Founded in 1996
La Savoie Travel Poster 1930 by Roger Broders
IN THIS ISSUE
MILAN, PART TWO
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
By John Mariani
Owing to Milan’s international character, finding all kinds of first-rate food from sushi to Indian dosas is certainly easier than in Rome or Florence, and in its number of Italian regional trattorias and ristoranti you’ll find Milan dotted with entries from Sicily, Tuscany, Liguria, Abruzzo and, of course, its own region of Lombardy.
Many have been in the city a long time, and the local favorites are certainly more interesting than the tourist-favored places like those within the Galleria. Since Milan is such a fashionable city, the concierges tend to steer foreign visitors to the most stylish and most expensive spots—some good, some merely expensive—like Pacifico, Niko Romito, Torre in the new Prada building, the Armani Ristorante and Dolce & Gabbana’s Bar Martini.
Good or not, those are decidedly not where the Milanesi eat regularly. Smaller trattorias are more their style, and cheaper.
Via Tivoli 2
Rovello 18 is a perfect spot to eat before or after visiting the nearby Pinacoteca di Brera, and, accordingly, has drawn a clientele from the arts community since 1950, when an earlier version was opened by Pierino de Liguoro. Two generations later, in 2002, Cinzia de Liguoro and her son, chef Michele de Liguoro, opened Rovello 18.
Since her recent retirement, Michele has kept this darling place bustling. Its success is based on a short, changing, hand-written menu and a cache of more than 800 wines. English is readily spoken, and prices include tax and service.
Downstairs is a cozy, small room with gauzy draperies and upstairs a slightly larger one overlooking the street, with beamed ceilings, modern Italian art, a wine cabinet, white tablecloths, Murano glassware and very good lighting throughout. Service is attentive and very amiable.
I began my lunch with artichokes with a creamy fonduta that had been browned on the top with hazelnuts (€15). There is a turmeric soup (€12) and a risotto laced with assertive taleggio cheese (€15). I loved the agnolotti del plin with butter and sage (€15), a Piemontese pasta of tiny stuffed packets. Spaghetti alla chitarra (€15) is a classic Abruzzese tomato-based dish teeming with hot chili peppers, puntarelle greens and guanciale ham.
Italian regionalism appears throughout the main courses, too, from amberjack cooked with eggplant Sicilian-style (€25) to the Piemontese vitello tonnato with its creamy tuna mayonnaise on filet of veal (€20). There is, of course, a crisp vitello alla milanese (€30).
The signature dessert is the Cinzia chocolate-hazelnut torta (€9) as well as cold egg nog and biscuits (€9).
While there are plenty of wines under €50, this is a list with extensive holdings in rarities from every region and is well worth perusing before ordering your meal.
Rovello 18 is open for lunch and dinner daily.
Via Bagutta, 1
Having warned of being wary of stylish places to dine, I must say that I love Paper Moon, which is located on one of the most stylish streets in the city, Via Bagutta. (Incidentally, a competitive restaurant called Bagutta, once popular with journalists, has closed.) But before Milan became a fashion capital Paper Moon was around, since 1977, run by Pio Galignani and his wife, Enrica Del Rosso, who were the first to bring really good pizza to Milan. They named their trattoria after a favorite American movie of 1973 starring Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum.
When pizza was far from the ubiquitous dish it now is in Italy, Paper Moon’s version was not in the floppy Neapolitan style but was instead thin and crisp crusted. Lesser pizzaioli have mimicked Paper Moon’s pizzas by making them thin and dull as crackers, but the original has just the right yeast-rich heft and chew.
For that reason it became the rage in the 1980s with the skinny fashionista crowd, and the owners wisely opened a place in New York (now closed), followed by Istanbul, Manila, Hong Kong, Doha and Goa. Of these I cannot speak, and chains are of little interest to me, but the Milan original still retains the same la dolce vita spirit and good food it has always had. Snootiness is not part of the place’s character.
The restaurant’s two-level décor is, after many years, still quite stylish in black, beige and white, with wicker chairs, roses everywhere, its walls hung with fine movie star photos.
Once you sit down you’ll be treated to complimentary hot strips of olive oil-coated pizza bread called schiacchiata, which goes well with the beef carpaccio and the bresaola (€18). There is also a generous assorted antipasto buffet (€11).
