If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we’re fans of street food and eating like a local. So, for the next #MondaysinMilan instalment, we share the best trattoria (traditional local eateries) in Milan, where you are sure to leave with a full belly, without breaking the bank!

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What is a ‘trattoria’?

First things first. What am I talking about? A trattoria is a typical Italian eating establishment, usually family-run, offering tasty, filling food at bargain prices. Trattorie are cheap and cheerful; sometimes they have shared tables and no printed menus, other times they are a bit fancier. In an expensive city such as Milan, trattorie offer a great chance to try authentic local food sometimes for as little as €10… yes, I’m not joking.

Trattorie became popular in post-war times, when half of Italy moved from south to north to find work. They offered a cheap alternative to home-cooked food, as men usually emigrated first, and more often than not they didn’t know how to cook.

My mum told me that in the mid-sixties there were trattorie on every street corner, packed to the rafters at lunchtime with workers digging into plates of pasta. They started disappearing from the streets in the Eighties, with the arrival of fast food joints.

I have seen many trattorie close, in my lifetime. Some were replaced by kebab shops and Chinese takeaways, others became banks, others are still standing empty more than 20 years later. But the trattorie haven’t disappeared altogether.

There are still many, some hidden in the backstreets of the centre, others a bit more out of the way. You just need to find them – and here are (in my opinion) the 5 best trattoria in Milan.

#1 Trattoria al Castello – aka ‘Arioli’

Via Giovanni Pascoli, 2, Linate MI – closed Saturday dinner and Sunday all day

Get there with Bus 66

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Just around the corner from the airport in the old village of Linate, this is by far and away my favourite place to eat in the whole world. I’ve been eating there since I was a child and in 20-odd years, I have not seen the place change at all. Groups of elderly men play cards in the front room, airport workers have lunch under faded pictures of vintage planes while owners Luigi and Lino cook up amazing Milanese dishes. We usually refer to this trattoria as ‘Arioli’, after the owners’ surname. Whenever I come to ‘Arioli’, I always order the same things. Mixed antipasti (especially delicious in winter, when the selection includes cotechino, a kind of boiled sausage), gnocchi al ragù (bolognese sauce, the most delicious I’ve ever had), cotoletta alla milanese with delicious garlicky potatoes and my fave dessert, meringue cake with melted chocolate. You can’t NOT like this place. Tell them Margherita sends you and they’ll look after you, but don’t order the risotto. It’s not their forte! To get to ‘Arioli’, grab a taxi from Linate Airport or get bus number 66 from the centre of Milan. Read our public transport post for extra info!

#2 L’Albero Fiorito

Via Privata Andrea Pellizzone, 14 – open lunch only, Mon-Sat Get there with Bus 54 or Trolleybus 90, 91 or 93

I was in two minds on whether or not to include this place. The owners are on the gruff side and don’t want publicity – in fact, if you take your phone out to take a picture of the wonderfully retro dining room, you’re likely to be kicked out.

So why go there, you might ask? Because as soon as you step in, you’re transported back to the Sixties. From the handwritten menu copied with carbon-paper, to the wobbly chairs and dusty tumblers, L’Albero Fiorito is a veritable time machine.

Not to mention that this place is probably the cheapest trattoria in Milan. First courses (pasta or soup) are only €2, and main courses are €5. Bread costs 60 cent per piece and wine (delicious!) is only €1.20 for a half-litre jug. The liver and onions and the fried cheese are delicious options. So, get there before it closes for good but be warned – don’t turn up after 12.15, or else (yes, you guessed it) you’ll be kicked out.

#3 Da Tomaso

Via Gaetano de Castillia, 20 – open for lunch Mon-Fri, for dinner by reservation 

Get there with Metro 2 Garibaldi FS or Metro 5 Isola

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One of the Expo hotspots will be the Isola/Garibaldi neighbourhood, where the new skyscrapers of Porta Nuova are just next door to a wonderful local neighbourhood, Isola. And there, under the famous Bosco Verticale building, you find Da Tomaso. It’s a great local trattoria serving delicious Milanese dishes, from risotto with ossobuco to polenta with brasato (beef stew), rabbit and sausages with beans. Delicious and great value for money for lunch, wonderfully atmospheric at dinner time, when you’re able to book the whole restaurant for your group.

#4 Trattoria da Pino

Via Cerva, 14 – open for lunch Mon-Sat Get there with Metro 1 San Babila

Didn’t I say you can also find one of the best trattoria in Milan in the backstreets of the centre? 5 mins from uber-central Piazza San Babila you’ll find Da Pino, a great trattoria, perhaps a bit fancier than the other options, but still great!

Service is fast and efficient; you’ll find no grumpy waiters or owners here, and a crowd of curious tourists and well-heeled city types on their lunchbreak. The menu is quite eclectic, offering traditional favourites such as risotto and tagliata (a kind of steak) but also creative dishes such as sesame-seared tuna. Prices are higher than other trattorie, but you’ll still be able to have an amazing meal under €20!

#5 La Balera dell’Ortica

Via Amadeo, 78 – open for lunch Tue-Sun

Get there with Bus 54

This is not just a trattoria, it’s a destination of its own right. Part bocce club, part ballroom disco and part pop-up market, this place is an example of how tradition and innovation coexist. In summer, hipsters slide their brogues on the ballroom floor with local folk, and in winter people flock in droves for their ‘trippa‘ sunday lunches. Come during the week for a round of bocce or two, and an aperitivo at the bar, or on Sunday in summer for the craft market. But whatever you do, don’t miss having a meal here. Tasty arrosticini (chargrilled kebabs), good pasta and passable wine, but the atmosphere is what makes this place!

Some of these places are a bit out of the centre. You’ll need buses or trams to get there – check our guide to Milan public transport post for all you need to know to navigate Milan!

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21 Responses

  1. Kelsey of Route Words

    I’ve never heard the word trattoria before this post. I will definitely be bookmarking this list for whenever I make it to Milan! I’d especially like to visit L’Albero Fiorito – a hand written menu? Too cute

    • Margherita

      That place is amazing Kelsey… get here before it closes for good! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Mikaela

    It is quite clear that a trip to Milan must be added to my “to go” list. I think some arrosticini sounds fabulous right about now. I love eateries like this, where the atmosphere pulls you in and begs you to stay a while. So fun!

    • Margherita

      Arrosticini are delicious but the best one are not in Milan, you should go to Abruzzo! Milan is still amazing though. It’s my city! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Nina Travels

    Very cool post and useful too. I am from Slovenia and Milan is about 6 hours drive by car, so when I am there, I will definitely try some of the trattorias you recommended 🙂

    • Margherita

      So you should come Nina! I’ll invite you for dinner if you do 🙂

  4. Megsy

    What a great list. I’m adding them to my ‘must eat here’ list for when we visit Milan.

  5. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer

    Oh how I wish this list existed when I was in Milan this past summer, as I could not find many good things to eat and gave up hope on finding any good food in the city.

    If I ever find myself there again (I would consider going there again for Fashion Week), I will definitely check out some of the places on this list!

    • Margherita

      I really understand your issue there Chanel… even for a local like me, it’s hard to find good and reasonably priced food in Milan, especially in the centre. But as you can see, there are some excellent places! Give me a call if you come back to Milan, I’d love to show you around and make sure you find good food!

  6. Amr

    Very interesting article, I wonder which of these trattorias is closest to the city center?

    • Margherita

      It’s definitely Da Pino! Only a few minutes away from San Babila square. Enjoy!

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