This February marked the one year anniversary of when I went on that magical Italian adventure. Getting to experience Milan, the Cuneo Region of Piedmont, Verona, Venice for Carnival and Florence. I realized that when I got back to the states last year, that I had so many stories and rather than bombard everyone with Italy story after story, that I would wait until the one year mark and tell you some of the highlights and special moments we encountered.
Our first stop in Italy was Milan. We hadn’t been here before and when we arrived it was nothing short of miserable. The weather was a mix of rain and snow and freezing temperatures, making it hard to wander about town without stopping into shops along the way to warm up. The highlight of this section of the trip was one of my very best friends surprising me for my birthday, completely catching me off guard. This arrival made the next two days so much fun and erased the fact that the weather was a little difficult. (Note to self, next time, Milan doesn’t have great weather in February.)
On our last night in Milan, we stopped into the wine cellar of Peck, the incredible specialty food shop that was next door to our hotel, Hotel Spadari. The sommelier had helped us a few times prior so we decided to go have a bottle of wine with him in their tasting area and ask for food recommendations for our last night in Milan. Once we start drinking wine, a retired jockey (horse racing) who was sitting across from us, chimed in about where we should go to dinner. The only parameters we had set for dinner was somewhere we could go in the clothes we were wearing and have wonderful wine. The jockey’s recommendation was to a buffet restaurant, where he even called and got us reservations. Unfortunately, after looking at the menu, it wasn’t something that was up our alley. The sommelier on the other hand, had suggested this nice restaurant that he sends people to all the time. They had great wine and would take amazing care of us. We called, name-dropped our wine friend and got a table. We headed back to the hotel room, freshened up a little bit, called a cab and we were on our way.
This restaurant, Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, was quite a ways from our hotel but we figured it was worth it if it came with such high recommendations. When we pulled up to the front, we were greeted by a frosted glass door, artwork on the outside of the building….and a man in a tuxedo. The four of us looked at each other immediately realizing that maybe somewhere in the language barrier the dress code for the evening might not have been conveyed correctly. Just to recap what we were wearing: Kelcey, my mom and I were wearing leggings, and as Kelcey put it, hers were “Costco leggings,” sweaters, boots, and scarves. My dad was wearing jeans, a Nike pullover with a casual button up on top and a puffy jacket. There was no question we did not belong at that restaurant dressed the way we were – we looked more like we should have gone to the mom and pop pasta place down the street.
When we walked inside, the host, waiters, everyone was in a dark suit or tux. The restaurant, which had about 10 other diners in it at the time (it was a small restaurant) all seemed to stop and look at the four Americans that had just entered and were clearly confused. Everyone else was wearing dresses, suits, heels – think not quite cocktail attire but definitely formal office attire bordering on cocktail attire. The host was very kind and offered to take our coats, which we declined, too embarrassed to reveal what we were wearing underneath. We were taken to the back corner table and promptly upon being seated we all started to laugh and the laughs didn’t stop the rest of the night. All of the wait staff were so kind to us, no matter how many dirty looks we felt like we were getting. The food and wine, course by course, was incredible. And for good reason, this place has, yes, TWO Michelin Stars. We started the evening off with one of their incredible Negronis. (Version here) Thinking that we would redeem ourselves by ordering some of their nicer wine, led us to two wonderful bottles, the M. Marengo 2010 Barolo and the G.D. Vajra 2009 Barolo Bricco Delle Viole.
I could have just had those two bottles of wine and a side of pasta and been in heaven. Two of the dishes I had that I remember most vividly, while very rich in flavor, were the epitome of what we were told was “Milanese cuisine.” First was a ravioli filled with Osso Bucco of Piedmontese veal, topped with Sardinian saffron and Parmigiano. The sauce on top of the pasta, was a bright yellow hue from the saffron and it was stunning on top of the white dish it was presented on. The second was beef Oxtail stewed in Barolo wine and white truffle cream sauce on top of puréed Bintia potato. Both were UNREAL. Luckily I was able to snap a few photos of the meal with my phone but felt so self-conscious in the whole environment that I wasn’t able to capture the whole meal. For dessert, we tried the chef’s selection, where we got to taste several little samples – all delicious.
By the end of the meal, or maybe it was the fact we had consumed several drinks, our outfits no longer mattered and the glares from the other diners seemed to dissipate. It truly was the perfect end to our time in Milan. The dinner not only produced a wonderful dining experience but also a story that we still tell a year later. If I ever make my way back to Milan, I would most definitely return to this restaurant…but maybe next time leave the Costco leggings at home.