Via Mercato 14
Open Tuesday to Sunday 12.30-14.30, 19.30-23.00
Closed Monday, and Sunday for lunch
Margherita pizza: 7 euro
At noon, as Via Mercato rumbles under the clamorous trams and reckless businessmen on their bikes, Sibilla seems to just barely keep itself from sliding into the street. But since 1952 it has indeed survived, a toasty spot with lacquered wood panneling, long shallow tables, decorative mirrors, and frosted glass lanterns.
Every lunch and dinner this historic pizzeria is packed, the dining room run by three efficient (if stern faced) waiters who manage to weave their way through the restaurant’s single narrow corridor. Towards the back of Sibilla is Vincenzo, the pizzaiolo who for the last 36 years has made the impasto, or dough, as well as the pizza: kneading it into shape, dressing and turning it under the wood stoked fire, brushing it with a final wash of olive oil. The result is a fragrant, wonderfully symmetrical pizza, just as it should be. For those with desperate appetites, ask for the “Maradona,” named after the famed football player and arriving with double the tomato and mozzarella. Personally, when my dinner companions permit it, I enjoy the “zola,” an invasively aromatic white pizza with an unheard of amount of gorgonzola.
2. Da Giuliano
Via Paolo Sarpi, 60
Open Tuesday to Sunday 12.00-14.30, 18.00 to 23.30
Margherita pizza: 5.50 euro
Since 1973 Da Giuliano has kept chugging along, never once revamping its rustic (almost ascetic) decor, never changing its recipes, or opting to expand its minimal menu. The pizza they serve, in Italian, is known as al trancio, or by the slice. At its best this style of pizza is a high rise slab, its bottom crisp, if not crunchy, the “meat” of it fluffy and pompous, strong enough to support an extravagant layer of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and whatever else one has a taste for (prosciutto crudo, mushrooms, and rucola are some obvious ones).
The trancio at Da Giuliano comes as close as one can to this ideal, which is good news since they cook nothing else. When ordering, one may indicate normale, mezzo, or abbondante (regular, half, or abundant). Also, football games are shown regularly, and a regular crowd tends to gather. For a more particular pizza/beer experience try to coordinate your dinner with this schedule.
Via Procaccini, 73
Open Monday to Sunday 12.30-23.00
Margherita Pizza: 7.00 euro
To talk about the whole kitchen, best known for its authentic Napoletana recipes, would lead us too far off track. At Sciusciá the food is honest, unpretentious, and a deep pleasure to eat. The pizza is superior as well. Their careful handling of each essential ingredient means that the qualities of each ingredient are not only exceptional, but discernible purely and individually: the crust, puffed up and just barely charred, the tomato sauce bright and fresh without being acidic (or spiced), the aggressive cutting of basil cooked directly into the mozzarella, and the final, harmonizing douse of a fragrant olive oil.
Behind Paolo Sarpi, and just off of Corso Sempione, Sciusciá is tucked into one of Milan’s few tree shaded streets. The dining room is small but quite luminous, while several tables on the street are well protected from the weather. The whole show is run by the restaurant’s owner Pippo.
At lunch they tend to be busy with local business men, who come for a choice between “calamarata with mussels and cherry tomatoes” or “treccioni alla bolognese.” At around 7.50 euro for un primo, the modest price is about as exotic as the calamarata.
Via Solferino, 33
Open Monday to Sunday 19.00-00.00
Margherita pizza: 7 euro
It would be a shame to judge the quality of this pizza by its environment: a classically modern, cement sided, exposed light bulb lit very New York bar, with a mixologist curated cocktail list and a gorgeous collection of glassware, from its miniature mason jars to crystal coupes and cordials…
But rather than applying this esthetic to their pizza, they instead offer a fabulously strict interpretation of the original (as fabulously strict as pizza north of Naples can get). The dough bubbles, charring at sensitive places, while the mozzarella melts delicately into the tomato sauce. The menu itself is quite direct as well, offering margherita, marinara, or la bufala, with just a few accouterments plated on the side such as braised onions or Taggiasca olives, prosciutto cotto or the belly of tuna. While a beautiful dining room can be found in the back—with tall glass windows draped with think swinging vines—the front is a perfect place for a precisely mixed cocktail next to petite pans of focaccia topped with vitello tonnato, or stracchino and crudo.
5. Grande Italia
Via Palermo, 5
Open Monday to Sunday 12.30-230, 19.30-23.30
Margherita pizza: 5.50 euro
Like many Milanese restaurants—whose warm light serves as refuge from the usual Milanese grey—Grande Italia of Via Palermo is at its best around Christmas time, all lit up and steaming with tortellini con burro e salvia, polenta con ragu di salsiccia, and most importantly, bountiful slices of pizza, al trancio. From every seat one has a view of a chalkboard upon which is written the daily menu, normally listing at least six or seven different risotti and cotolette. The pizza though is very good, and difficult to resist since one must pass by the oven upon walking through the front door. Whenever we go, we ask Mimmo to start us a slice, giving us something to pick at while we decide what to order. While I almost always order a margherita, with this high rise, whose mere weight seems to support (and encourage) excess, I like to indulge: either stracchino with rucola for my diet days, or fresh sausage and onion for my other days.