There are 13 different pizzas available (€12-€17), from one with Gorgonzola, taleggio and parmigiano to another of tomato, mozzarella and artichokes. Pizza tartufata is a lavish version, with fresh mozzarella, fontina, funghi porcini and white truffle cream.
Pastas are also excellent—one of the best potato gnocchi lavished with Gorgonzola (€14) I’ve ever tasted, as is the risotto, simply cooked with butter and parmigiano or with peas and asparagus (€15). Pappardelle alla Paper Moon with smoked pancetta bacon, tomato sauce and cream (€16) is richly satisfying and exactly what I wanted to eat on a peltingly rainy autumn day in Milan.
For a place so well known for its pizzas, Paper Moon has a number of secondi and griglia items, including a tartare of beef (€23) and veal chop alla milanese with arugula and cherry tomatoes (€28).
For dessert have the light semifreddo with espresso.
The wine list is fairly extensive, with bottles from all over Italy.
So, while it’s true that Paper Moon gets a stylish Milanese crowd, what better place to brandish the shopping bags you just acquired next door at Cesare Attolini?
Open Mon.-Sat. Tax and service included in the prices.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
29 E 20th Street (near Fifth Avenue)
Sushi restaurants in New York seem to be gaining on Italian in sheer numbers, though most are run-of-the-mill with mediocre seafood product. Then there are the ultra-exorbitant sushi bars in imitation of those small counters in Japan where one person can easily blow $500 in a tasting menu decided by the chef, despite décor that more or less begins and ends with a polished counter and a view of the seafood and sobersided itamae carving it.
Mizu, in the Flatiron District, is, with the exception of the high prices, more like the latter and far and away better than the former. Indeed, it is a bargain for first-rate seafood and imaginative dishes.
There’s not much to the décor—basically a low-lighted 70-seat room with bare tables and a brightly lighted sushi bar and counter to the rear. The reception by owner David Sunarto will be warm, the service cordial; the food will be exceptional, from dumplings and sushi to special dishes created by partner-chef Nakao Hirakata and his staff.
Now seven years old, Mizu has a very regular clientele, and at lunch reservations are always necessary; on weekday nights, the crowd piles in before six, but empties out by nine.
When I first perused the menu, which took some time, I wondered whether a selection of so many dishes could possibly be handled with equal aplomb, but after an extensive tasting from most categories, I saw no lapses in preparation and was delighted by the chef’s special dishes, like the lustrous “white tuna truffle,” quickly seared tuna dressed with truffle oil and yuzu, and a carpaccio of yellowtail with yuzu and jalapeño chili pepper, reflecting a Peruvian-Japanese connection. The fact that these dishes cost only $15 each is nothing short of amazing.
We began our meal with crisp, pan-fried gyoza tuna dumplings over guacamole ($7.50), rock shrimp tempura with a spicy creamy sauce and crispy golden onions on top ($12), and fried calamari with a sweet chili sauce ($11). We also were delighted by a couple of chef Hirakata’s generously proportioned signature rolls: the “Gramercy” ($17) was done with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, dashi nori and wasabi mayo, and the “Crazy Toro” ($22) of spicy tuna, avocado inside Cajun-seasoned toro tuna with eel sauce, crunchy tobiko eggs, scallion, jalapeño and Sriracha. Additionally, among all these seafood dishes, there is also a first-rate honey wasabi tuna steak ($30).
We’d already eaten a good deal by the time the “sushi & sashimi for two” ($75) arrived. This dish, with 10 pieces of sushi, 14 of sashimi, a spicy tuna roll and Alaska roll, is intended for two but fed four of us, and we still took some home. It was a beautiful array of various species dependent on availability—fluke, striped bass, salmon, toro, madai, sweet shrimp and more—and, served at the right temperature, every one of them had its own distinct flavor.
We skipped dessert out of satiety, and left Mizu extremely happy, knowing we’d had some superb Japanese food at remarkably reasonable prices. Our bill for all these dishes, plus beer and sake, came to far less than it would have been at Sushi Ginza Onodera or Takashi, and less than the price for one person at Masa.
Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch; dinner nightly.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
The wine industry goes into a frenzy mode after Labor Day in order to stock up and promote new offerings for the holiday season, but you’ll have to wait until spring for further new releases to come on the market, when matured vintages are ready to ship and the industry gears up for summer sales.
Add to this the uncertainty about wine prices
if Trump dumps new tariffs on French wines and
how Brexit will affect wine
sales. January is a lull period when,
fortunately, there is still a very good
supply of myriad wines from all over at
post-holiday prices. Here are several I intend
to enjoy for
the next few months.
ARNALDO-CAPRAI 25 ANNI MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO 2015 ($65-$95)—The “25 Anni” refers to the 25th anniversary, back in 1993, for this consistently admired producer of 100% Montefalco Sagrantino in Umbria. The wine spent two years in oak barriques and eight in the bottle, so it is at a maturity now that shows off the virtues of the grape’s highly tannic body, which needs time to soften. Be aware, though, that this one clocks in at 15% alcohol, so you need a hearty food liked seared steaks or stew to match up. Its price is all over the map: I see it being sold for $65, which is a very good price, and as high as $100, which is too much.
VIETTI BARBERA D’ASTI TRE VIGNE 2017 ($18)—Once you get into the cru appellations for Piedmont’s Barbera, the wines become very good, very easy to drink and usually sell at a very reasonable price, like this from Luca Currado Vietti, a fifth-generation winemaker. It spends a judicious 14 months in oak, and it’s wholly ready to be enjoyed right now and goes with just about anything that does not swim in the sea. With truffled sauces, it’s terrific.
LOS CARNEROS CHARDONNAY 2016 ($23)—From
the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley
comes this very likeable, well priced Chardonnay
very much in the California
style but without the overly oaky aftertaste of so
many. It ages on its lees
for nine months, allowing the fruit to come to the
front, and, now three years
old, its age has given it complexity, and its
alcohol of 14.2% just skirts
being over the top. A good wine with poultry.
LAURENT PERRIER BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NATURE ($90-$100)—This is Laurent-Perrier’s new 100% Chardonnay cuvée in a zero dosage style, aged for six years. In fact, Laurent-Perrier was a pioneer of zero dosage Champagnes going back to the 19th century and introduced as what was called “Ultra Brut” in 1981. I’m not always a fan of zero dosage (also called pas dosage) Champagnes because their lack of sweetness detracts from the fruit, but this example is very much a fruit-rich sparkler and for that reason makes for a great first course wine or with shellfish of any kind. I’ve seen it in stores for as low as $70.
CHÂTEAU LE GRAND MOULIN COLLECTION GRANDE RÉSERVE 2015 ($13)—I know little about this winery from Bordeaux’s Côtes de Blaye appellation, but for thirteen bucks (I’ve seen it listed at $30, too), you get a delightful taste of what these local Bordeaux wines can be, this one a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Four years of age give it a more formidable body than you might expect, especially for a region known better for its abundant white wines, much of which blended into Cognac. For everyday drinking and much satisfaction, this is the kind of French wine that may well survive tariffs.
GRUET MÉTHODE CHAMPENOISE CUVÉE DANIELLE 2014 ($15)—An American sparkler made in the méthode champenoise for $15? Anything’s possible and its origin in Albuquerque, New Mexico, doesn’t sound encouraging. But the winery has French roots, via the Gruet family of Bethon, France, with its first releases in 1989—it is now a partner with Precept Wine—and has managed only to improve its reputation among American sparkling wines since then. The vineyards are at 5,000 feet and get nice and cool at night, keeping this a very refreshing rosé.
LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL CHAMPAGNE 2007 ($270)—Given its price, I don’t get much Cristal in my diet, so I enjoy it only with family or close friends when I have it. Its history remains romantic: As of 1876 it was Czar Alexander II’s favorite, and it is only made in the best vintage years, usually a blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir, aged six years and left for another eight months after disgorgement. (Each bottle has a number.) It is an elegant wine, full bodied, with a lovely light gold color. With caviar you have a historic match, but it’s equally as good with a terrine of foie gras, or just before a sweet dessert.
SOUNDS LIKE AN ANTIDOTE
TO SOYLENT GREEN
IF SHE LIVES TO BE 88 YEARS OLD SHE
MAY PERFECT HOW TO BUTTER TOAST!
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