Must-Eat Italy: Three Things to Eat in Milan

Risotto alla Milanese || creative commons photo by Giorgio Minguzzi

It’s impossible to sum up all the culinary delights of an Italian city in just three dishes. But when travelers have only a limited amount of time to visit, it’s important to make sure the absolutely-can-not-miss dishes are at the tippy-top of your dining priority list.

This is how I try to help you find the best Milan dishes.

There are a million incredible things to do in Milan, which I’m not mentioning. I am not talking about the cotoletta alla Milanese. It is a delicious, crispy, and delicious fried dish. I am not going to tell you about Milan’s Cassoeula. It is the definition of comfort food. Panettone, the delicious Christmas bread, is not something I am going to miss. I am restraining my disclosures about the best gelato I ever had at a Milanese Gelateria. There is so much to love about Italy, and you don’t get it all in one day.

This list of three must-try things in Milan will help you to have three unforgettable culinary experiences during your stay.

While you’re there, learn more about and what you can do in Milan.

Risotto alla Milanese

A post shared with GNAMBOX by @gnambox

March 10, 2017, at 5:47 AM PST

There is a common misconception that pasta is the most popular type of Italian food in the country. It isn’t as popular in the north than in the south. While you can find pasta dishes all over Italy, when it comes to regional specialties, pasta is more common in the north than in the south.

In Milan, the risotto is adorned with a golden crown made of saffron.

Risotto alla Milanese, the city’s most beloved dish, is the perfect combination of rice, cheese and white wine. The dish’s distinctive flavor is due to the vibrant red saffron threads.

Lombardy risotto with saffron was first mentioned in 1809’s “Cuoco Moderno,” although rice has been a staple of northern Italy since the 14th Century. Saffron is the most expensive spice in all of the world and transforms what could be a simple stick-to-yourribs recipe into a royal meal.

It is important to note that risotto is usually a primo course (or first course) on a menu. However, risotto al Milanese can be served with other Milanese classics such as ossobuco (see above) or the aforementioned Cotoletta.


Ossobuco, a favorite Italian dish, is one of the most common dishes you’ll see on the menus at Italian restaurants around the world. It may even be something you have ordered – it could be a favourite of yours. You may not have known what it meant all along.

Italian words for “osso”, bone, and “buco,” hole are both the same. Bone with a hole. This is what ossobuco is all about.

It sounds even better in Italian. Duh. It does.

Cross-cut veal shanks are the meat used in an Ossobuco recipe. They slice through the leg bone and leave the marrow within the bone as the prize.

The cheapest cut of meat is the shank. They are lean and can be tough if they are not cooked well. However, they are great for slow, slow cooking in liquids – such as ossobuco. The shanks are boiled in tomatoes, onions and celery until they fall off the bone. You can spread the marrow on any bread as butter (and I know you will). Gremolata, a bright, flavorful garnish made of parsley, garlic and lemon zest, is common. It goes well with the richness and richness of the meat.

As mentioned, this is a classic Milanese dish and is often served with risotto ala Milanese. This combination is delicious and filling, and allows you to enjoy Milan on one plate.


As I did with cicchetti in my list, I have to add aperitivo to this Milan list – it’s a dining experience and not a dish.

Aperitivo’s role in Milanese’s meal schedule is set by the fact that lunch starts at 1:00 pm, but dinner doesn’t start until 9:00pm. This means that you will need something to eat between the time you get home from work and the time you finish your dinner. Enter aperitivo.

Aperitivo is between 6:00 and 7:00pm. It lasts about two hours. Aperitivo is often compared to “happy hour,” however, this is not true. Aperitivo bars do not offer steep discounts or specials on regular menu items. This is what you would expect from a happy hour. Aperitivo drinks may be at their regular price, or even more expensive. You might be wondering what the attraction is. It’s the free buffet.

Each aperitivo bar offers a different selection of food, starting with simple chips and small pieces of pizza to large tables laden with salads and cured meats. Yes, the buffet line is free to all customers who purchase a drink.

Aperitivo nibbles || public domain photo

This is not the time to get excited about a buffet. You can always buy another drink if you wish to get another chance at the buffet. Don’t eat too much. Aperitivo is meant to stimulate your appetite and make you hungry for a bigger meal. The Milanese will be eating dinner later than usual, so it’s important to remember that aperitivo is not a full meal. Follow their example.

You can also do an “aperitivo creep” to visit a variety of bars during the evening, which will allow you to enjoy a fun Milanese night without having to go to the same place over and over again. Enjoy a drink at each bar and then enjoy the buffet. You’ll be satisfied by the end of the evening and will have enjoyed mingling with locals throughout the evening. Make sure you look at the buffet* options before you order your drink.

While cocktails are a common choice for aperitivo orders you can also order a glass wine or beer if that suits your taste. Your beverage does not have to be alcoholic. Although aperitivo is popular in Italy, it is not as common in Italy. However, Milan is the place where cocktail culture is most vibrant.

* Some bars offer a set platter of snacks to go with your drink, instead of the buffet-style self-serve. If you don’t see a buffet on the table, take a look at it. If everybody has the exact same food item (e.g. here or here), then that is what’s happening.

It’s your turn now!

Tell me what three must-eats in Milan you would recommend. Which three things do you look forward to most when you visit Milan?

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