“ Address: Corso di Porta Ticinese 58 / 20123 Milano / Italy „
~~~Why? How to get there~~~
It was great to be back in Italy a month ago. I love everything about Italy, people, food, language, architecture. We had a busy itinerary over the four nights we were there with lots of sightseeing to do, a rock concert and lots of restaurants to visit. We visited 3 restaurants and two cafes while we were in Milan and this is the first of my reviews.
As the hotel we were staying in wasn't up too much my husband decided to treat me by taking me out to a glamorous restaurant so he asked the owner of the hotel if he could recommend one and he came up with Trattoria Toscana which is located at Corso di Porta Ticinese, a street named after the area. He offered to reserve a table for us which we took him up on. There are 3 ways to reach the restaurant, you can take a Bus 94 and get off at the corner of Via De Amicis. From here the restaurant is a five minutes' walk. You can also take the Metro, Line 2 (green) to S. Ambrogio and walk or a Tram number 3 will take you directly to Corso di Porta Ticinese. We took the tram.
~~~Bar and Secret Garden~~~
You might guess by the name of the restaurant that the cuisine served is from Tuscany, yes it is but there are also some Milanese and other traditional dishes from Northern Italy on the menu.
Before I mention the menu let me take you on a tour through the restaurant. Firstly we headed through a narrow entrance to the bar which is very modern and bright. Bare stone walls are the backdrop behind the serving area which has brightly coloured straws, cocktail shakers, and lots of novelties for serving cocktails and rows and rows of bottled spirits. During happy hour a free buffet is served consisting of Milanese dishes. White oval dishes are placed on top of the serving area, filled with hams, bread, risotto, pasta dishes, a bit like in a Tapas bar only the portions seemed larger. You just go up and help yourself, we didn't because we wanted to sit and eat in the restaurant but we did have a beer.
When we came out of the bar we walked through an empty front room into a really spectacular open air candlelit dining room. I was very surprised as I wasn't expecting a secret garden with a small pool surrounded by palm trees to be the centrepiece. All around the pool were hundreds of small pebbles, potted plants and tiny lights. What was even more surprising was the open roof. Looking up into the blue Milanese sky I hoped the roof closed if it started to rain. I'm not too sure about open roofs after the Polish National Stadium scenario where the roof didn't close.
A waiter dressed quite formally came up and asked if we had a reservation. We had and asked us where we wanted to sit; this was a bit tricky as all the tables seemed to be very close together in long lines with hardly any space between. My husband wasn't keen on this layout so asked if there were any tables in a quiet corner. There was one, close to the area where the waiters go to get serviettes, cutlery etc. Not the best of choices but at least we would have some leg room and a bit of privacy.
The ambiance was chatty and quite noisy, this is normal in Italian restaurants, they are a lively bunch. After we sat down I had a glance at the décor, it was pleasant with pale orange walls, wooden support beams, brick floor and lots of black and white paintings of Milan on the walls. The tables were formally dressed with a heavy patterned cloth covered by a white one on top. Chairs were dark wood with spindly backs, a bit hard on the backside and could have done with padded cushions.
~~~Waiters, wine and menu~~~
Two waiters were assigned to our table, one a young chap who was chatty and smiley, the other, much older and slightly grumpy. They both could speak English but as we both can speak Italian well, we conducted the conversation in Italian. The grumpy one asked if we would like to order drinks, we went with a bottle of Rosso di Montalcini. He went away to get the wine and came back with a basket of bread followed by a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. These he placed on the table and then poured the wine into glasses that were already on the table. This is one of my favourite Italian wines. It originates from Montalcini in Tuscany, the grape is Sangiovese, the colour is a deep ruby red and has a fruity bouquet. 20 Euros was the price (eek!) but the wine was delicious and I could taste cherry, mulberry and blackberry infused with gentle spices. While I was in raptures about the wine my husband was getting fidgety because the waiter hadn't brought the menu or any plates, he wanted to dip pieces of bread into the olive oil, so in the end he called him over. This time the young chap came, was very apologetic, went away and came back with plates and menu.
The menu was a typical Italian menu divided into courses; antipasti (starters), primi (first course), secondi (second course) and dolci (pudding). Don't be put off by the amount of food - you don't have to order all four courses unless you are very hungry, I never do and Italians don't always. Vegetables are not usually served with the main dish; you have to order them from the contorni list.
I noticed at the top of the menu, a fixed price meal which looked like good value, including appetiser, 1st course, main meal, dessert and a bottle of wine shared between 2 people, water and coffee. The price was 45Euros. If you left out the appetiser you could have it for 40 Euros. There was a choice of two meat dishes and three fish dishes for the mains. Cotoletta Milanese was one of the meat dishes which I like and swordfish was one of the fish dishes, another of my favourites. In the end we both chose from the main menu but left out the appetisers which seemed to be mainly plates of different hams from the region.
