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Going to Milan - restaruant recommendations

Going to Milan - restaruant recommendations

Oct 22nd, 2010, 12:12 PM
  #1  
TC
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Going to Milan - restaruant recommendations

I've completely turned around the last two days -- from spending my anniversary in Amsterdam or Paris, to spending it in Milan. (don't ask!)

I've read a great little article on eating aperitivi in Milan. It really sounds like one could just nosh through "happy hour(s)" without ever really stepping foot in a true restaurant. However, we really should have a least one night eating someplace charming for our anniversary. For those of you who live in Milan or travel there often, what would you recommend?

We DO NOT WANT over the top fancy. We adore tiny, intimate places with great, homey food and wonderful wine. We consider charm something that comes from the people, the location and the food -- not just pricey food. We will eat most anything, but would probably appreciate a place that has a real Milanese flavor since we are in that city. It will be late November, so don't suppose dining outside is an option.

We will most likely be in a hotel near the train station, but will be using Metro to get around. Location isn't an issue. Please be specific with addresses if you can.

Thanks.
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Oct 22nd, 2010, 01:24 PM
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You should frequent a couple of websites to answer your questions:

One is a website called "Spotted by Locals" which has a lively Milan section.

Another is called Ciao Milano which will really familiarize you with the city and its life.

Third, check out the websites Chowhound and eGullet for up to date recommendations on Milan.

I also highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet Traveler to see not only his recommendations for where to find truly Milanese restaurants in Milano, but also what to look for in terms of local specilties on the menu.

I'm not sure why you are staying near the train station. It's not the most fun part of the Milano and, even if you play to do lots of day trips, staying in other neighborhoods still puts you in easy reach of the train station.

But if you are around the train station, you might appreciate knowing about this gelateria (the recommendation is from Fred Plotkin's website:

Gelateria Sartori, Piazza Luigi di Savoia, www.gelateriasartori.it
Since 1937, Sartori has had a kiosk on one of the most unattractive corners in Milano. If you walk the length of the railway station on the east side of the building (Piazza Luigi di Savoia), passing the buses that go to Malpensa and Bergamo airports, you will reach a tunnel above which trains rumble. Just before entering the tunnel you will spot Sartori tucked into the corner on your left. They cannot make the ice cream here, so it must arrive from somewhere else. Whatever their method, I always take the time for a cup of gelato when I am in this part of town. And if I am arriving from the airport, I drag over --bags and all-- for that first taste of gelato in my jet-lagged mouth. The cream ice creams (chocolate, vanilla, nuts, egg) are good to very good but the fruit ice creams (and granitas) are generally superb. On a recent visit, mandorla (almond) was a big disappointment, crema (egg yolk, milk and cream) was quite pleasing and pompelmo (grapefruit) was amazing. The few other grapefruit gelati I know in Italy (such as Giolitti in Roma) are pink or red and have a higher level of natural sugar. But Sartori used yellow or white grapefruit and added little or no sugar. The result was sparkling in mouth feel and flavor and even had a grapefruit pit. I like pairing grapefruit gelato with cherry, but Sartori had none. There was very good strawberry and, though the flavor match was not ideal, it was excellent too.

PS, TC: Given your description of the kinds of eating places you enjoy, consider eating one of your lunches at Latteria Vecchia at Via Unione, 6 (a stone's throw from the Duomo, look on a map). It's lunch only, mainly vegetarian, and closed weekends.

http://www.accessitaly.com/post/Rest...-in-Milan.aspx
zeppole is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2010, 02:01 PM
  #3  
 
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About 9 years ago I visited Milan and stayed at the Hilton which is close to the Centrale Train Station. From there we walked to a wonderful restaurant called "Thieves Inn". It is in a historical building with family atmosphere and typical Milanese food. When the owner discovered it was our first trip to Milan he said he was going to prepare a typical Milanese dinner--Osso Bucco. It was absolutely delicious and I haven't tasted Osso Bucco in North America as good as that since.
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Oct 23rd, 2010, 06:49 AM
  #4  
TC
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Many thanks to you both. What wonderful recommendations. I shall get right on finding the books and web sites you suggest.

