LOCAL PICK: GRAND’ITALIA (BRERA, MILAN)

After a not-so-quick errand in Milan, I decided to take a stroll around Brera. I wanted to relax and unwind over coffee and pasticcini (little pastries) while brainstorming focus ideas for LML (at the moment, I admit that I’m a bit scatter-brained with ideas)… but plans changed (love when this happens).

On my route from Montenapoleone to Brera, I found everything a bit too touristy (lots of families, lots of cameras). So I continued walking, tried my best to stay out of the heat (god it’s hot in Milan), and searched for a decent place to eat. I came to a point where I thought, “this would be a great time to use the Local Eats app… if they had places listed in Milan” however… just as I turned off of Brera’s main road, I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard “the noise”.

Photo Credit: Yubuk

“The noise” is something I’d like to refer to as the local siren. I heard loud Italian voices, dishes clanging and forks that just touched their plate. I found it!

Grand Italia’s entrance greets you with a huge brick burning oven that’s serving up massive slices of pizza- I’m talking enormous. My first thought, ‘I just found Spontini’s competition.’ Second thought, ‘this entrance would be much more enjoyable in the Winter.’

Moving along, my friend and I were seated immediately, practically elbow to elbow among the other Italians. It was cramped, it was loud, it was everything I expected from an authentic restaurant. So I craned my neck to see the Specials of the Day which were posted high up on dry-erase boards for all to see (the paper place-mats have the everyday pizza, salad, beer & dessert menu, but the specials are posted on the wall).

I considered ordering a “normal pizza” for 5,00 euro, but one slice could feed a small family and I wasn’t about to waste food. Then I thought about getting a trio of first course dishes called Tris di Primi for 8,00 which would’ve been the best of both worlds (a little taste of 3 different first courses in small portions)… however, as my Grandfather used to say “my eyes are bigger than my stomach”. So instead of ordering the sampler to share, I decided to order a plate of risotto milanese and my friend chose the plate of the spaghetti with tomato and olives to start.

The homemade spaghetti was cooked al dente and the sauce was brilliant! Fresh tomato and olives were the perfect combo for this summer pasta dish!

As for the Risotto Milanese, each bite was pure bliss- saffron to the highest power.

As you can tell, both first courses did not disappoint; and as full as I was, and as much as I was suffering from the non-existent air conditioning due to our proximity to the brick oven, I ordered a second course. The options were pretty simple: veal milanese, veal tirolese (speck & brie), veal francese (onion & salami), veal… some other region.

To be honest, I really wanted to try the veal prepared in a different way, but I decided to order the original. After ordering the original, the waitress proposed another option: classic or elephant ear? Umm… if I would’ve known that they were offering portions the size of elephant ears I definitely would’ve gone for the Tris di Primi sampler!! Alas, I stuck with the classic for 11,00 which was cooked very well.

Minor, minor set-back: Do yourself a favor and REFRAIN from ordering the coffee for 1,00. No matter how much sugar I added, it was disgusting. Hands down the WORST cup of espresso I’ve ever had in Italy (or maybe mine was just burnt). If you order a coffee and can confirm this tip, then I suggest you make your way down by Moscova metro and have a coffee at Princi!

OVERALL, totally ecstatic to have found this hidden gem. It’s sandwiched between expensive shops and upscale restaurants… but the quality and prices really make them stand out, especially in the center of Milan. And if you want further proof, you’ll see lines of posh Milanese men and women waiting to pay with their Ticket Restaurant stubs (lunch vouchers from work). Cannot wait to go back- hope to try the pizza and a different version of the veal!

Try it, it’ll be crowded but it’s worth it:

Via Palermo, 5
20121 Milano
02 877759

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