Foods to Try in Milan and Where To Have Them - Eat-taly [Tiaraing Europe]

On this exchange, part of my travels included a few stops in Italy, the haven of pastas and pizzas. Here are some things you should know about food/eating in Italy:

1. Trattorias/Restaurants do not open before 12pm. 
2. There is a fixed cover charge per person in most trattorias/restaurants. This is similar to a service charge, just that the price is fixed by the restaurant. The amount differs from trattoria to trattoria. You can normally find out the amount by looking at the bottom of the menu.
3. There may be 2 prices for beverages. One is for takeaway and the other is for having it in the cafe/salon. 

For those who are stopping by Milan, below are some suggestions for food.As tourists, we are always looking around for popular popular 'local' food to try. Yet, it can be at times confusing and frustrating when we try to hunt down the good places to get these authentic, local food. This is even more so on a tight schedule and stuck in a touristy area. 

Thankfully, there's sufficient in the central area of Milan, around the Duomo cathedral and the famous shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Luini's Panzerotti 

The panzerotti is a filled dough turnover pastry originating in Italy, and the most famous place to get them in Milan has got to be Luini's. When we arrived past 1pm, there were 2 snaking orderly queues, but it didn't take long for our turn even with about 20 people in front. The efficient staff clear orders in a matter of 1 to 2 minutes at most. Inside, we were bedazzled by the huge range of pastries displayed. You should pick any you fancy, but for a start, the 'classic' thing to order from the shop is the Luini Fritto or fried Luini.

From left to right: Ricotta and Chocolate Chip Panzerotti, Cannolo Siciliano, Tomato and Mozzarella Luini Fritto
The most popular is the combination of tomato and mozzarella. A bite into the soft fluffy dough reminded me a little of ham ji peng (a Singaporean fried dough pastry in the shape of a butterfly). Though it isn't overwhelming, it still makes for a tasty treat and is worth a try for its 'iconic' status.

We also had the Cannolo Siciliano, a Sicilian pastry commonly found in bakeries. Luini's version contains ricotta filling, chocolate and orange peel. It's slightly on the sweeter side, but still more than decent.

What we really thought was impressive was the sweet panzerotti (Luini dolce) made of ricotta and chocolate chips. The ricotta-chocolate chip mixed filling was a balanced sweetness and the baked pastry that encased it was crumbly good. We definitely could have more of it.

Luini's is open till 3pm on Monday and 8pm on all other days.

For Gelato - Ciocolatti Italiano

Just opposite Luini's, you should opt to go for the gourmet cones at Ciocolatti Italiano. This is apparently the best gelato in Milan. It was on a  (lucky) whim that I stepped in and decided to order. And it was worth the 20 minutes wait that followed. The shop is perpetually crowded, and for a good reason. They produce gourmet ice-cream cones fashioned by the ice-cream artist's hand right in front of you. Each gourmet cone has at least 3 parts to it.

Menu - Gourmet Cone Choices
My choice of Fruit & Chocolate came with a hazelnut-crusted cone, a round of strawberry ice-cream, followed by another round of dark chocolate ice-cream and finally a fresh dollop of meringue. I say round and not scoop because the artist opens a metal lid behind the glass counter, scoops up an amount of ice-cream and places it on the cone before he runs the spade-like scoop around the mound of ice cream to shape it round.

Putting the first layer of strawberry ice cream

Then adding the 2nd layer of dark chocolate ice cream.

I usually dislike meringues for their cloying sweetness, but this meringue was just creamy, fresh and not overwhelmingly sweet. The creamy texture was almost like ice-cream itself. The completed cone is a sight for the eyes and treat for the sweet tooth, so much so that I was literally jubilant like a little kid when I got mine.

You place your order and pay at the cashier, before receiving a number. When it is your turn for the ice-cream artist to your cone, the number will show up on a beeping screen. Each cone takes approximately a minute to make.

Other foods to try in Milan:

1. Risotto Alla Milanese
The Risotto Alla Milanese is a basic risotto made from saffron and cheese which can be found throughout all of Milan. Depending on the menu, it can also be accompanied by a meat. However, be sure to avoid trying it in the central area of the Duomo.These are often overpriced and you can be sure to find the dish at a better quality in the more local trattorias. Mine was had last minute at a restaurant near the Centrale train station, as we didn't have time to venture further. Be sure to check out the good places to go for it!

Risotto Alla Milanese (€ 8)
2. Coffee
Not just in Milan, but throughout Italy. Given that this is the country where Lavazza coffee originates and where the coffee culture is a daily routine, it cannot be missed, even for those who are not regular coffee drinkers. One special coffee that the Milanese take in particular, more than other regions, is the Cafe Al Ginseng. It is coffee flavoured with ginseng extract, and is said to have aphrosidiac properties. I wanted to go to an iconic cafe, Pasticcerie Marchesi, which has a history of 200 years at the same location. Unfortunately, it was closed on Mondays, so I had the Cafe Al Ginseng at another cafe nearby - Antico Caffe. The Caffe Al Ginseng was a tad on the sweet side, but the coffee itself was really aromatic. Definitely worth a try. Note that there's a difference in prices of taking away the coffee and having it in the cafe (sometimes listed as Salon price), In this case, the difference was 1 euro (€ 2.30). 

Caffe Al Ginseng (€ 2.30)

3. Pastas and Pizzas
Have as much as you can, and it is generally hard to do wrong by ordering it in any eatery. In Italy, pizzas also come in white form apart from the tomato (red) base that we see often. Order your normal pizza (pepperoni etc) and ask for Pizza blanca- just with a layer of cheese and toppings or sometimes cream sauce. It is a good alternative to the tomato base, and delicious as well, though some may beg to differ. 

As a last tip, Italians generally don't speak fluent English, but they are more than willing to try and are often helpful, so don't be afraid to ask, and always, end off with a grazie(graht zi).