As to why we are staying near the train station -- cost. I am being sent to Milan on business. Our organization has a deal with Crowne Plaza and I can stay for 90 Euros per night. I can't find anything in central Milan for nearly that price. The CP is right across the street from the Sondrio Metro stop. It seems to be easy access to the rest of the city. The Metro sounds amazingly simple to navigate -- very similar to NY. We've used metros all over the world, so we aren't intimidated by the travel.

Zeppole, is that area of Milan safe? I will be on my own for a day before DH arrives. I won't be wandering at night alone, but like to know in advance if I need to have special concern. Many thanks again.
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Oct 23rd, 2010, 08:11 AM
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Listings from the SlowFood guide include the following; all would be in a moderate price bracket:

Le Vigne (you can find all the addresses online)

L'Osteria del Treno

Martin Pescatore

Trattoria degli Orti

Tagiura

Trattoria Milanese (gets lots of press in English)

Trattoria del Pescatore

La Piola
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Oct 23rd, 2010, 08:34 AM
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That's a great deal on a Milan hotel and I wouldn't pass it up either. To reassure yourself about safety issues, look up your hotel on Tripadvisor and see what recently travelers say. If people find a neighborhood dicey, they say so on Tripadvisor right up front.

Milan in general is quite safe, even at night. Some neighborhoods are more upscale than others. Similar to central train stations the world over, you will see some down-and-outers hanging about the train station, and some ladies and boys of the night strolling. Immigrants from all over the world live in that part of Milan, and a number of popular African and South American restaurants in the area attract homesick customers -- and some Americans expecting to find nothing but Italians in Italy's big cities get the jitters. But in truth, the Milan Central train station is lively with foot traffic and very well used by all sorts of travelers and residents, and it has a much better reputation than its counterparts in Rome, Genova, Napoli and even Firenze.

All the usual precautions about big city awareness apply as you already know (ie, I wouldn't go looking for a late night gelato behind the train tracks. But women walking alone and using public transportation are a common sight all over Milan, well after dark. You'll be further reassured to know that a taxi from anywhere in central Milan to your hotel doorstep or vice versa will not put much of a dent in your wallet if you have any uneasiness.

You are right the Milan metro system is much like New York's, but you bone up on how to purchase tickets, or ask at your hotel.
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Oct 24th, 2010, 10:14 AM
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We have stayed several times near the station using Starwood Points and it was perfectly fine. While not as lovely as our stay near the Duomo, it never felt unsafe and I run alone in the early mornings while my mom (79) goes to church when she is with me. She has walked the few blocks to the nearest church alone and never felt unsafe.

We quite enjoy L'Osteria del Treno and I would recommend it as a place that fits your description quite well. Nice wine list, well prepared food, cordial service, popular with locals and reasonably priced. We book a late dinner so we can enjoy the characteristic Milanese happy hour, always a pleasure.

Milan is a great city - enjoy!
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Oct 24th, 2010, 10:41 AM
  #9  
TC
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We are very excited. Thank you all for your tips. I'll print and take each and every one.

I know there are many posts here regarding Cinque Terre. I've read most. Wondering how one can do an "independent" day trip there. The tour buses are quite pricey $270 per person. Would we need to rent a car or is there a train from Milan to the first little town and then the ferry? Any insight will be appreciated.
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Oct 24th, 2010, 11:01 AM
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It's not impossible as a day trip, but it is a long one. You essentially would be popping in for lunch. There are many trains from Milan, most of them requiring a switch in Genova, but there is are a few that are just a one seat ride.

I don't know what time of year you are traveling, but I would only go on a nice day (and that also means a day that isn't gaspingly hot). If your real desire is to enjoy a characteristic mediterranean, Ligurian town and a great lunch by the sea, you don't need to go all the way to le Cinque Terre.

