Italians from outside of Milan often turn up their noses at Milanese cuisine, saying that il risotto giallo and l’osso bucco don’t hold a candle to the carbonara from Rome or pizza from Naples. For the most part I agree—I too prefer the heady, vibrant flavors of southern Italian food to the rounded, rich flavors of Milanese food. That being said, in the restaurant scene in Italy, Milan wins definitively at the art of Aperitivo.
Aperitivo is a wonderful tradition in Milan that refers to the pre-dinner cocktail hours where people all over the city relax and have a few snacks to tide themselves over until dinnertime. For the upper-echelons of Milanese society, it’s a chance to relax at Biffi with a spritz and watch fashionable men and women walk back from work along Corsa Magenta in a blur of high heels clicking briskly on the sidewalks and swinging briefcases. I hope that sometime in my future, that lifestyle will become a reality for me. However, for students the aperitivo is the best dinner bargain that you can find in all of Milan. For 10 euros at nearly any bar along the Navigli or near le colonne di San Lorenzo, you have full access to a buffet piled high with not only appetizers but also pastas and all kinds of main dishes. It’s a no frills, delicious, and easy dinner to grab with friends any night of the week.
After some research—hard work, I tell you!—I’ve found my favorite aperitivo locations in Milan with the right atmosphere, a hearty buffet, and prices that won’t break the bank.
If you’re by Parco Sempione, head to Bhangra Bar and Duomo. Both offer large buffets and lots of indoor and outdoor seating. If you find yourself by le colonne di San Lorenzo, which is not too far from the IES Abroad Milan Center, nearly any location will do. The area comes alive at night with college students and teenagers in Milan. If you’re still hungry after aperitivo, head to Rossopomodoro for some great, inexpensive, pizza to round out the night. If you’re near the Navigli, head to Spritz (one of the classic aperitivo spots in Milan) or Maya for enormous buffets complete with cheese plates, expansive pasta platters, and a chocolate fountain. Grab a spot at a table outside for some people watching and don’t worry about heading back for another round of food.
If you head to any other city in Italy, you’ll notice that the aperitivo is not done nearly as well as well or to such excess. So, while you are in Milan, live it up and head to aperitivo!