weekly feature | Apr 5, 2023 |
10 designers share their can’t-miss spots in Milan

As design enthusiasts head to Salone del Mobile next week, Business of Home asked 10 in-the-know designers to share the restaurants, shops and attractions they can’t get enough of while in Italy’s capital city of style. Buon viaggio!

where to eat and drink
“No trip to Milan would be complete without sampling some of the city’s outstanding cuisine. One of my favorite restaurants is Paper Moon Giardino, which exudes an intoxicating Milanese elegance. The restaurant is located in an aristocratic palace, and the cuisine—beloved by locals and international travelers alike—never fails to amaze me.”
—César Giraldo, César Giraldo Design, West Hollywood, California

“Go to Latteria San Marco. My husband and I love this restaurant—we won’t feel like we’ve gone to Milan if we don’t go!” —Marcela Cure, Barranquilla, Colombia

Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada is my favorite coffee place in Milan. Designed by Wes Anderson, it has a gorgeous 1950s style, and you will feel like a part of one of his movies.” —Jessica Jaegger, Jaegger Interior Design, Miami

“For the perfect Italian aperitivo—ideal for the uninitiated and fans of the tradition alike—Camparino is a must. A century of storied history in the building [combined with] the traditional casual service and the courtyard location across from the Duomo will have you humming a Fellini soundtrack. When you want to eat fish with a touch of unmistakable Milanese charm, Ristorante da Giacomo is the place. It’s at the core of Via Sottocorno’s little gastronomic district, which also includes a bistro, a deli, a bakery and a tabaccheria [tobacco shop]. A seasonal foyer and a weathered wall in pastel green boiserie all create a classical ambiance. The food is savory, reliable and will beg you to return. I always make sure I save room for dessert and slip in a purchase at the deli.” —Gil Melott, Gil Melott Studio, Chicago

“After a fabulous dinner in Milan, I find it so refreshing to meet up [with friends and peers] at Bar Basso. As a designer, this is food for my soul. Situated on the corner of Via Plinio and Via Enrico Nöe, the bar is jam-packed inside and out. From spying on a pair of lovers nestled in the window of the exterior building to chatting with designers and artisans from across Europe, what’s not to love?” —Michael Ellison, Studio Michael Ellison, New York

“Check out The Bulgari Bar for an aperitivo. For lunch, I love Frangente, Osteria Alla Concorrenza, Mater Bistro and Exit Gastronomia Urbana. A few favorites for dinner are Nebbia, Yapa, Bentoteca and Altriménti.” —Sabrina Maclean, Hinojosa Design Studio, Miami

“For dinner, Langosteria Bistrot is a must. The place to try the traditional risotto Milanese and cotoletta alla Milanese is Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone, a quintessential Milan restaurant with the most exquisite al fresco patio dating from the Renaissance. Time permiting, we love to lunch at Bice—classic Milanese food, impeccable service and fabulous wine. After taking in an exhibit at Mudec, head over to the Navigli neighborhood for lunch at Belé Ristorante and to explore the famous five canals of the city. Pasticceria Cova Montenapoleone is a favorite for an afternoon gelato break but also great for breakfast.” —Gioi Tran, Applegate Tran Interiors, San Francisco

“Have lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel Milan on Via Gesù or Bice on Via Borgospesso for some classic old-world Italian fare. For dinner, check out Piccola Cucina.” —Lauren Rottet, Rottet Studio, Los Angeles

“For a casual outdoor lunch, I love La Pizzeria Nazionale on Via Palermo. It’s a great spot to stop between boutiques in the Brera district. And when you’re ready for dessert, be sure to sample the gelato at Fatto Con Amore, on Corso Magenta, only a few blocks from The Last Supper. You can truly taste the love!” —Karen Frome, Rise Projects, New York

What to do
Villa Necchi Campiglio, a house museum from the 1930s, is an absolute favorite and a must for any design enthusiast, [as it offers] a very intimate look into authentic Milanese sensibility. Casa Museo Boschi Di Stefano is so authentic and a memorable museum—I love the tile floors there!” —Cure

Fondazione Prada [a contemporary art museum just outside city limits] is a must-see. I always have to make a [gift-shopping] stop at Marchesi 1824 on Via Monte Napoleone for coffee and pastries. The space is gorgeous, as is the packaging of all their candy, so they make perfect gifts to bring home for family and friends.” —Kelly Schandel, Thinkpure, Santa Monica, California