Depending on what you want to eat, there are credible restaurants in scenic Nervi (for focaccia col formaggio), in Camogli (Rosa's for seafood and pesto), in Chiavari (for farinata at Luchin) , or Sestri Levante (for octopus at Polpo Mario, or seafood and pesto at El Pescador).

If lunch isn't the point, and you are traveling in the summer, you might find it pleasant to take the 2pm train out of Milan and arrive in on the coast between 4 and 5pm. That is the gelato/cocktail/and sunset hour, and in warm weather it can be great to enjoy a sunset dip in the sea, when most of the sun-worshipping crowds and kids have abandoned the shore. You probably won't want to stay for dinner since the late night trains get back to Milan too late, but you can pick up snacks and quite delicious food from the stores that stay open until 7:30, and munch on the train ride back.

Any ambitions to do some serious hiking in le Cinque Terre probably require spending the night.
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Oct 24th, 2010, 11:20 AM
  #11  
TC
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Zeppole, Thank you so much. We are going to Milan next month -- late November. I know, not the ideal season, but we don't mind a bit of rain. However, maybe not the right time to photograph Cinque Terre. A friend has made us swear to go to Portofino for the scenery. Maybe we don't need to go all the way to the five villages to get the atmosphere we desire. Your suggestions are interesting. Would Nervi be easier and just as beautiful?
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Oct 24th, 2010, 11:57 AM
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If you want to go to Portofino and do it efficiently, you should take the train to Santa Margherita Ligure, and take a bus or boat from there (or walk). In late November, you need to head out fairly early, because the sun sets earlier and earlier.

The fishing villages of Liguria share the same characteristics: they are pastel towns, with trompe l'oeil decoration, that rise up from the blue sea into the olive tree clad hills. Some slope up gently. Others quite dramatically from the sea. The classically picturesque towns are: Camogli, Portofino, and the le Cinque Terre towns. Chiavari is a unique Renaissance town on the coast, with arcaded streets and lively markets. It's a hoot around 5pm, when everybody spills into the streets. (It sits on the train line, but the life of the town isn't along the waterfront, but just 300 meters in, closer to the hills).

All the towns will be sleepy in late November, but Portofino and the le Cinque Terre have become so touristy, they are simply tourist shells all year round with few locals left. Perhaps you would enjoy heading straight to Portofino, which is indeed beautifully positioned, but while the daylight is still on, make a stop at Camogli or Chiavari to see a less cruise-ship touristy side of Liguria.

The trains may not be good for this, but it can be fun to stop at La Marinella in Nervi for eats on the way home, since it is open continuously and is really quite close to the Nervi train station. Genova has incredibly good food -- but it is quite a challenge to zip into the city as a first timer and find what you are looking for. If you are willing to throw a wee bit of money around, and you find some doable night-time trains, you could leave the coast at dark, head into Genova by train, get in a taxi and hand the driver the address of a good Genovese restaurant. The taxi ride would be cheap, the pesto would be outstanding, and so would the fish -- and you can ask the restaurant to get you a taxi back to the train station. Chowhound might be a good place to look for restaurant recs in Genova if that plan appeals to you. I will recommend Da Rina (any taxi driver would know it) for reasonably priced classic Genovese cuisine, meaning pesto pasta and fresh caught fish cooked with the local olives.

But having a dinner and a train after means getting back to Milan after midnight.
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Oct 24th, 2010, 12:38 PM
  #13  
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Zeppole, Would it be possible to simply rent a car for one day in Milan to make this trip? That way we could pick the day with best weather and take our time for the return. We could drive to Santa Margherita Ligure, put the auto in a car park and take the ferry to some of the other small villages. Or we could drive directly to Portofino and take the boat from there. Yes?

How long is the drive from Milan? Is it difficult?
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Oct 24th, 2010, 02:13 PM
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I don't know if one day rentals are possible. You'd have to ask around. But bear in mind that unless you return the car at either Linate airport, you would need to return the car in Milan by the time the rental office closes -- probably 7:30. Which means leaving the coast fairly early, certainly by sunset.

