The fact that Milanese gastronomic tradition enjoys considerable popularity in the eclectic and highly international offerings of the capital is well-known. However, it's across the entire region, rich in terms of excellent productions, that the most determined promoters of the territory and the local specialties operate – some for generations, like the Malinverno family of Caffè La Crepa in Isola Dovarese, and others for just a few months, such as the team at Trattoria Sincera in Milan. They are the Ambassadors of the Territory for the 2024 edition of the Lombardy guide - The Best of Milan and the Other Provinces, a team of professionals that also includes many young individuals whose mission is to promote small-scale productions in the surrounding areas and rediscover those lesser-known or at risk of disappearing. Moreover, they aim to give visibility to artisans with whom they build 'certain' and virtuous supply chains. These realities are also the protagonists, starting from September 2023, of a series of dinner tours aimed at enhancing the Lombard heritage and offering participants an “immersive” experience in its many facets.
The 13 Ambassadors of the Territory awarded by Gambero Rosso
Trattoria. The sign says almost everything about the establishment (which is also among the 5 awarded as Champions of Tradition) in the heart of Lambrate: two rooms, a small one at street level that still retains the atmosphere of the bar that occupied it until last year, and a larger one upstairs furnished in a 1960s style. The 'sincerity,' besides the ambiance, is the result of a kitchen - led by Federico Boni - that features all the classic Lombard dishes, 'from the Alps to the Po,' as the founders emphasise. One comes here to eat pâté and meatballs, risotto with bone marrow and 'the' minestrone, sautéed kidney with porcini mushrooms, and Milanese-style veal cutlet. Among the desserts are the Helvetia cake or the mille-feuille with strawberries. There is also a rich selection of cured meats and cheeses on the menu. For lunch, there's a daily set menu. The service is informal, an excellent wine list that is entirely Lombard and seeks out the best from Oltrepò Pavese and Valtellina.
Trattoria Sincera - Milano - via N. A. Porpora,154 - 389 8741577 - trattoriasincera.it
Osteria del Treno
Trattoria. There are certainly more beautiful places, with those yellowish walls reminiscent of a railway workers' club, far from any design concept. There are probably places where the food is better, with a higher level of inventiveness and elaboration. Perhaps there are places where one feels more comfortable. But there is no place in Milan where Lombard tradition is interpreted with such coherence, with the pride of being a true gateway to a cuisine where urban and rural elements converse. There's an added value in the alliance between chefs, farmers, breeders, and artisans, of which this establishment is a promoter. The host and guardian deity is Angelo Bissolotti, who has written the history of this iconic place, someone who could write encyclopaedic treatises about Milan's cuisine (along with its fauna and countless stories). If you happen to encounter him, feel free to engage him – he won't shy away from your curiosity. The menu offers a series of local starters or a collection of selected cold cuts and cheeses to be sampled, taking you on a journey throughout Italy. Then there are equally typical first courses, orthodox main courses (potato cheek with puree, Milanese-style cod, rosticiada), a handful of simple side dishes, and some well-executed “grandmother-style” desserts (the ice creams, by the way, are excellent). During lunchtime, everything is offered in a reduced and/or simplified version for those with less time. There are many events and convivial occasions (“quater ciacer”). The predominantly Northern wine list is fairly priced. The service is warm. There's also a Liberty-style room dedicated to major events.
Osteria del Treno - Milano - via San Gregorio, 46 - 02 6700479 - osteriadeltreno.it
Osteria al Gigianca
Trattoria. Despite the talented Alessia Mazzola having taken different paths, her culinary legacy is now in the capable hands of Andrea Paleni, while Gigi Pesenti remains in charge of the dining room and the wines, upholding the house philosophy. This is a modern tavern focused on enhancing and promoting small local productions - the suppliers of ingredients, often affiliated with Slow Food Presidia, are known by name here. Everything in their proposal embraces tradition as is (consider the Bergamo-style casoncelli) or something revised yet faithful to the line, such as the risotto with sweet pepper, “fatulì” (smoked goat cheese from Val Saviore), and parsley. The six-course tasting menu is priced at 55 euros, and the wine cellar follows the house's vision. A passionate team operates in the dining room. It's a beautiful and “useful” reality, especially in the year of Bergamo as the Capital of Culture.
