When I launched my Illustrated Travel Stories blog series early this month, I had a dream, and that was to create maps of all the places I’ve been to. This is the second illustrated food map I ever create, the first one being the map I posted about a week ago with highlights from our recent Italy Culinary Tour.
As mentioned in my last post, our gastronomic trip started in Milan, a metropolis nestling ever so quietly in Italy’s northern Lombardy region (aka, Lombardia in native Italian).
Milano is home to some of the world’s most elegant fashion and design brands. It is also a graceful and extremely calm city. We went out on a Saturday night to the very centre of the city, expecting heavy traffic and crowded restaurants, but it was quite mellow and the streets were almost empty.
The people of Milan are very polite and well-mannered. They’re helpful and nice, and like their city, are also quite mellow. They say cities of the north are usually like that. They behave in sharp contrast to southern cities, like Naples (Napoli), were people are more animated and energetic.
An Illustrated Food Map of Milan
In today’s illustrated food map I have included some of the food illustrations and sketches I created during our trip to Milan, in hopes of capturing the culinary adventures my husband and I had in this beautiful Mediterranean county. I’ve also included a couple of locations that I thought were worth including, one being the chic hotel we stayed in.
Risotto, Sea Food, and Pizza in Milano
On our first night out, we had dinner at a restaurant recommended by the receptionist at our four-star accommodation, Hotel Nasco, where we stayed in a beautiful white-on-white suite. If you’re planning a trip to Milano and want to experience an Italian-style hotel, I highly recommend this one as it is very clean and about 20 minutes away from Milan’s centre.
It also has a selection of really good restaurants tucked away in the neighbourhoods surrounding it, one of which is a Michelin star fusion restaurant, called Iyo, located on the same street where we had dinner the second night.
First night: A Milanese Meal
The Osteria delle Corti was such a pleasant surprise. Extremely good food, really high quality, and such a beautiful atmosphere. For our Anti-Pasto, we had Mondeghili (Polpette Milanesi), which are basically Milan-style meatballs that come with a zesty-lemony core, covered in a bread-crumb exterior and fried in butter.
We then moved on to our Primo plate and had the most delicious La Zuppa di Amalfi (cozze e vongole in souté), a generous broth of clams and mussels, served with two slices of toast.
Although traditionally the Secondo is usually a plate of meat or cheese, we decided to try another Milanese dish, called il Risotto alla Milanese. Cooked with saffron, this Risotto is very soothing and has such a heart-warming velvety texture, and thus deserved to be included in my illustrated food map.
Second Day: A Homemade Lunch
My husband had some work to attend to, so I took a stroll round the hotel around noon time on a lazy Saturday. After a while, I felt hungry and found myself standing in front of a Casareccio–style restaurant, called Trattoria al Toscanaccio. As suggested by the name, this rustic restaurant serves food from Tuscany (Toscana), a region in central Italy famous for its capital, Florence (Firenze).
A Trattoria is usually a family-owned restaurant, and this was exactly that. Greeted by the most-wonderful hostess (the mother) with a warm smile and a welcoming demeanour, I quickly felt at home.
I ordered a Bruschetta from the Anti-Pasti menu, and moved on to sea-food rich Spaghetti allo Scolgio, a dish of pasta with prawns and a generous serving of tomato sauce. Price-wise, the meal was considerably affordable compared to the night before, which is a common trait of homemade-food restaurants in Italy.
Second Night: Best Country-Style Pizza Ever!
Milan is where I had the best pizza in the world, and you can say it was the highlight of our Italy Culinary Tour!
The two pizzas we had a couple of weeks ago were baked in a wood-fire oven, and came with a crust that was just way too special.
Before discovering this pizzeria, my husband first took me to Milan’s centre to see the famed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, a magnificent shopping arcade covered with a glass and iron roof. This spectacular mall houses a host of elegant shops belonging to couture brands, like Prada, Gucci, Versace, Todd’s, and Armani. It also hosts a number of extremely expensive restaurants, with frankly somewhat shocking prices for simple Anti-Pasti dishes.
Understandably, we took the Taxi back to our hotel’s district, and found ourselves opposite the Michelin star restaurant mentioned above. That’s where we felt a strong pull towards this chic pizzeria, called Monopoli, named after a town in Italy located in the province of Bari and region of Puglia (aka Apulia) – part of the second leg of our tour.
Let me just say this. When you go to Monopoli, you have to try their out-of-this-world Camagnola Pizza! The topping’s main ingredients are: Tomatoes, Mozzarella, capers, red bell peppers, yellow red peppers, onions, Grana Padano cheese, and olive oil.
The second pizza we had was their Funghi Pizza, which was equally scrumptious.
Italy Culinary Tour: Food Shopping in Milano
Here’s a tip I learnt from my husband for culinary shopping. If you’re planning to buy food from Italy, avoid buying your favourite cheese or tomato paste at the airport, where the prices are almost double the original price. Buy them from places like COOP, or ESSELUNGA, which are two Italian super stores that carry a large assortment of DOP certification products.
And if you’re planning to buy some of Italy’s famed cheeses, go for the dry, long-lasting ones, like Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, or Pecorino Romano, and avoid those that may easily spoil if left out of the fridge, like Mozzarella Di Bufala, or Ricotta.
Food & travel illustration + Illustrated map of Milan by illustrator and artist Yaansoon