Walking Food Tour of Milan Brera District Review
I had the great pleasure to experience the Milano Food Tour organized by Italy Food Culture. The three-hour walking tour brings you to handpicked specialty food establishments and gourmet shops through the charming Brera district of Milan with a knowledgeable local guide who shares urban folklore, food history and give you tips on pairing foods and wines.
Count your steps not the calories
I started the day by walking to the meeting point in an effort to rev up my metabolism and burn off some calories before the tasting tour began. The meeting point was in Brera at the 24-hour bakery and pastry shop Pititni. My step count was already at 4261, so I didn’t even feel a twinge of guilt eating the cream filled cannoncino pastry and a frothy cappuccino. Debora, our guide, explained that because of the light brown color, the cappuccino was named after the Capuchin monks.
Our group was an international mix of four adults and a baby and our certified tour guide Debora. We worked our way through the streets of Brera, past the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, the Milan fine arts academy. We were given a short art history lesson and tour of the public courtyard and our guide kindly gave us some suggestions on what to see and visit at the art museum.
Mid- morning snack
A Sicilian specialty with a Milanese Twist
Onwards to our next destination, the gourmet deli Rossi & Grassi whose specialties include homemade pasta dishes, a selection of both traditional and rare cheeses, homemade salads and meat dishes. The hectic Milanese business person needs a quick lunch or dinner but will never compromise on quality. That’s why they come here, for a ready made dish to take home or back to the office. There are also a few tables outside on the sidewalk.
Here we tried Arancini di Risotto Milanese. Arancini are traditionally a Sicillian specialty, but here they are made with the yellow, saffron rice of Milanese risotto. The cheesy golden rice balls are a unique treat that you should certainly try while in Milan. Another interesting tidbit from our guide; she told us that artists used saffron to tint paints. Legend says that one of the young artists working on the Duomo frescos put saffron in the rice as a joke, but then the trend caught on, thus Risotto Milanese was created.
We pleasantly strolled past more landmarks and twisted through the enchanting cobble stone streets of Brera, occasionally stopping to window shop at the fashion boutiques, admire the colorful fruits and vegetables of the green grocer or to just simply chat and get to know one another better. Sometimes in our busy lives we forget about the simple pleasure and humanity of strolling and chatting with a stranger.
Old world charm
The most prestigious ham of Italy
We then came to our third stop, Parma & Co. an old world style salumeria, (delicatessen) and bistro. The owner bought the furnishings from an antique butchery dating back to the 1800’s in Turin and had it transferred and installed at their location here in Milan. Prosciutto di Parma is the most prestigious and regarded the best ham of Italy.
Special traditions and regulations have to be met for a ham to get the Parma branding. We tried a variety of prosciutto cold cuts; cotto (cooked ham), crudo (cured raw ham) and culatello (a savory pork loin aged for 36 months), Parmesan cheese that had been matured for nineteen months, all paired with Menabrea craft beer from Biella Piedmonte. This was probably my favorite stop of the tour. The retro décor and old-fashioned furnishing took me far away from the modern metropolis and gave me the feeling of being in another time.
I was already quite satiated but there were still two more stops and a dessert!
There’s still more…
We stopped for an aperitivo at Moscatelli Bottiglieria. Aperitivo is usually a light, alcoholic drink with savory snacks served mid-morning or early evening before a meal. A prosecco (sparkling white wine) or bitter mixed drink are usually served for aperitivo. I tried a “Bicicletta” made with Campari, white wine and a spray of soda water. The Campari is bright red and has a distinctive bitter taste but I quite enjoyed it. One of the other guests tried it and hated it but was immediately offered something new to try.
Our last food stop was at the Pastificio Moscova where we tried an assortment of fresh made lasagna, mondeghini (meat balls) and steamed vegetables. Although it’s called pastifico which means pasta shop, you can really get any specialty food item. It’s a one-stop shop for the Milanese.
Wine tasting with an expert
“Everyone can enjoy wine.” – Giorgio Cotti
We walked through some of the residential areas of Brera and arrived at the Enoteca Cotti wine shop. It looks small from the outside, but inside is a large boutique with floor to ceiling shelves full of bottles categorized by region. A friendly, blonde woman preparing a table for a wine tasting welcomed us. We met Giorgio Cotti, son of Luigi who established the shop in Milan in 1952. Wine has been in the family for four generations and Giorgio enthusiastically gave us a lesson and guided us through a wine tasting of Dolcetto D’Alba wine; a slightly fruity, dry red wine from the Piedmonte region. Enoteca Cotti has over 1000 different labels, with varying price tags. Mr. Cotti prides himself on the variety he offers, assuring his customers that the prices are fair and honest saying “Yes, we have bottles that cost hundreds [of euro] but we also have very good wines at even seven or ten euro. Wine should be affordable for everyone.”
An organic dessert
To conclude the tour, we walked down to the very fashionable street Corso Garibaldi, stopping for dessert at Tasta Gelateria. Tasta only uses organic milk, cane sugar and real flavors and colorings to make their special natural ice cream. I tried a stracciatella (chocolate chip) and coconut ice cream cup. It was smooth and creamy and there were lots of chips in the stracciatella, which in my opinion is very important. 🙂 The coconut ice cream was made with real, grated coconut, not just flavoring. A very nice way to end the tour.
Something for everyone
The Italian diet is so varied; there really is something for everyone. One of the members of the group had some food intolerances, but the guide and the venues were all very accommodating offering alternatives. Apart from the Campari aperitivo (which does have a particular taste, you either love it or hate it), all the food and drinks were highly appreciated and enjoyed by all the guests.
It was a very pleasant way to see Milan’s city center and an excellent way to try not only Milanese specialties, but a little bit of everything Italy has to offer. The walking was slow paced and I think it would be easy for any age. The couple in our group had a baby stroller and did not seem to run into any difficulties at any of the shops. Badly parked cars on the sidewalk caused a little bit of inconvenience but they were able to navigate around the cars.
The final count
At the end of the tour, we all said our good-byes, wishing each other well. I returned to the subway stop to get my train and checked my step counter: it was at 10487, we had done 6226 steps during the tour!
I did not dare try to tally up the calories we ate!
Milano Food Tours are available Mondays to Saturdays for groups up to 12 people.
Article and Photos by Celia Abernethy/Milanostyle.com
The people present in the photos were asked in advanced and had given permission to be photographed for milanostyle.com.
Many thanks to Italy Food Culture who kindly invited Milanostyle.com to experience the colors and flavors of their town. All opinions of the author’s experience are her own and have not been influenced in anyway.