New York Times, they are still welcoming and attentive to foreign guests just as they are to the many locals who drink and dine there daily.”
Italy’s Modernist Cuisine
“While filming the Italian TV show The Cooking Show, we met Daniel Canzian of Ristorante Daniel Milano Cucina Contemporanea Italiana. After talking with him and tasting his incredible, beautiful food, we found that his philosophy of Italian cooking was just like ours at Spiaggia. His restaurant even has a glass-enclosed kitchen where you can see the chefs work. It felt like home, but even more modern—and not just in the décor. The food highlighted the freshest seasonal ingredients cooked to perfection, with few added components to intensity flavors and aromas. We loved his delicately filled breadsticks: ‘black’ with cuttlefish ink stuffed with cod fish; ‘green’ chlorophyll, with broccoli, garlic, oil and hot pepper; ‘red’ paprika stuffed with pate of pheasant; ‘white’ mashed chickpeas. They were a revelation.”
“All of the modern stuff was cool, but this is Italy after all. A visit to the seaside is a must, and you can get there by car in just a little over 2 hours. Go to the beautiful fishing town of Santa Margherita Ligure. Set on the Gulf of Tigullio along the Italian Riviera, Santa Margherita Ligure is known for amazingly fresh seafood, crystal blue water, and relaxing in the sun or under one of the many palms and pines that line the shore. Ask about the local wine, Pigato, Rossese, and Vermentino. It pairs perfectly with the seafood and pasta. If you want to dine somewhere really special, head to Cigae. It is an outdoor drinking and dining secret hideaway with an incredible wine list, delicious, food, and pleasant hospitality. The view is pretty spectacular too! Come here to get away from the city and live like Italians during their summer holiday.”
For more ideas on where to eat, sleep and drink in Milan check out our city guide.