Osteria al Gigianca - Bergamo - via Broseta, 113 - 035 5684928 - algigianca.com
Trattoria. Via Butturini is the refined alleyway of Salò: at number 26, the two windows and the Liberty-style sign signal the most celebrated tavern of Lake Garda Brescia, the Orologio. It has a devoted clientele even beyond the Alps, especially in Bavaria, who sit in the three rooms not only to enjoy the cuisine but also the atmosphere created by the regulars during the aperitif. Above the beautiful counter, a board dominates with many labels for wines by the glass from a well-known winery managed skillfully by the passionate owner. The menu has remained faithful over the centuries with many references to the region: pike with polenta, maccheroncini with Bagoss cheese, beef in oil, excellent spit-roast, and seasonal kid goat. Always inquire if there's any lake fish available as it's prepared wonderfully. Save some room for dessert. The service is that of a true tavern, overseen by passionate owners Alberto Giacomini and Sara Marini.
Osteria dell'Orologio - Salò (BS) - via Butturini, 26 - 0365 290158 - osteriadellorologiosalo.eatbu.com
Tira Mola e Meseda
Trattoria. The place is small, so it's advisable to book in advance because there are many loyal customers. This honest and familiar establishment boasts a characteristic, warm, and enveloping ambiance, along with the caring welcome of the two passionate owners and a flavorful gastronomic proposal that maximises the region's best expressions. Here you'll find a menu featuring local cured meats and cheeses, Valtellina's pizzoccheri and Bergamo-style casoncelli with butter and sage, venison stew with polenta, and slow-cooked donkey stew. To finish, there are homemade desserts such as apple cake and Braulio sorbet. Wines hail from Valtellina.
Tira Mola e Meseda - Como - via G. Castellini, 17 - 031 2759735 - tiramolameseda.it
Caffè La Crepa
Trattoria. Isola Dovarese is worth a trip on its own, whether on misty autumn days when the Oglio River offers poetic views or on warm and sunny ones, perhaps close to the Gonzaga Palio. Yet, when it comes to food and wine, there has long been an association with Caffè La Crepa. The Malinverno family, despite the generational change that brought Federico, son of Franco, to personally manage the place, has never stopped dedicating energy and enthusiasm to this extraordinary establishment.
The dive into the past is evident as soon as you step under the portico, which, weather permitting, offers a bit of summer refreshment. The historic counter is still there, as is the ice cream corner, followed by the rooms with carpets and comfortable seats, tables adorned with immaculate settings, setting the stage for a theatrical experience that has successfully repeated itself for years.
The unmistakable meatballs to start, savoured with a glass of bubbles, and then a succession of dishes, perhaps chosen from the interesting tasting menu, customizable for the whole table, offered at 60 euros, inclusive of two paired glasses of wine (also available in a business version for 40 euros with half portions and two glasses of wine and in a gourmet version with seven courses and three glasses). Whether from the menu or the tasting menu, the place's signature dishes will be there: from the salted cod salad to the steaming marubini in three broths, from the rice savarin with classic ragù and salted tongue (a tribute to the legendary Cantarelli) to the mixed freshwater fish fry.
To finish, leave room for desserts, like the ever-present semifreddo with Cremona nougat and the many ice cream cups, rigorously made in-house. The service is polite, knowledgeable, and well-established. The cellar, where precious cured meats and renowned cheeses rest, boasts numerous references, forming the basis of an original and thoughtful proposal of pairings. It's important to book in advance, especially on weekends.
Caffè La Crepa - Isola Dovarese (CR) - p.zza G. Matteotti, 14 - 0375 396161 - caffelacrepa.net
Antica Osteria Casa di Lucia
Trattoria. It's worth reaching the lakeside town to discover the traditions and visit the places of 'The Betrothed'. Like this 17th-century palace, once the residence of Lucia and now home to a tavern that, like few others in the area, preserves and promotes the recipes from the lakes and mountains typical of this captivating part of Lombardy. It does so with a menu that respects the seasons and offers local classics such as valley cured meats and cheeses, missoltini (sun dried freshwater fish) with polenta, and game-based dishes. All this in a warm setting with a fireplace and antique memorabilia or in the charming outdoor pergola. Local wines and affectionate service complete the experience.
Antica Osteria Casa di Lucia - Lecco - loc. Acquate - via Lucia, 27 - 0341 494594 - osteriacasadilucia.com
Antica Osteria del Cerreto
Ristorante. At the dawn of its thirty years in business, Stefano Scolari didn't lose an ounce of enthusiasm and motivation. His tavern, run with his wife Veronica, is part of the Ethical Restaurants network, just to name one, and serves as an example in the area for the enhancement, exploration, and promotion of local resources. The ambiance is well-maintained and bright, offering various paths, including one dedicated to risottos (where the must-try is the 'alla vecchia Lodi'). But the menu also features the finest local cured meats and cheeses, 40-yolk tagliolini with zucchini, Culaccia Lodigiana and saffron cream, and grilled lamb cutlets with lamb's lettuce and balsamic. The wine selection is well-suited, as is that of the spirits, with prompt and affectionate service completing the experience. The house's pickles are available for purchase from the online shop.