I don't particularly like the drive from Milan to the coast, and vice versa. I've never tried it in the dark, but I doubt I'd find it a pleasure. It is the historic mountain pass converted to an autostrade, which makes it rather unusually twisty for a high-speed road, and on beautiful weekends it is very popular with recreational motorcyclists, who speed on it like a slalom-run. (If you go on a weekday, they won't be there). And any other road you could take is incredibly difficult -- a real adventure, not for the faint of heart at all. You sweat bullets.

While I appreciate that a car gives you freedom from train schedules, it really doesn't much best the train. You can still pick the day with the best weather using the train. You won't need to buy tickets in advance. Just know the train schedule in advance. I'm not sure the train ride is all that much longer than driving, especially when you budget in picking up the car rental and driving out of Milano and driving around in circles looking for parking in the Riviera.

It is easier and cheaper to just get off the train in Santa Margherita Ligure and walk 5 minutes to the ferry dock or bus stop. Also, If you dont' have a car, you don't have to go back and pick it up -- meaning, after you've seen Portofino, you can take a ferry to Camogli if they are running that day, or to Rapallo or Chiavari. Then you can catch the train from there to another village or back to Milan. It is easier to take trains and buses and ferries between the villages than drive between them and park in them.

As I re-read my own previous post, I'm thinking it's probably wise not to get too ambitious with a glamorous run to the Italian Riviera. Decide whether you would like to see Portofino or le Cinque Terre. If the first plan to be in Santa Margherita Ligure for lunch, visit Portofino (it is a tiny town) and on your way back to the Santa Margherita Ligure train station, stroll through the markets and buy food and wine to take on the train with you for dinner. Linger through sunset. (Bring your own corkscrew and plastic forks!)

If you end up with time on your hands, you can visit another town, either by boat or train. So long as it is not sunday, all the towns have places to buy food to go (Camogli the fewest, and only on the street above the beach), but Rapallo has food-to-go on the streets between the sea and the train station, and Chiavari is an absolute feast of great food to go.

In November, after 8pm, the Riviera towns are a quiet as can be, so you won't be missing much if you are on a train back to Milan, drinking your wine and eating your goodies.
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Oct 24th, 2010, 02:15 PM
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PS: Two more things to know:

Just because it is a nice day in Milan doesn't mean it is nice on the coast (and vice versa!)

On Sunday's, you'll not find many markets open, but some bars will feed you early.
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Oct 24th, 2010, 02:20 PM
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And I just realized that I forgot to say if you would rather see le Cinque Terre, check out trains from Milan to La Spezia. In the short days of November, I think you really probably can't squeeze in a look at both le Cinque Terre and Portofino. You'd end up enjoying neither. I think quite a few shops in le Cinque Terre simply must close up in November to take a break. They are tiny family enterprises and it is the only down time they have.
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Oct 25th, 2010, 07:35 AM
  #17  
TC
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Thanks ever so much, Zeppole. Your help is invaluable. Sounds like the train is the way to make this trip if the weather accommodates. I will print all of your suggestions and take them along.

Grazie
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Oct 25th, 2010, 08:31 AM
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Another great and easy daytrip from Milan would be Como. Take the train, then a boat to Bellagio.
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Nov 4th, 2010, 04:53 PM
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If you're still interested in restaurant suggestions, the best meal we had in two weeks last fall was at a small Mom and Pop place called Trattoria Menghina, which has maybe eight tables-- Mamma does the cooking and Poppa is the front person. One salad, two entrees and a bottle of wine were 55E. It is two doors down from Hotel Antica Locanda Leonardo which is at 78 Corso Magenta, about a block from The Last Supper church.
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Nov 5th, 2010, 05:07 AM
  #20  
TC
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Thank you, dcdee. How did you find this quaint hotel? It looks lovely as well. Can you give me more details on your hotel? What room did you have, any problems, was it easy to walk, many places to eat nearby, etc? Thanks.
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