Uncorking Italy: Milan’s Wine Renaissance

Our search for the real Italy began when we landed in Milan. We wanted to dispel preconceived notions about Italian culture, food, and wine and start fresh in the country to discover the origins of what we have come to believe in Italy and what being Italian is. What New Yorkers and Americans think about Italy differs from what Italy truly is. 

Some famous Italian dishes in the states (such as spaghetti and meatballs) are either complete American inventions or solely from southern Italy and Sicily, distinct from their Northern counterparts. 

We were on a quest to find not just authentic cocktails, wines, and foods but the best of the best. We wanted to experience and discover what makes the perfect Aperol Spritz in the country where it was born.

Nepentha Club

Since we still had plenty of time to check into our hotel, we decided to walk through the city center, enjoying views of the awakening city. 

We passed the Nepentha club, where Diego worked in his youth. The place was closed due to the early hours, but Diego is happy nevertheless. We are thirsty and slightly hungry, so we look for the nearest place that just opened for breakfast.

Piazza Del Duomo

The Piazza Del Duomo, bathed in the dramatic glow of the morning sun, stood peacefully quiet, a stark contrast to the bustling lines of tourists it would soon welcome. 

This iconic square was on the cusp of its daily transformation, preparing to host crowds of visitors drawn by the allure of luxury shopping and the enchanting history embedded in its stones. 

Amidst this anticipation, the promise of exclusive handbag boutiques and the spirited chants of soccer fans filled the air, blending tradition with the vibrant energy of contemporary Milanese life. 

In this historic heart of Milan, the morning’s tranquility was a silent witness to the enduring legacy of commerce and culture, set against the backdrop of the cathedral’s majestic spires.

Scala Restaurant

After meandering through Milan’s labyrinthine streets, we found respite at Scala Restaurant, nestled mere steps from the grandeur of the Duomo. Amidst the city’s hustle, we observed the parade of Italian workers, their blue suits and crisp white collars a testament to Milan’s sartorial elegance.

Our order of Aperol Spritzes arrived, shimmering with the promise of refreshment, yet the first sips revealed a peculiar taste. It was as if the essence of the drink had veered off the traditional path. 

Glancing at our watches, we noted it was only 10:30 a.m. Perhaps our senses were still clouded from the journey, and we still needed to recalibratenot yet recalibrated to Milan’s vibrant flavors. 

Deciding to retreat, we headed back to our accommodation, anticipatingthe anticipation of the evening’s escapades urging us forward.

Grand Cafe at Tre Marie

En route to our accommodation, we chanced upon the inviting Grand Cafe at Tre Marie, a charming establishment conveniently located near our stay. It boasted alfresco tables bathed in generous sunlight. 

The day’s warmth escalated rapidly, the sun’s embrace verging on, overwhelming as if its rays were laser-focused on us. Yet, in the peculiar dance of light and shadow, stepping into the shade offered an instant chill, mirroring the unexpected coolness of a San Francisco summer.

We indulged in an array of delicacies: plates laden with thinly sliced prosciutto, luscious smoked salmon, and a crisp, fresh salad, all complemented by a bottle of robust red wine. 

It was here, amid the café’s serene ambiance, that Diego’s tensions visibly melted away. As the clock hands aligned at 1 pm, marking the time for us to retreat and rejuvenate, we collected our memories of the pleasant interlude and headed back, energized for the adventures the night promised.

Stelvio Restaurant

Rejuvenated from our siesta, we ventured to “Stelvio,” a gem tucked away in Milan’s bustling streets, as suggested by a waiter with an evident taste for the finer things. 

The establishment exuded elegance, with its prices mirroring the upscale ambiance. Diego, with a sparkle in his eye, was particularly thrilled about trying the famed “Cotoletta ad orecchio di Elefante” – a culinary marvel that had piqued his interest.

Our gastronomic journey commenced with the Risotto alla Milanese, a dish that promised the rich flavors of Milan with every spoonful. Crowned with succulent ossobuco, the risotto was a harmonious blend of saffron-infused rice and tender veal, dissolving effortlessly on the tongue. 

The pièce de résistance, however, was the Cotoletta ad orecchio di Elefante. More than just a dish, it was a spectacle – a colossal, breaded veal cutlet, elegantly sprawling across the expanse of our table, its golden crust whispering tales of Milanese culinary artistry.

To complement our feast, we chose a bottle of Nebbiolo, a wine that sang with the notes of the Piedmont region. Each sip is intertwined with the flavors of our dishes, elevating the dining experience to celestial heights.

