Cafe Cova — After landing and checking into our B&B we wanted to grab something to eat before visiting the Duomo but finding something other than a cafe at 11a was difficult. Several places were either closing or not yet opened and rarely did we find posted hours in shop windows. Eventually we found a cafe and decided to stay rather than take-away – wow, expensive. 15€ for two half sandwiches and a small bottle of sparkling water. The place was semi-busy and oddly formal, not recommended for value or quality.
Birrificio Lambrate — One of the only breweries in the city, we had to check it out since it was only a mile from our B&B. Like many bars in Milan they feature a happy hour buffet with drink purchase, including options such as bread, pasta, risotto, cheesy puffs, etc. All pints are 5€ and there is a range of light to dark with some belgian and english styles represented. Eric tried the Belgian golden (Sambroeus) and I started with the smoked stout (Ghisa) – both were fine. We still had a little while before our dinner reservation so we also split a bock (Lambrote). It was quite busy at 6:45pm but thankfully we were able to find two stools and stake our claim. Some downsides were a pushy flower / key chain vendor making his rounds of the pub and the noise levels which made it difficult to have a conversation. As we left we spotted nearly as many people outside the pub as there were inside.
Osteria Il Melograno — My best meal of the trip came the first night. Our B&B suggested reservations for this small place run by a husband and wife team and it did not disappoint. While she (front of house) didn’t speak much English, he (the chef) came out of the kitchen early on to suggest some wine options and chat a bit. Eric opted for the osso bucco with saffron risotto (awesome!) and I had the spaghetti carbonara (decadent) as primi with carpaccio secondi. The red wine we chose, a 2009 Montepulciano, went well with everything. As with most places in Milan, there was a 2.5€ cover charge which included green olives, crakers and a small basket of bread. I even gave a double kiss to both owners (too much red wine?) because the meal was that enjoyable. Highly recommended!
Giovy Ristorante — We spent most of the day in Parma, so we only had one meal in Milan on Saturday and it was slooooowwww. The evening started with a 20+ minute wait past our reservation time to be seated (offered an apertif but only brought it out after a couple arriving several minutes after us got theirs and I looked annoyed); our table was off in a corner near the wine shelves so not sure if that affected the attention we received (or didn’t, really) but there was an additional 15 minute wait for menus then another ten minutes before anyone came back to take our wine and food order. By now it was an hour after we walked in (~10:15pm) and I was famished. We eventually got an order in for two starters, the wild boar bolognese (right) for Eric and gnocchi (with pears and cheese) for me. Surprisingly, the plates came out fairly quickly and the bolognese was great; Eric cleaned his plate. Once I got over the fact that the ‘gnocchi’ I ordered was nothing like I expected, e.g. ring shaped with cheese in the middle and raw pears underneath, I enjoyed it. We poured our own wine and waited a while for plates to be cleaned, then 20 minutes more to be offered another course even though we had been trying to make eye contact with someone that entire time to order dessert. Ultimately, by the time the waiter came back I was still hungry but tired, so we just asked for the check. Which took another 15 minutes to arrive. We noticed that we weren’t the only people receiving slow service but still, I felt largely ignored for most of the visit and our empty apertif glasses were still on the table when we left.
After exploring a few churches and parks, we wandered over to the Brera district to find a lunch spot. The wine cave place we wanted was closed (no hours posted, of course) and a bit difficult to locate since the road had different names depending on which direction you approached! We eventually found a panini spot, Montmartre Cafe, with tasty sandwiches – Eric had ham and cheese, while I got the speck, taglietello and olive paste baguette. The bread was fresh and the olive paste was very good. Even though we got take-away, one English-speaking waiter helped me out by placing my order with the sandwich makers. At 2pm many places were shutting down, so we took the hint and returned to our room to rest our feet.
Before heading out to the Navgili canal district, I starred a few tapas option on my map. The first place looked okay but we decided to venture a little further out to Drain. Although we passed by some cool street art, we never found the place! We eventually ended up at Manhattan where they were offering 10€ drinks which included the ample buffet. I saw mostly mixed drinks at other tables, but we opted for a glass of wine each instead. Meatballs in a tomato sauce with potatoes were very tender, and the bread and couscous options were also tasty. Given our view of the kitchen, pizza was a popular item. The pasta was just ok, and the pancakes were just plain strange. There was plenty of variety to make a solid meal here and we enjoyed a few small plates with our one glass each before moving on.
Mi & Ti – Although this is billed as a hamburger place (and we were pretty full from the buffet) I had also read that there was a good selection of draft beer so we decided to try it out. After the bartender’s suggestion, I went with Black Lulluby, a delicious chocolate and vanilla belgian-style dark ale. Eric couldn’t get the BQ tripel so he opted for the dubbel, which was very good. We also tried an english ale taster, a little hoppy but nice. The evening was comfortably cool, so we sat at an outside table by the sidewalk where the people and dog watching was fun – including a few asshat drivers trying to maneuver their cars down a narrow street with tables, chairs, and pedestrians everywhere. Very Italian!
On the way back I convinced Eric to make one last stop at BQ, a small bar with several of their own beers on draught (and a large selection of paninis) for two half pints. Eric was able to try the tripel here (he liked the dubbel better at Mi&Ti, but it was good) and I had the Daughter of Autumn, a scottish ale on cask. Glad we made the extra stop to sample a few more Italian craft beers. Note that you could buy a to-go cup for your beer here.