At Pane e Acqua in Milan, you won’t be confined to bread and water as the name suggests. The fashionable restaurant in the Magenta neighbourhood will take you on a culinary and arty journey reminiscent of a dining room set within an art gallery.
From the soft-cushioned banquettes, you can rest your back against foam leaves like giant butterflies against the wall. Industrial spot lighting casts welcoming shadows with overhanging napkins and oversized silver platters.
The ambience in this intimate space is very chic and far removed from the tourist crowd.
Located in a quiet residential street far removed from the Milanese crowds and set in what was once a tabaccheria, the restaurant’s striking interior is designed by architect Paola Navone for owner Rossana Orlandi. At the helm is Chef Francesco Passalacqua, originally from Alba in Piedmonte and an innovative creator of Italian cuisine.
The décor is eclectic and imagination knows no bounds with arty tableware pieces such as the upside down wine glass and fork candle holder.
Manuel Marcelletti, the Maitre d’/Sommelier presents us with two well-loved books. Inside, we turn the pages to find the menu. The accompanying wine list sits beside it in a thin booklet. The choice of food is extensive. This is not the usual Milanese fare with risottos and osso bucco. My limited Italian only goes so far and Manuel’s explanations turn to English effortlessly. He offers all the explanations we need but we decide to leave ourselves in the hands of the chef and order the Menù Degustazione.
With a glass of Prosecco, we toast our arrival in Milan and choose a 2007 Adriano Marco e Vittorio Barbera d’Alba and settle into the evening. Around us, elegant patrons are dining in couples or small groups. The musical sounds of the Italian language floatwaite across the room.
Pane e Vino, bread and wine, is always a good combination to start. We try the different breads including a brioche-style variety presented in silver bowls
Tonno di coniglio di cascina con misticanza, uva malaga di Pantelleria e pinoli is the first dish to arrive. A generous serving of rabbit with tuna salad, raisins and pine nuts.
Next, is toccafisso mantecato ”Branda Cajun” con panissa dorata e salsa al the verde Matcha, an elegant dish of creamed codfish “Branda Cajun” with green tea sauce.
Zuppa di pane, cipolle e coda di rospo leggermente affumicata in casa is a chunky soup, made with bread, onions and lightly smoked monkfish. I could easily order another serving.
Trecce di ravioli all’amaretto e ricotta di bufala con zuca e zenzero candito are braids of ravioli with amaretto, ricotta made from buffalo with zucchini and candied ginger. This one puts any pasta dish I’ve ever had to the challenge.
Carre e capocollo di maiale “Grigio del Casentini” con cereali spezzati e mela candita is a spicy dry-cured and served with candied apple and the kind of cereal that can convert you into health eating. Although I’m not a fan of pork, this was the favourite dish and left a sweet and aromatic taste that lingered.
The servings are generously portioned and the service and timing of each dish are impeccable. Although it is a busy weeknight, our waiter ensures all our needs are met and gives up plenty of opportunities to ask any questions about any of the dishes.
The palate cleanser arrives, Sorbetto di barolo chinato, a refreshing sorbet made with Barolo wine.
Morbido di cioccolato bianco e birra Orval con frutto della passione e croccante alle mandorla is heaven on a plate. The dessert is made with soft white chocolate ice cream with Orval beer, a crunchy almond tart with the tang of passionfruit.
We end the meal with a caffè and a grappa, because when we’re in Italy, a grappa is mandatory.
As are the tiny amaretti biscuits that dissolve on the tongue.
A visit to the amenities offers a chance to explore more of the art and design of the place with the theme continuing underground.
We enjoy another grappa before we ask ask for il conto, the bill which like the menu, comes presented inside a book.
The dining experience at Pane e Acqua remains the highlight of our visit to Milan. The menu degustazione is unlike any other with innovative regional cuisine, distinctively Italian menu, creative combinations and generous servings at a very reasonable price. The ambience and décor add an element of style. Combined with the welcoming and professional service, it makes dining at Pane e Acqua an experience worth repeating.
Pane e Acqua
Via Matteo Bandelo 14
+ 39 02 4819 8622
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