Genoa & Milan: rundown from a few days

We spent just two nights each in Genoa and Milan at the end of our trip. Food and wine prices on the mainland were about 25-50% higher than in Sicily or Sardinia, which gave us a bit of sticker shock, but in truth the food and wine and cocktails were still quite cheap by US standards (especially considering the fact that there is no tipping and no sales tax added at the end). The most expensive meal of our entire trip, which was also the best, came at a wonderful fine-dining restaurant in Milan that served amuse-bouche with complimentary aperitifs at the start of the meal and complimentary sweets and dessert wine at the end. The whole meal (a starter that was the most expensive thing on the menu, another starter, one main course, one dessert, and two glasses of wine) cost EUR 101 for two.

Genoa: Torte e Farinata (lunch, Piazza dei Truogli di Santa Brigida 16). We needed a late lunch after our afternoon arrival by ferry, and wanted to try farinata, the giant chickpea pancake that is a staple food in Genoa. We found it at this little lunch counter, along with a spinach-filled torta, octopus salad, and a truly revelatory side order of caponata.

Genoa: Trattoria Munsu (Piazza Nicole Barabino 18/R). In the home of pesto, we needed to try it Genoa-style. This restaurant, for which I give great thanks to Google Maps, gave us what we needed in a very down-home place way off the tourist path. We took the bus (they’re free in Genoa!) out past the ferry terminal and beyond to this place in a very nondescript neighborhood. It was very bustling on a Wednesday night—we walked in with no reservation right when they opened, and within 45 minutes every table was full. It’s a family-run place with great home cooking and no printed menu. We had pasta with pesto (made very differently from what we’re used to in the US, a creamy light-green sauce vs. the more grainy paste that we know) and another one with mushrooms, then a decidedly not-what-we-were-expecting main course of thinly sliced, cold veal covered with a sauce made of tuna (canned). It was weird but tasty. Somehow, we also managed to fit in a dessert of tiramisu, which was fantastic.

Genoa: U Gelato du Caruggiu (Via di San Bernardo 91). We ate a LOT of gelato while we were in Italy, but this one—with the gelato all made on-premises—really stood out. The flavors went well beyond the standard offerings and included some really interesting, tasty options: I had rosemary with amaretti and Mr. travelmad478 had lemon sage. Highly recommended.

Milan: 19.26 Bistro (Via Milazzo 6). On a chilly day when we didn’t feel like walking far from where we happened to be in the fancy neighborhood of Brera, we chose this place because they had osso buco and saffron risotto, two typical Milanese dishes that we hadn’t had elsewhere in Italy. We also had a very lovely first course of fish-stuffed ravioli in what was basically a pool of melted butter and olive oil. The osso buco was very nice, the risotto could have had a little more seasoning, but it was still good. In an area that was basically the Upper East Side of Milan, this was our second-most-expensive meal of the trip.

Milan: Chic’n Quick (Via Ascanio Sforza 77). I cannot answer for the name of this restaurant, but don’t let it dissuade you from eating at this excellent, creative, and delicious restaurant with lovely, friendly service. This was hands down our most superlative meal of the entire 25-day trip in Italy. We started with an antipasto of nine different types of seafood crudo, which was stupendous in its variety—tasting all of them in turn really showcased the flavors of each, and they were all garnished with different things, from passionfruit seeds to horseradish to ground cherry to cloudberry to avocado to roe. Amazing. We went on to a tart of roasted sweet onion that came with a little dish of cheese sauce, and a main course of roulet of rabbit served with fried polenta and trumpet mushrooms. Both were also outstanding. Dessert was a tonka bean creme brûlée (I had to Google what a tonka bean was at the table): super light and flavorful. 10/10, made all the better by the fact that this meal was on my birthday, and the staff put a birthday candle in the creme brûlée. Reservations are essential, but you can do them online (we made ours in the morning for that night, a Saturday).