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Valerio Visintin’s Beloved Places in Milan

Some call him the “Zorro of food critics”. Others “The Masked Critic”. In my opinion, Valerio Visintin, food author at Corriere della Sera, can simply be defined as an excellent journalist, a great example for anybody interested in this career. Thanks to his prose style (that you can appreciate on his blog Mangiare a Milano) and his ethics: the critic does in fact try all the places he writes about in incognito and he keeps distance from the circus of buffets, press lunches invitations, organized dinners and politely ‘directed’ articles. Which is everything I would like to be in the future and that I try to be in the present – as a proof you can find my mean flop section here, that my readers love too judging from the number of clicks.

Valerio Visintin

Valerio Visintin | © Carrol Cruz and Jacob Sadrak

I am therefore very honoured to have a list of his favourite places in Milan, that he revealed during a pleasant chat we had.

Let’s start from the big names. What are the high-end restaurants that you really appreciate in Milan? 
A great classic, that I always enjoy although the location is ugly, is Aimo e Nadia. Then I would say Essenza di Eugenio Boer in Via Marghera: a little extreme, but it is fun and I enjoy it. And the price is lower if compared to many similar restaurants. Other names…I wouldn’t know: Berton is nothing special, Bartolini at Mudec didn’t impress me.

And the more ‘normal’, but very good ones? 
Although it is recording a slight decline, I always gladly talk about Spazio. The location is nice, the price is great, service is good and the food is as well. Among the less known places I can mention Trattoria del Nuovo Macello in Via Lombroso: it presents a very detail oriented cuisine, with great creative bursts. Among the even more ‘pop’ places: Da Martino in Via Farini, a former deli with excellent pizza and other good dishes.

Let’s play a game: a place for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner and one for after dinner.  
It’s a bad start because I don’t eat breakfast, I maybe drink a coffee at the bar close to where I live. Lunch I would say at Calicantus, a sort of glass box in one of the gardens of Castello Sforzesco. I always suggest it because it is majestic and evocative, in addition to very kind staff. For dinner, since the nice weather is coming, I’d say Osteria con Vista at Terrazza Triennale. Afterdinner at Mag in the Navigli area.

What are your favourite ethnic restaurants in Milan?
My favourite Chinese is Mao Hunan, because it offers more than the usual Cantonese food and the dumplings are fantastic. Otherwise, I love the Libanese restaurants as Dawali, between Romolo and Lodi, and Fairouz in Buonarroti: the latter is newly opened and has the peculiarity of being vegetarian.

It’s time for slating: what are the ‘flop’ places?
An overrated place, that nobody has the courage to tell the truth about, is Sorbillo: the pizza here doesn’t convince me, the prices are crazy, you can’t reserve a table and the noise is untolerable. Anyway, lately I have been eating poorly everywhere: one above all at Enrico Bartolini at the Mudec, but I want to give it a second chance. It was such a disastrous night that it seemed unreal.

You work demands that you eat at a restaurant many times per week: but when you do eat at home, where do you buy the groceries? 
I don’t really go to the markets, I shop at Esselunga as everybody else does. But when I want to indulge into something special I go to Faravelli in Corso Italia: I always find amazing salami there, superb meat and an interesting selection of cheese. They also sell some readymade dishes that are remarkable.

A romantic place: where do you bring your wife?
I wake up early in the mornig, at sunrise, and I bring her to the Darsena. The place at that time of the day is unreal: there is silence, there is no people around and you can find the space for a talk and some romantic moments. Otherwise, always in the early morning, the group of streets behind the Scala theatre is enchanting.

Where do you go when you need to reflect on something or take an important decision?
I love Parco delle Basiliche, although it is currently disturbed by works in progress. As an alternative, Parco Sempione is a great meditation point: in particular the point where there is a natural corridor among the trees that lead to the Castle. The view is priceless from there.

Your favourite neighborhood in Milan?
With no doubts the Navigli: I love this neighborhood very much, I have been living here since I was a child.

A day without food: where would you spend it?
I would visit the little known but beautiful Santa Maria presso San Satiro church, with its ‘special effect’ by Bramante: a magnificence. Or I would have a walk among the courtyards between Col di Lana and San Gottardo, you can get the feeling of the old Milan here.

What is a closeby getaway you would suggest for good food and a visit to something interesting at the same time? 
A place nerby the city that is always great is Antica Trattoria del Gallo in Gaggiano: from there you can have a nice tour in Abbiategrasso, Vigevano or up to Pavia.

Which international city should Milan take inspiration and learn from when it comes to the restaurant scene? 
From almost every city: I feel confident in saying that our city has a lot to learn, even from the smaller cities. I think many things are improvised in Milan, not to mention that two out of five restaurants have something to do with organized crime or money laundring: you can understand it from the extremely high number of new openings and closings, remakes, name changes. However, beside social remarks, a good example to follow is London.

Read the original article on Conosco un Posto. This English version translated by Tamara Ilic.

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