6. Il Kaimano
Via Fiori Chiari, 20
Open Monday to Sunday 12.30-2.30, 19.00-23.00
Margherita pizza: 8 euro
Via Fiori Chiari is a perfectly picturesque wind of cobblestone and fortune tellers, cutting through the heart of Brera. Lined with mid-century antique shops, made in Italy showrooms, quirky soap and cosmetic shops, and several restaurants appealing to the city’s few (but strong) English/Russian speaking tourists. Though certain travelers may be turned off by such traps, in the midst of what is indeed authentic and beautiful, Il Kaimano is an authentic jewel of a restaurant with a genuinely excellent pizza. Rather than paper thing and dissolving, this dough is a tad more plump, absorbing well the sweet tomato and mozzarella (a joint effort between grated and fresh). Under a heated tent a few tables are placed out amongst the evening’s street theater. Inside is warm and inviting, its walls hung with AC Milan memorabilia, and classic pictures of the restaurant owners’ family, those that originally opened il Kaimano, well before the street bloomed into its current “American trap” (Gucci!).
Via Marghera 3
Open Monday to Sunday 11.45-14.30 and Monday to Friday 18-23.30
Margherita pizza: 5 euro
After a few years in Milan now, I know Spontini with the same familiar intimacy I imagine lots of Italians know Spontini: that is by passing by on Sunday mornings on the way to Sunday lunch, watching as an entire pizza al trancio is wrapped in baby pink wrapping paper, like a christening cake, and taking it with as a much appreciated sign of gratitude to those who normally would have been cooking all Sunday.
As far as al trancio goes Spontini is superb. They only make one pizza: margherita with lots of oregano and silent anchovies, burnt and crispy around the edges, a spongy rise of dough and volcanic melt of mozzarella in the middle, bought by the slice or as a whole. The only menu diversion they make is a dish of lasagna they keep on hand, the single alternative to their pizza.
One may certainly eat at the restaurant, though the newly remodeled, downright sparkling storefronts don't exactly offer the charm one might go looking for in Italy. Like an increasing number of Italian locales, this blunted aesthetic seems inspired by some combo of American efficiency and superficiality. But hey, at least the pizza is good!
Corso San Gottardo, 14
Open Sunday to Thursday 11.30-16.00, 18.30-23.00, Friday to Saturday 11.30-14.30
Tuesday 12:00–3:00 pm, 6:30 pm – 12:00 am
Mini margherita pizza: 4.00
A step beyond Porto Ventiquattro Maggio—the crux of such hip areas as Navigli and Ticense—sits the self consciously cozy, almost contradictory, home of the mini pizza. If the communal “farmers market style” tables and cheery vintage espresso machines start to arouse some just skepticism, not to worry! Just as you think this is nothing but fashion, the manager greets you with his unmistakable Neopolitan accent, and very unhip (if totally charming) hospitality. Supporting him is the pizzaiolo (a young guy with great hair, brooding by his oven) and one woman at the cash register, a classic Italian beauty with a classically southern Italian pout.
If the restaurant’s specialty (mini pizze) seems a bit of a shtick, at least they are executed well. The menu offers all the basics, with anchovy and oregano, or basil and bufala. Other southern delicacies, such as arancini or parmigiana melenzana, may be ordered after or before. As my native Neapolitan informed me, this cute little corner is but the beginning! The next MiPi will be opening in Paris. Along with exporting all the dough (and dolci) from their home base in Naples, they will also be exporting some irreplaceable Neapolitans.
9. La Piccola Ischia
Via G. B. Morgagni, 7
Since 1997 La Piccola Ischia in Via Morgagni (named for an island off Naples) has sat tucked into the quiet, verdant folds of Porta Venezia, right off of Corso Buenos Aires. The interior is unintentionally kitsch, with pirate props and nautical murals covering the walls. Though many claim that La Ischia’s time has passed (probably with the opening of three other branches) the pizza is still quite good. While some prefer a more rustic shape, there is something to be said for the regularity of their margherita, a perfectly round, well leavened crust, with a fragrant, slightly sloppy, unbroken surface of mozzarella, evenly marked by toasts and burns. For something exceptional take the “regina margherita” with fresh fior di latte mozzarella, basil, and grana.
10. Brick Oven
Via Marsala, 2
Open Monday through Friday 1215-1445, 1930-2400
Margherita: 10 euro
Ignoring whatever contentions certain Milanese might have about this yeast free, flat bread style pizza, it certainly has left an impression. Deep into Brera, Brick Oven is situated on the corner of the neighborhood’s swankiest intersection, sharing the scene with such landmarks as L’Antica Locanda Solferino, and La Bricola. The interior lies somewhere between psychedelic and celestial, with nebulous murals covering the walls and ceilings, depicting some version of the American wild west. The pizza is flat, crisped, and long like the tongue of an elephant, served on a one handled cutting board. There are often sprinklings of a local VIP scene (football players, glamour girls), beginning with aperitivo but carrying on throughout dinner. Locals tend to go on Sunday. If one is finally sick of pizza, they also can do a mean steak.