Now, I was tempted to order a risotto Milanese but I knew we were going to visit a famous risotto restaurant in Milan before leaving so I put any thoughts of that delicious meal out of my head. My Primi dish was Gnocchi al Gorgonzola (8.50 Euros) and my husband chose Pappardelle Gamberi e broccoli (9.50 Euros). When my dish arrived at the table served in a deep white oval pasta dish, my husband commented that it looked a bit insipid. I suppose it did and would have looked more attractive if the meal had been served in a blue dish. Basically, it looked like a heap of small balls covered in a blue cheese sauce but the taste was delicious. The Italians class Gnocchi (in Italian means clod) as a noodle but they are really more like a Polish dumpling. They were very light and I had over twelve on my plate. The sauce was slightly thick and creamy, very cheesy fused with sage and nutmeg. I could also taste bouillon or some other vegetable stock which I think was a good choice to add to the sauce as it stopped the sauce from clinging to the roof of your mouth like blue cheese sauces can do. I liked the parmesan topping too.
My husband's dish was much more colourful with sprigs of broccoli, baby tomatoes and fresh pink cooked prawns. It was served on a long platter and garnished with fresh arugula, a herb that looks a bit like a dandelion leaf and adds a bit of a peppery flavour to dishes. He was okay with his primi, he said the pasta ribbons were cooked just right, tomatoes were juicy and the prawns were tender. He would have liked a sauce to blend the ingredients together as there wasn't one. He just added olive oil to make the dish moister.
Should we go with fish or meat? I did think about cotolleta alla Milanese but thought this would be too dry so I ordered Tagliata di Manzo con Funghi (16 Euros). This is a fillet steak cut roughly, served in a mushroom sauce. It is very meaty and red as the steak is rare, the clear sauce was really tasty and had so many flavourings. I could taste lemon, white wine, garlic and rosemary. Porcini mushrooms had been sliced and browned, had a wonderful delicate flavour and then nipetella (herb found in Tuscany) had been added to the sauce which added a woodsy flavour. I didn't order anything else with this dish; I mopped the sauce up with the bread left over in the basket. It was delicious.
My husband also chose a beef dish, Filetto Lardellato con patate saltate. He asked for the meat to be medium rather than rare. This was very well presented on a large white circular plate with five pieces of fillet steak, about 3 cms high, covered in bacon. To the side of the beef were a portion of baby potatoes covered in melted butter and a mixture of julienne courgettes and carrots. The plate was decorated around the edge with swirls of balsamic vinegar. He enjoyed the steak, very juicy and not dry at all, he said the potatoes were tender and the carrots and courgette were how he liked them, they still had a bit of crunch left. This dish cost a bit more probably because the vegetables were included, 25 Euros.
~~~And now for the dolci~~~
You can't go to an Italian restaurant without eating a dessert; the problem is which one do you choose. I wanted something light so I thought the chocolate mousse (5 Euros) might do the trick but it was really filling and was a mousse cake rather than a chocolate mousse served in a bowl. It had rum and coffee in it, loads of cream and really good quality dark chocolate. The top was dusted with grated chocolate and at the side was a poached pear. I think you can guess how I felt about this one - over the moon.
My husband nearly always chooses apple pie if it is on the menu, it was but he decided to be adventurous and went with Torta crema pasticcera e pinoli (5 Euros), a cream tart with a pine nut topping. This was a shortcrust pastry base filled with a dense cream filling made up from vanilla, lemon, cream, milk and eggs. Toasted pine nuts make up the topping with a sticky caramel sauce. It was very filling and he had to leave some, he liked the cream filling as the lemon and vanilla blended nicely but he thought the topping was too rich.
~~~Would I go again?~~~
Oh, I think so. The price for the meal described above with wine was 89 Euros; I think that is okay for Milan. I loved the food and wine but I did think the restaurant was a wee bit over the top for my taste and I didn't like the way all the tables were so close together. It was claustrophobic. I am not sure about the open roof either, it gives the feeling of being outside but you are not and it's a strange feeling. The waiters were okay, not remarkable, I did come into contact with friendlier staff on my trip. I will give Trattoria Toscana 4 stars.
Address: Corso di Porta Ticinese 58
Tel No: (02) 8940 6292
Opening Times: 19.00 - 01.00, Monday- Saturday, Bar: 19.00- 0200
Trams, buses etc. are mentioned above
Toilets are a mixture of Turkish and 'normal.'