Bored in Milan, Saved by Pasta

I might have been bored in Milan but, just as I was about to leave Italy and having given up on Italian cooking, only the Milanese could save their countrymen’s reputation. It was in Milan’s Vittorio Emmanuelle II gallery that I enjoyed the best spaghetti in Italy and what was possibly the best ravioli I’ve had to date.

Il Gabbiano

Cheaper than its neighbour, Savini’s, across the gallery’s hallway, Il Gabbiano was, appropriately enough also right next door to the local McDonald’s. For their €12 spaghetti, I wasn’t expecting anything terribly memorable. The tourist-friendly photograph up the front just by the main entrance, moreover, didn’t help to aim my expectations any higher than the stock-standard twice-cooked-by-microwave-oven treatment.

I was mistaken.

Far from the rushed fare I had in both Rome and Florence, this Milanese spaghetti was fresh off the pan. The pasta itself perfectly cooked and the sauce going even well with my chianti. All of it finished with an espresso and that, too, was faultless. Along with a small glass of mineral water (“no gas”, is a new instruction I’ve learned only in Italy) my total bill was a just exactly €29.

Il Salotto di Milano
Last nights ought to always be celebrated, particularly ones in a town like Milan. Indeed, it may be the last time, in a long time, that we’ll return to the place. Fine dining, then, is a must – something to remember. Well, that’s how I rationalise a little budget implosion. Thus, off I went to Il Salotto di Milano.

Just around the corner from Il Gabbiano and towards the exit for La Scala, Il Salotto wasn’t exactly on the next rung up on the price point but the charming maitre’d was persuasive. With a slightly dimmed lighting, one or two other solo diners and tourists in bad attire, I thought I’d fit right in! On this occasion, I order myself some ravioli with meat sauce accompanied by a glass of Montepulciano.

The service here is excellent. Staff ably deal with mishaps with a touch of humour. A lady in the table in front of mine received the wrong item, but before that became a serious discussion, our maitre’d summoned his troops as if looking for someone to blame. He, of course, wasn’t doing that; it was all theatrics.

Then my order arrived. Again, fresh from the stove, still steaming, soaked with tomato sauce. Stuffed deliciously with meat, each piece of this ravioli seemed to melt as your tongue touched the perfectly cooked pasta dough. It’s the best ravioli I’ve ever had. And how else to finish this off with an equally melt-in-the-mouth tiramisu? “Homemade”, it said in the menu and I had no reason to doubt otherwise. With a finely balanced consistency and not an overpowering sweetness, it’s a damn fine dessert to end my time in Milan. But not, naturally, before I end my evening with an espresso.

There was no reason to sleep. I’m on the early morning flight to Vienna.


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