We just returned from an incredible vacation where we spent time in Iceland, Switzerland and Italy. The highlight of the trip, though, was our food tour of Milan, Italy. We learned about the food tours by reading Sauce Milan, a local food blog we found during our travel research.
Our tour guide was Simone Muzza, a food writer for Zero magazine, which covers Milan and the surrounding region. We met Simone at Pasticceria Panzera, a local café. It is important to note that cafes in Italy are constantly changing throughout the day. They are like coffee shops in the morning, bars during lunch and the early evening and sometimes they offer dinner at night. We ordered cappuccinos and pastries. Since Italy is known for pistachios, I ordered a pistachio croissant (brioche in Italy) with pistachios from Sicily which was incredible! We learned from Simone that you are supposed to dip your croissant in the cappuccino. We also learned that no one in Italy drinks cappuccino after 11, which is why he had us meet him at 10:00. The only people that drink cappuccino after 11 are tourists!
Next up, we walked over to Eataly. Marnay and I were both surprised that Simone would take us there since it is an international chain, after all. Still, Simone explained to us that Milan does not have many supermarkets so Eataly is a way for residents to get fresh produce from local farms. In turn, it is a way to support local farmers who are putting out great products. He took us to the butcher area where we could take a look at which meats were local (a lot). He also took us to the seafood section where we could take a look at the local fish…just kidding, there no local fish in Milan! Milanese cuisine is full of meat and butter. They didn’t even have olive oil until after World War II. When we were walking around the wine section of Eataly looking at the wines of Lombardy and Piedmonte, Simone told us that “red wine is the only real wine.” It was funny, but it was something that we paid attention to the rest of our time in Milan!
Walking through Eataly made us thirsty, so Simone took us along Corso Como for a midday aperitivo at Zaini. Zaini is actually a chocolate shop, but a few years ago they decided to get in the cocktail game. So, they hired one of the best barmen (another Italian term, thanks Simone) in Milan, Flavio Angiolille, to design a menu. The highlight of our time at Zaini was the crustless open faced sandwiches, known as tramanzzini, that came with the drinks. The toppings for the bread were: anchovies in olive oil, smoked salmon with cream cheese, tuna with red pepper flakes and gorgonzola with chocolate shavings. My favorite was the anchovies, Marnay’s was the salmon. They also gave us green olives, which were so fresh and flavorful. It’s going to be hard to top them back home. All of this food was included in the price of the drink!
We had eaten a lot, but we still had pizza and ice cream left on the tour! Simone led us to a traditional Milanese pizzeria called Coccinella. We were reviewing the huge pizza menu when Simone explained that he doesn’t like ordering buffalo mozzarella because there are a lot of cows in the Northern Italy but very few buffalo. Since we normally gravitate towards buffalo mozzarella, it was an interesting perspective and something that we still think about. We ordered a margherita with cow’s milk mozzarella and a Calabrese with spicy salami. We also got a calzone, which in the traditional Milanese fashion comes only with tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto. Simple but amazing. Everything was also ridiculously inexpensive, something we greatly enjoyed about staying in Milan.
Last stop…gelato! Artico Gelateria Tradizionale is one of the best gelaterias in Milan, according to Simone. After trying it, we can see why. The stars of the show were the salted pistachio and the milk chocolate. Plus, all gelato orders came with a sugar wafer “biscuit”…perfect for scooping!
The tour lasted over four overs and it involved lots of walking, which made it right up our alley. We loved the places so much that we went back to almost all of them during the remainder of our time in Milan. In fact, we went to Pasticceria Panzera every morning to get cappuccinos and croissants! And of course we got there before 11.
Simone was a great host and we recommend the Sauce Milan tour to anyone who goes to Milan. We hope to make it back there soon.