After an impeccably planned few days in Liguria, I decided to stop obsessively searching ‘must not miss (insert destination)' and ‘insider guides to (insert destination)’, and to do absolutely no research and ‘go with the flow’.
The only thing on my to-do list was to try a proper Milanese Risotto. Nigel Slater, Nigella and Carluccio all bang on about virtues of this bastion of Milanese cooking, and I am essentially their biggest disciple.
After a spectacular day of wandering the streets of Milan (I have a real soft spot for this city), stumbling upon secret gardens, visiting museums, taking artistic shots of ourselves outside various Milanese icons and climbing up the Duomo, we set about on our quest to find a proper Risotto alla Milanese in the trendy district of Brera.
Considering this is supposed to be bulwark of Milanese cuisine, it is surprisingly difficult to find a traditional risotto. Eventually we settled on an Osteria on a pavement in a back street. It was full of Italians and we agreed that, whilst it was in the shade, didn't have the nice music or nice tablecloths other restaurants had, and the waiter seemed to be a Basil Fawlty type, this could only mean that it was truly authentic Italian establishment and thus the best place to taste this regional delicacy.
When said risotto arrived we conceded that yes it did look a bit revolting, but that it must be difficult to make a yellow coloured rice dusted with the pink insides of sausages look aesthetically pleasing. The experience was made worse by trendy looking cafe opposite where, a mere metre away, happy customers were enjoying tables sprawled with big, beautiful burrata served with sun dried tomatoes, cured meats, fresh breads and the largest salad bowls I’ve ever seen.
After we’d quietly gobbled down the meal, I asked my companion what he thought of Risotto alla Milanese. ‘I think that might be the worst risotto I’ve ever eaten’, said he.
There’s a lesson for all in this chronicle.
- Don’t bother with looking for a Milanese risotto.
- If you’re desperate, undertake some thorough research and have a selection of approved restaurants to hand.
- Just because a restaurant looks a bit grubby and a bit busy, does not mean it is a quintessentially Italian establishment. It is probably full of equally disappointed clientele.