Antica Osteria del Cerreto - Abbadia Cerreto (LO) - 0371 471009 - osteriadelcerreto.it
Trattoria. For four generations, the Viola family has been running this establishment, first in Castel Goffredo and since 1978 here in Castiglione delle Stiviere, offering precise and delectable cuisine always rooted in tradition. You'll enjoy authentic Padano dishes: high-quality cured meats and cheeses, pike in Mantuan sauce, the famous trio of stuffed pastas, and the local cotechino sausage with mashed potatoes. The desserts are an absolute must-try, especially the sbrisolona. When it comes to wines, the experience is equally delightful: the cellar ranges from local bottled wines to transalpine Champagnes, with the option of enjoying wines by the glass. The atmosphere is cosy, in a setting that combines modern tavern elements with genuine sincerity.
Hostaria Viola - Castiglione delle Stiviere (MN) - via G. Verdi, 32 - 0376 670000 - hostariaviola.com
Osteria del Cavolo
Trattoria. It is perhaps the most reliable place for those wanting to taste genuine Lombard cuisine, a rarity in the area to find such faithful representatives to the produce and an 'easy-going' atmosphere. Monza isn't an easy town, but this modern tavern has found its way into the hearts of locals and captivates occasional visitors with its well-maintained and tranquil dining space, reasonable prices, and (plenty of) satisfying dishes. The menu is seasonal, featuring one that changes weekly, and the two tasting menus (priced at 39 and 47) are recommended for first-time visitors. As for the menu, it's locally focused with some delightful variations: a platter of cured meats, 'malfatti' pasta with melted butter, sage, and black truffle sauce, veal tartare on stracciatella cheese with pumpkin seeds and yellow polenta. The 'rustin negàa' is a must-try. The wine cellar is up to par, and the dining area is well-organised.
Osteria del Cavolo - Monza - v.lo Molini, 11 - 039 322060 - osteriadelcavolo.com
Ristorante. A sign with a long tradition (the Bazzini family opened it in 1939) that has not lost the spirit and dishes of the past. This is thanks to Mariella Mariotti and Riccardo Rezzani who, since 2017, with respect and passion, continue in the vein that was traced by this historic restaurant, despite the process of modernising the offerings. Therefore, on the menu, you'll find the 'Bata Lavar,' a typical large local agnolotto, and flavours from the area and the region, from cod in tempura to veal cutlet, and even veal round in tuna sauce. Homemade ice cream. The wine cellar focuses on local wines. The service is attentive and kind.
Bazzini - Canneto Pavese (PV) - via Roma, 11 - 0385 88018 - ristorantebazzini.com
Ristorante. We always say it with a smile, but it's the truth: this is the best Italian restaurant on the border with Switzerland: a two-minute drive and you're in the Confederation. A huge advantage for Ticino gourmets (many) who fill the welcoming rooms in the Tonola style, hosts for 40 years. But it also makes sense to come from afar to taste the cuisine of the young Roberto, who has taken over the legacy of his uncle Andrea, increasing the quest for the very best of the territory and introducing new ideas. The four tasting menus cover every aspect: that of Val Chiavenna (7-87 euros), that of the trout (a pride of the family, 65 euros), the seasonal menu (90 euros), and the gourmet menu (105 euros), where the chef broadens the local horizons with a skillful hand. The wine cellar is of absolute quality, a passion of Antonio - Roberto's father - who, beyond the top-notch wines of Valtellina, explores other territories.
Lanterna Verde - Villa di Chiavenna (SO) - fraz. San Barnaba, 7 - 0343 38588 - lanternaverde.com
Ristorante. Besides the pleasantness of the place, which is already suggestive and characteristic, as well as well-managed by a close-knit staff attentive to customers' needs, the main reason to come here on the border with Switzerland is undoubtedly the cuisine of Roberto Valbuzzi. He's skilled and confident, adept at balancing on a dual track, traditional and creative, yielding increasingly delightful results. For the former, there's 'sciatt,' 'pizzoccheri,' venison cutlet (but with a personal touch), while on the latter front, glazed malt porcini, land with porcini, buttermilk, mushroom sauce, corn waffle, creamy porcini, or Pastificio Baradello spaghetti with mustard sauce, Gubet del Casale Roccolo, black garlic, and fig tartare. Excellent wine cellar.
Crotto Valtellina - Malnate (VA) - via Fiume, 11 - 0332 427258 - crottovaltellina.it