Bags Full of Pizza and Spritzs Galore: Ali LaRaia’s Guide to Milan
Chef Ali LaRaia of The Sosta in New York City goes back to the source—Milan, Italy—for much needed rest and lots of great eating and drinking. Here’s where she hit up.
Inspired by previous travels throughout Italy, chef Ali LaRaia brought the tradition of strong espresso, fresh pasta and chilled wine to the States with her new restaurant, The Sosta in New York City. (“It fills a very important void,” she says.)
And once The Sosta matured into a well-oiled machine, she took a much need trip back to Italy, winding the roads from Bologna to Milan. Here’s where she ate and drank along the way at her last stop in Milan.
“This happens to be a rooftop restaurant in Porta Volta with pools, but don’t be a hater: The food and wine are unbelievable. I always ask for the off-the-menu spaghetti pomodoro, which is topped with goat cheese and lemon zest. It’s the best I’ve ever had, and don’t skip on the other pastas on the menu—the cacio e pepe with lime and bottarga is absolutely delicious. If I’m having dinner, I like to explore their list of Nebbiolos, but at lunch I like to dig into salty whites from the Amalfi coast before grabbing a spritz by the pool.”
“This peaceful little corner shop in the Brera Design District is part retail, part bistro, part café and part flower shop. I stopped in for an awesome cup of coffee and fresh baked pastries for breakfast. They also have a great aperitvo, too.”
“Just east of the Navigli neighborhood on a nondescript street, you need to buzz through a gate and walk to the end of a dark alley to find this bespoke cocktail bar. It’s located in an old villa with concrete floors, vaulted ceilings and vintage gas station signs posted up on the walls. There’s also a terrace in the courtyard, where you can sit under a tree and sip a Negroni.”
“This mini gelato chain has all of my all-time favorite flavors: salted pistachio, fior di latte, Stracciatella and pistachio stracciatella.”
“There are checkered tablecloths and outdoor seating at this casual restaurant in Porta Romana. Don’t sleep on the margherita pizza and house red. If you’re starving, start with the mozzarella di bufala.”
“This special little spot is just off the main drag of Ripa di Porta Ticinese in the energetic Navigli district. Every time I’m in town, I make sure to stop by. They serve a rotating selection of regional wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegar out of huge stainless steel vats. During aperitivo, a glass of wine costs two to three euros, and they make simple, delicious things like bruschetta and charcuterie.”
“Located at la Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Porta Venezia, this beautiful café is perfect for breakfast, a light lunch or a romantic dinner. I stopped in for an avocado toast with poppy seed, lemon zest and herbs; toast topped with homemade ricotta, lemon zest, olive oil and salt; fresh-squeezed orange juice and espresso. When you leave, make sure to walk over to the Villa Ivernizzi nearby, a historic private mansion with pink flamingos hanging out in the front lawn.”
“This Navigli bar shakes up some of the best and most inventive cocktails in the city. Plus, it’s super affordable: a cocktail only costs 10 euros and comes with a plate of salumi and formaggio. Pro tip: There’s a tiny bar next door that fits just four people and the bartender. It’s called Backdoor 43, and it’s worth asking someone at Mag to try to snag a seat.”
“From the Scandinavian interior design to the contemporary art on the walls, the vibe is on point at this modern Italian restaurant in Stazione Centrale. But the food is what keeps me coming back. I loved the vitello tonnato, carne crudo, smoked eggplant with stracciatella and confit tomatoes, spaghetti alla gricia and the most amazing panna cotta with salted caramel gelato and redberry for dessert. And the wine list is no joke. It’s organized by categories, like ‘Good and Easy’ and 'Rich and Lusty.’ I gravitated towards ‘Orange and Unfiltered,’ and got a sweet, funky, savory Albana, a grape native to Emilia Romagna. After dinner, we bought a cart full of digestifs: grappa Nonina poured from a magnum glass jug, Roots digestif from Greece and a few local amari.”
“I was 100 percent set on going to Naples’s legendary Pizzeria Da Michele, but in typical Italian fashion, it was randomly closed. Feeling hangry and on a mission, I peeked down a tiny alleyway in Centro Storico and saw bright yellow lights and a crowd of people drinking. So I walked over, was handed a glass of Prosecco while I waited, and once seated about 15 minutes later, promptly order the house red and one of the three pizzas on the menu: margherita. It felt like this place was made for me.”
“This Porta Venezia pizzeria makes the best drunk food. The pizza here is made for late-night eating, with its massive slices cut into bite-size pieces, wrapped in bright pink wax paper and stapled close. By the time you get home, it’s like unwrapping a present you forgot you bought yourself.”
“Four floors up on top of an autogrill in Piazza Duomo, you’ll find this breezy Centro Storico bar. There are low-slung lounge chairs under umbrellas, perfect for taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling Piazza. Not surprisingly, they pour a great Aperol spritz alongside complimentary potato chips. It always begs the question: What makes Italian potato chips so damn good?!”