Fast food Milan style – the Holly Trinity of Luini, Spontini and Cioccolati Italiani
The last thing you expected to hear from me is about fast food in Italy, right? Well, I am full of surprises.
I was going to write about some of the restaurants we tried but gave up (I may try again later) because, really there is no need to chase specific places as almost any place you walk into will serve good food.
Before we came here I researched and listed a few places that we needed to try but no one mentioned these three places I have come to refer to as the Holly Trinity of Milan fast food.
We heard about them from a local foodie and went to search for them late one night. We just came out of an opera performance at the Tetaro alla Scala, located around the corner from Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. We had dinner earlier but you know how it is, I am always ready for new food experiences.
The three take-out restaurants are located next to the McDonald’s (yes, they have a McDonald’s here, smack in the center of old Milan), situated in front of the Galleria on Via San Raffaele. You will recognize them immediately by the long lines forming in front of all three. This is where Milanesi go for fast food.
The iconic Luini Panzerotti is behind the McDonalds on Via Santa Radegonda and usually has the longest lineup. Luini has been in business at this location since 1888 serving panzerotti to Milanesi for generations. Panzerotti is a stuffed, fried turnover and the secret recipe is closely guarded by the family who has been operating the take out restaurant since the beginning. There are other items on the menu but the panzerotti is what they are known for and it’s not to be missed. You can get the panzeotti fried or baked, savoury or sweet. The savoury fillings vary from tomato and mozzarella, ricotta and spinach, zucchini, vegetables and a few with meats. The panzerotti is soft, warm and delicious. Is your mouth watering already? It should. The sweet ones have figs, walnuts and cocoa, chestnuts and almonds, plums, apples and walnuts, ricotta with chocolate and more but they are different than the savoury version, a little dry and served cold. Whatever you choose, it’s fun standing outside on the street eating it and watching many others do the same. You may want to note that Italians do not walk around the streets with food or coffee.
If you don’t want a panzerotti and would rather have pizza, walk around the corner to Spontini where you can line up for pizza by the slice (Galleria, corner of Via Giovani Berchet and Via San Raffaele). Spontini begun as a pizza by the slice 60 years ago by the Banti family and although ownership changed in 1987 the recipe is still the same and has not changed in more than 60 years. And for good reason, it’s delicious. The line up is long but it moves fast. They have a system and plenty of people to take your order, bake the pizza and serve it just as it comes out of the oven. There are only three types to choose from: Mediterranean, margharita or pancetta. The pizza slice is huge, thick and soft crusted. It is covered with tomato sauce and cheese and you get it already cut into manageable pieces. They are very proud of their ingredients and list the suppliers on their website: special flour from local grain grown in Pavia and Voghera, tomatoes grown specifically for them in Piacenza, whole milk mozzarella, hand crafted in farms in Lodi and Cremona. The operation is fast and efficient and the pizza, yes, delicious. You eat it with plastic fork and knife standing up at one of the counters inside and better not linger too long because someone else will need your place at the stand up counter very quickly. Don’t leave your paper plate and cutlery behind, take them to one of the recycling cans near the door and separate the waste from the recyclable. Let’s see if you can stop at one slice.
Now that you have satisfied your need for savoury how about something sweet? Directly in front of Spontini you will find Cioccolati Italiani. where you can get a gelato cone, an Italian hot chocolate drink, waffles with ice cream and more. I had a cone made from waffle batter, drizzle with chocolate inside and then topped with pistachio gelato and then a caramel gelato scoop. Delish. The line up is long here too, especially around lunch or late at night, but it goes fast. There are several skilled workers behind the counter swirling, dipping, piling and decorating your order of gelato any which way you want it. I have to go back for the waffles with ice cream. Oye.
If you are in Milan and looking for something quick and delicious to have on the run, now you know where to get it.