Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Sunday lunch in Milan - Osteria Del Binari

Sunday lunch is a tradition in Italy, one that we've adopted whole heartedly and plan to continue when we return to Australia.  If not lunching at home, families gather at the local osteria, trattoria or ristorante, which raises a question we've puzzled over many times - what is the difference between these three venues?

The answer it seems is largely historical.  In the past a ristorante was considered the most formal dining option, with white-clothed tables, professional serving staff including a host and sommelier, an innovative menu, not just regional dishes but something a little more refined, and therefore the price was more expensive.  A trattoria was more likely to be a smaller, family run establishment with a more homey ambience offering traditional regional dishes, a good hearty meal for a medium price.  An osteria was originally similar to a travellers' inn and was usually positioned close to transport links where people could stop for a drink with a simple rustic meal on offer.  Thus it was the 'cheap and cheerful' option for a quick meal.  In our experience these definitions no longer exist, as our recent lunch at Osteria Del Binari illustrates.

For our first meal in Milan, back in December 2012, Stefano took me to Sunday lunch at Osteria Del Binari on via Tortona.  Since then we've eaten there several times because the food is reliably good and because it is so very Milanese - hidden, elegant and slightly old fashioned in style and service.
As we start to say our goodbyes to Milan, we visited Osteria Del Binari one last time.  Elisabetta, a friend of Stefano's who he met at the office, joined us on a beautiful sunny afternoon for a traditional Milanese pranzo della domenica.  As always at this osteria, we were greeted with a complimentary glass of prosecco.  Crudities with oil and pate arrived, again complimentary, so we could sip and nibble while making our selection from the menu.
Stefano ordered a homemade pasta dish, "pasta al torchio con farina di castagne al ragu di selvaggina", which was a delicious pasta made with chestnut flour and a game meat ragu.  Although Elisabetta isn't Milanese she chose the city's favourite, "cotoletta alla milanese con patate novelle agli aromi" which was a very large veal cutlet with roasted herb potatoes.  I ordered the other favourite Milanese dish, "ossobuco con risotto alla milanese", in fact I've ordered it every time we've been to Osteria Del Binari.  The servings were large, but the dishes were so fresh and delicious that we cleaned our plates and agreed with Elisabetta when she concluded that it was one of the best meals she's eaten in Milan.  And thanks to Elisabetta's thoughtful discussion with the sommelier, a bottle of Barbera from the Piedmont region complemented our dishes perfectly.
Dessert was a selection of ricotta, chocolate and lemon torte, and a not very photogenic but absolutely delicious, caramel tarte tartin.  
Elisabetta, Stefano and I enjoying a sunny Sunday lunch.
We relaxed and took our time chatting and enjoying the sunny corner looking out onto the courtyard.  A perfect Sunday afternoon in Milan.

So what is the difference between a ristorante, trattoria  and an osteria?  As you've probably guessed, it is a question which still puzzles us, especially when we eat at Osteria Del Binari.

Where we ate:
Osteria Del Binari CLICK HERE
via Tortona 1
The price was about 40E per person - excellent value.  
Cross the pedestrian bridge over the railway lines beside Porta Genova station.  Via Tortona is on the left.  Don't be concerned about the area, although it looks ordinary it is perfectly safe.  During Design Week via Tortona buzzes as the hidden design studios which line this street open their shutters and invite the world inside.  

Prossima volta dal Bormio.


  1. Looks lovely Jen and I bet they could cater for senza glutine. Looking forward to continuing the Sunday lunch tradition with you and Stephen when you get home.

    1. Yes Therese, I am remembering the lovely sunny lunches we've enjoyed at your house. We will have some new Italian recipes to share by the time we arrive home, senza glutine of course.

  2. Jenny, what do you mean "As we start to say our goodbyes to Milan..."??? Surely you're not leaving before visiting us! Will you be back?

    1. Yes Catherine, our Milan Transfer is coming to an end. What a lovely comment and invitation. Thank you.
      We are planning a long 'long-service leave' style trip for the next few months travelling through Italy before we fly home in early June. Our dream is to finish in style with a week in the Piedmont, so we look forward to stopping by to say "hello".

  3. It all looks so delicious. I think I would enjoy Italy and Italian food! I can't believe you are leaving that magnificent country. You must have mixed feelings about leaving? I have enjoyed reading your posts. :)

    1. We do have mixed feelings about leaving, but we are looking forward to exploring the south of Italy. Thanks again for your comment Kathy. I'll keep blogging from the road as we explore.