As we bade farewell to Stelvio, hearts full and spirits high, we wandered back through the cobblestone streets of Milan, the memories of our meal a comforting promise of the adventures that awaited us with the dawn.

Bright Morning

After enduring a night filled with Diego’s sonorous snoring, we eagerly sought out our morning caffeine fix. The streets, awash with sunlight, led us to a quaint café. There, Diego savored a rich cappuccino while I chose a robust americano, both potent enough to energize us for the day ahead.

Dolce Gabbana Restaurant

After wrapping up our morning meetings, we sought a spot for lunch, naturally gravitating towards the epitome of Italian luxury: the Dolce Gabbana Restaurant.

To many, the revelation that Dolce Gabbana, a titan of fashion, also boasts a dining establishment in Milan might come as a surprise. The restaurant is a beacon of style and sophistication, occupying nearly an entire block. 

The DG Martini Bar and Restaurant stands as proof of the brand’s flair, featuring an elegant outdoor/indoor atrium, a stylish Martini & Rossi DJ booth, and an array of dwarf trees that set the stage for Milan’s premier people-watching venue.

Here, the crowd is as diverse as it is fashionable, ranging from casual tourists to impeccably dressed celebrities and socialites, each adding to the vibrant tapestry of Milanese life. The DG Martini’s staff, adorned in an assortment of uniforms, adds another layer of intrigue, their roles as varied as their attire, blurring the lines between service and performance.

A particularly memorable staff member stood out among the professional and somewhat theatrical service: a woman in a crisp maid’s uniform, her small clutch hiding a duster used to meticulously clean tables after guests departed. The ambiance of DG Martini Bar, thus, resembled a live theater, buzzing with energy and never missing a beat.

Our culinary journey through the menu explored classic Milanese dishes such as the succulent osso buco and creamy risotto, alongside a selection of Italian pasta and European dishes. Though the menu stuck to traditional favorites rather than avant-garde experiments, the cuisine was crafted to perfection, aiming to delight rather than surprise.

To complement our meal, we delved into the restaurant’s exceptional wine list. We indulged in a bottle of Barolo, known for its rich complexity and deep flavors, a perfect match for the osso buco. 

With our pasta, we chose a crisp and refreshing Soave Classico. Its delicate bouquet and acidity paired beautifully with the richness of the sauce. Each sip was a journey in itself, enhancing the flavors of our dishes and enriching the dining experience.

Leaving the restaurant, our senses were alight with the day’s encounters, a delightful mélange of wine, cuisine, and the colorful tapestry of Milan’s social scene. We departed, slightly tipsy from the exquisite wines and the intoxicating atmosphere, carrying the vivid impressions of a lunch at one of Milan’s most illustrious addresses.

PanEnoteca “Dalla Piazza”

At dinner, we ventured into PanEnoteca “Dalla Piazza,” a charming wine bar nestled in the city’s heart, lovingly curated by sommelier Alessandra Piazza and her cousin. This intimate locale, embraced by locals from all walks of life, presented a stark contrast to the grandeur of the DG Martini Bar we had visited earlier.

Upon entry, Alessandra herself met us with a blend of curiosity and caution, a natural response to new faces in an establishment that prided itself on its local clientele. However, her initial reserve soon gave way to warm hospitality as she expertly suggested a bottle of Visadi Langhe Dolcetto for our table, followed by a toast with Madonna Vittorie Trentodoc, making us feel right at home amongst her regulars.

The evening’s fare was a testament to the beauty of simplicity, with a standout risotto that captured the essence of Milanese cuisine in every bite—comforting yet refined. The menu, while concise, was a thoughtful collection of simple dishes and snacks that spoke volumes of the region’s culinary heritage.

As the night unfolded, the wine bar transformed into a lively salon, with locals taking turns at the piano, their voices intertwining in song, filling the air with melodies that seemed to tell the stories of Milan itself. This spontaneous celebration of food, wine, and music enveloped us in an enchanting atmosphere, offering a glimpse into the city’s soul that could never be found in any guidebook.

This magical evening at PanEnoteca “Dalla Piazza” marked the perfect conclusion to our Milanese adventure, leaving us with memories of laughter, melodies, and the kind of hospitality that turns travelers into storytellers. With hearts full and spirits high, we looked forward to the next chapter of our journey, carrying the warmth of Milanese nights and the promise of adventures yet to come.

To our next adventure! Read Next: Journey to Bologna.