I have no intention of satisfying your aching need to read about “Top 10 Places to Eat in Milan”. This is NOT a food post. I put pictures of food and copied-pasted Google descriptions because they seem to be the only things that you’re interested about and understand. Ouch. (Go find my apology there, somewhere in the main body of the text.) How would I know what are the Top 10 Places when I was only there for two days? How would I know what makes the Top-10-Places when I like my wine with a lot of ice, steak well done and chips soggy and cold? But here. Serving some good rant-violi right up for you. Buon appetito.
Tan’s “Why would you go out and order something that you can cook yourself?” was one of the best rhetoric in our Nottingham days. Nugget of wisdom, people. Nugget of wisdom. A beautiful bylaw that governed our nosh-picking behaviour throughout the student years and believe it or not, lent credence to our terrific budgeting skills.
On the occasions when we decided to eat out, we almost never went for Italian, nor would we pay for pasta – any kind of pasta – and risotto. Why would we?
Two cupboard food that was the least exciting, blokey, barbaric even. And heavy (you didn’t think we went for the dainty Tesco Finests with brush-stroked Italian flag when the 3kg-a-bag penne was sitting there calling our names, did you? I swear, like Goyard, it had our initials monogrammed). Yet, these plain Jacks always beat the bacon and the broccoli to the top of our grocery list because, why? Because after overspending on vodka and Asos, we believed, or at least shopped ourselves drunk to believe, we will always have rice and pasta like one will always have Paris.
These wonderful culinary creations, we never did give them the respect that they deserved.
Things took a turn though after a few years into work i.e. when my slaving away (contractually 9 to 6pm; realistically, not quite the same) provides me with enough to eat pasta and risotto freely in deep wide plate on table with tablecloth.
You know it’s true:
Making pasta at home is loneliness and laziness cuddled up at 8.47pm. After a long day of gossiping and nail buffering at work, you boil your boredom along with your quarter-life crisis, gut problem, ex-boyfriends, dilemma of career choices, credit card bills and trust issues into edibles. Almost like de-sublimation, almost defying the laws of nature.
On the outside, you scoff at pretend-Nigella Lawsons who make Bolognese from scratch on their spotless kitchen island out of pretty Le Creusets. But inside, you are depressed and jealous. So to make things better, you prostrate yourself before the fridge, reach for the 3-month old Sacla, clean up the mould and slap cold blobs of pesto onto your overcooked spaghetti. Screw the label that says consume within a week of opening. Screw al dente. Screw making everything from scratch. Who has time for that anyway? Then you fork into that plate of soft, wobbly sadness and sit pondering what you can do for the next two hours.
These wonderful culinary creations, we never give them the respect that they deserve.
In the restaurant, trained apron-ed men bend over backwards to do magic on them. They mix flour, eggs and water, blood, tears and sweat together – these things they never tell you – heck they even measure them. Knead the hell out of the dough, roll it, rolling-pin it, and cut and twist it into the shapes and sizes that, hopefully, best reflect your plethora of problems. They also kill the pigs, blanch the tomatoes and chop up mountains of fresh vegetables and spices with those funny-looking curved blade knife that looks like it has a pair of legs grown on its head – just to concoct and convince you that they know precisely how to make the right sauces. And they are right.
Likewise, of course, for the risotto. They grow Arborio grains out of tiny patches of rice farm strategically hidden between the stove and the oven.
It’s hard work. It’s so much hard work.
Finally, when the timer chimes and the rice and the pasta are boiled to perfection, they dress them up, tie a ribbon and bring them to you with candles and sparkles.
These wonderful culinary creations get all the respect that they deserve.
Why didn’t you do that at home?
You take a bite, you awe, you shed some tears. God descends and you learn that problems can become delicious edibles.
Now you see the difference.
The difference of actually breaking a sweat, acting on your pain and making a pasta hero out of zero with your own hands.
Your slurp every last strand of the fettucine like they are effing Italian ramen.
You part with 2 twenty-pound notes, (still) with a tinge of reluctance, go home and turn Google upside down for a recipe of tagliatelle al ragu. Like a pretend-Nigella Lawson, you learn to cook your problems into delicious edibles. And eat them.
Risotto alla milanese (saffron-infused risotto) with Osso bucco (cross-cut veal shank with marvellous marrow) at Trattoria Milanese. Both must-haves in Milan. How’s the place? Traditional Milanese/Lombard dishes, served in a beamed dining room with old-world ambience. There, Google says it.
Ristorante da Ilia: I didnt make pass the primi – Italian eat two main courses, how normal is that? Had burrata, had penne piccanti all’arrabbiata (spicy tomato sauce, all time favourite. Sacla does the best instant one, no joke).
Yes, I ate them all. Beyond amazing.
With love x