“As a lover of vintage and iconic furniture design, I find myself continually drawn to the Nilufar Depot gallery. Its layout, inspired by the Teatro alla Scala, showcases a unique combination of the most iconic pieces alongside cutting-edge contemporary designs. During Salone, the exhibitions are truly unforgettable and should not be missed. I am also fascinated by independent design. [The pop-up show] Alcova is an excellent example of how innovative design can be showcased in the most fascinating way. Its yearly exhibitions are held in mesmerizing locations, and this year’s return to the former Porta Vittoria abattoir promises to be a true highlight. The transformation of the neglected space into a hub for exhibitions and installations is sure to impress.” —Giraldo

L’Appartamento by Artemest is a 1930s Milanese apartment in the historic 5Vie [district] that will be transformed by six international interior design and architectural firms, featuring Artemest treasures. “1000 Vases” is an extraordinary (for-sale) exhibition of 1,000 vases designed by independent designers from over 60 countries. The variety of styles and shapes is endless—from tribal to modern to geometric—and it’s any designer’s dream to have available when it’s time to style a project.” —Jaegger

“Don’t miss Dimore Gallery. I’m still swooning over a Gabriella Crespi exhibit they had a few years ago; their puesta en escena [staging] and unique montages in their exhibitions are so moody, moving and inspiring.” —Cure

“Discreetly tucked into a former tie factory, the iconic, visionary Rossana Orlandi gallery has created an avant-garde space of extraordinary Italian design that has become an essential stop for the design-minded. I suggest you take your time to soak in the pieces and the connection to the space. I am always surprised by what I feel.” —Melott

“One of our favorite areas to explore is Sempione, with its Gio Ponti architectural gems, tree-lined streets, and overall charm and calm, as it is a more residential area away from [the chaos of] the city center and, of course, Brera. Via Gesù, Via Monte Napoleone and Via Santo Spirito are the luxury destinations—the heart of the fashion world. Culturally, it’s almost a rite of passage to explore the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the [adjacent] Duomo. The Galleria [shopping arcade] is a feat of architecture, [with its] magnificent barrel-vaulted iron and glass roofs, among the largest in Europe. The Duomo offers one of the best views in the city, and being that close to the flying buttresses, spires, figures and stonework is like a spiritual walk through history. This year, we’re looking forward to “Cere Anatomiche,” an exhibition at Fondazione Prada conceived in collaboration with director David Cronenberg. We’re also carving out time to see the Dalí, Magritte, Man Ray and surrealism show at the Mudec. And Santa Maria della Grazie is a must for first-time visitors to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper.” —Tran

Where to shop
“For shopping, some of my favorite spots are Antonia for a stylish mix of women’s clothing and accessories, Aspesi for a more minimalist take on fashion for both men and women, and of course, 10 Corso Como.” —Schandel

“The Laboratorio Paravicini has become a must-see and must-touch stop for those who appreciate tableware. Whether your tastes run traditional or more modern, the pieces resonate in a variety of settings. I attribute much of this to Paravicini’s approach to using the finest Italian pottery traditions, incorporating new shapes and hand-painted finishes. It is a secret address I share with people who appreciate artistry, heritage and elegant entertaining. Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande is the largest outdoor flea market in Milan, where you will find not only antiques but many other products, like books, furniture, high-end vintage articles, jewelry, porcelain and paintings—a few of which I have sent home to clients after an on-site WhatsApp consult. It isn’t hard to spot some real bargains here. The route along the riverbanks is ideal for a leisurely Sunday walk. There is an abundance of local flavor at the small restaurants and cafes. I find it a great place for gifts with character.” —Melott

“Walk around Via Monte Napoleone. Every major fashion brand is there with the latest, and there are often things you will not find in the U.S. Then stroll over to Via Manzoni and check out Paul Smith as well as other pop-up exhibits. If you still have energy, walk toward the Duomo and go over to Via Durini to see the classic contemporary brands like B&B Italia, Cassina and Cappellini.” —Rottet

“My favorite area in Milan is the Brera district, home to the Pinacoteca [art museum], which houses so many classical masterpieces as well as more recent works, including several by one of my favorite artists, Modigliani. It’s a marvelous neighborhood to wander through, filled with small independent design boutiques as well as established showrooms like Dedar and Salvatori.” —Frome

Homepage image: ©Boris Stroujko/Adobe Stock

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.