There are many historical commercial activities in Milan. One in particular has a history of one hundred and ten years that will be celebrated this year, along with the twenty years of management of the owner Laura, and it appears so vital and in step with the times that its age doesn’t even show. We are talking about the Cantina Piemontese, a trattoria that stands between the Via Larga and the Giardini della Gustalla, and adjacent to the historic headquarters of the University of Milan.
The restaurant preserves a 1930s tavern look, thin and stately together, with hexagonal floor tiles, wooden panels on white walls and a beamed ceiling. It’s all very simple, in this restaurant, from the kitchen of strong traditional mold (risotto and braised meat are their workhorses) up to the interior and the mise-en-place. The atmosphere is therefore very relaxed, also because it is the intent of the restaurant to evoke the joy of family tables and genuine things.
Speaking of genuineness, the Cantina Piemontese knows something. Its suppliers are still those small, local companies that do things like the old times. The meat is all from Fassona di Cuneo; just as fish always comes from the sea, never frozen or raised, and vegetables are always fresh. Strange exception to a restaurant with a northern-Italian name, pasta, when it is not made fresh by the local pasta factory, is Pugliese, kneaded cold with artisan or bell methods, Gragnano, extruded through bronze and the characteristic rough surface.
The specialities, as one might expect, abound. Fassona tartare cut exclusively with a knife, braised, bagnacauda. In the summer there is no lack of lonian clams, in autumn, mushrooms- fresh and never preserved in any way. Then, in winter, when their season arrives, the white truffles of Alba become protagonists of the menu. The wine sector is certainly not less, with an eye towards small local businesses, wineries with a long historical tradition, and also a selection of French wines.
To finish expanding its offer, the Cantina has both a large dehors surrounded by greenery, which becomes delightful in the beautiful spring and summer days. The true gem- an event space of its own, named Spazio Tencitt, which is perhaps one of the locations more suggestive that you could choose for a special occasion: a romantic cellar, a former coal storage, with a barrel vault, with ancient exposed bricks that is joined to the wine cellar and dominated by a large, wooden table in the middle.
The restaurant and Spazio Tencitt are separate, but are part of a single complex. They are located in a historic place of Milan, via Laghetto, which until the time of the Habsburgs, was a real artificial lake, used to transport the Duomo’s marble first, then for the discharge of coal. It was here that a charcoal, or “tencitt” in the dialect, named Bernardo Catoni, who escaped from the plague that struck the city in 1631, commissioned a votive fresco of the Madonna on the street corner, which still exists today.
In short, Cantina Piemontese is much more than a simple restaurant, but a real dive into the history of Milan and Italian gastronomy.