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Leave your old trusted Lonely Planet at home. We have teamed up with good friends and family and asked them to curate the insiders guide to a city or a place they know better than most. Time to visit parts unknown. Here, Emil Alsbo, owner of the restaurants Osteria 16, Mercato and Spaghetteria, shares his best tips to the wonderful food heaven that is Milan.
Before we even started Osteria 16, my business partner Morten Kaltoft and I went on a lot of trips to Italy. Since then we’ve had the pleasure of going South quite often, both for pleasure and business.
For the real Italian feeling with high ceilings and cracked terrazzo floor, we always opt for some random 2* hotel with a good location. As it’s often the case when you go to a beautiful city like Milan, you don’t spend many hours in your room awake. We have a tendency to get in trouble for emptying the mini bar no matter where we stay.
Milan and the surrounding region is the source for much of the produce, inventory and hardware in all three of our restaurants. We visit Milan 6 - 8 times a year and I’m still discovering new things every time I go. It’s a city of contrast. It has both the romantic Italian architecture and a vast industrial area. The industrial area is actually well worth a visit. Even if you are not in the business of cooking and just in Milan on holiday.
In between all the picturesque piazzas and marble churches, Milan has some amazing brutalist architecture. Torre Velasca rise above central Milan and is just an insanely fascinating skyscraper. Into football or not, Stadio San Siro is a brutal piece of architecture worth seeing.
If your looking for an alternative start to the day, visit Ortomercato and Mercato Ittico (fish market) . Both are located in an industrial area between the smaller Linate Airport and central Milan. The market opens at 4 in the morning and if you arrive early, you can see the locals get ready with a coffee and a scratchcard. Quite a sight the first time around. This is where we get a lot of the produce for our restaurants and gather inspiration.
A trip to Milan is not complete without a visit to I Panini Della Befi. Here, paninis are treated as a science and there’s always a handfull of panini educated chefs making fresh ones. Don’t be fooled by looks and location. This is the place.
On some trips, we eat at Trattoria Milanese several days in a row. It’s that good. It’s Italian food exactly how it is supposed to be, and really one of the few places we look to for inspiration. I’ve had some of my best dining experiences here and after countless visits, we’ve become good friends with the staff. Make sure to go to the correct one. There is one or two copycats with the same name. Go for the Risotto Milanese. At least the first time around.
The Milanese have an admirable way of going out. They have a social nature in their DNA and they truly know how to enjoy themselves without worrying about the clock or their iPhones. Copenhageners could learn from that. In Milan you happily wait 30 minutes on your table. Just grab and drink and enjoy the atmosphere.
In Milan, great wine comes at a fraction of the price in Denmark. Same goes for coffee, and almost every corner has a great little coffee place. I’ve come to expect that my order depends on the mood of the guy behind the bar. On multiple occasions I’ve ordered an espresso and received a cappuccino. And vice versa. Lucky they’re only €1 a cup.
Both before and after dinner, we’ve had some decent nights out at the classics, Bar Basso or Bar Magenta. The roof top bar Ceresio 7 is cool as well. The drinks of choice are often aperitivos such as Aperol Spritz, Crodino or Bellini.
If you need a break from the city, Villa Necchi Campiglio is a great place. It’s located on the outskirts of central Milan and preserved in its original look and decoration. Get a drink and chill by the pool. A bit further away, in the region of Piemonte, is the beautiful city of Alba. It’s in the middle of truffle country and a great place to get lunch and look at wineyards. I recommend Bistrot dei Sognatori.
Italy in general can get insanely hot during the summer. Also in the North. I actually prefer to go either during Spring or Autumn when the temperatures are more humane. A city like Milan is no fun during a heatwave.