Milan | un posto a Milano

Here’s a place in Milan that’s anything but milanese, if we take that, as we generally do, to mean the essence of high-end fashion, design and all that’s swanky and sophisticated. un posto a Milano, housed inside a 17th-century farmstead, is a different sort of place, with the kind of style that comes without pretension. Not long ago the buildings at Cascina Cuccagna were derelict, a run-down relic of times when the Porta Romana gate really did separate the town from the countryside. It was taken in hand, restored and transformed into a community and arts hub by a consortium of associations. One of those is esterni, dedicated to developing public spaces and promoting all forms of art in them (with the Milano Film Festival and the Public Design Festival, among others, already firmly under their belt). un posto a Milano is one of their more recent projects. That sorted, what is it? It’s a restaurant and bar – and lately a hostel too just to complicate things further.

But first the eateries, with a mission: that of reconnecting the city with its rural hinterland in terms of lifestyle and food choices. So the best possible raw materials are sourced directly and preferably locally from over 150 committed small farmers operating ethically and sustainably if not organically. Farm to fork. You don’t just eat and drink at un posto a Milano; you think about what you’re eating and drinking, you know where and when and how it was produced, you might even get to know the producer at one of the Tuesday evening happy hours arranged just so you can. You can certainly read all about her/him/them in the newsletter or online. It’s all about preserving worthy agricultural traditions and taking care of the land, those who work it, the environment and the consumer.

Not that such noble aims take precedence over what you then find on your plate. Chef Nicola Cavallaro, acclaimed on several continents, and his dream team see to that. Everything you can do from scratch in a restaurant kitchen, they do, striking a fine balance between traditional techniques and creative flair. Weekday lunches are buffets with daily specials, while their seasonal menu for dinners and weekends includes tasting selections and platters of cheeses and cured meats as well as pasta (homemade), meat, fish and vegetarian mains, and desserts (all homemade). Plus infants’ and kids’ menus. The bar, on the other hand, serves drinks and a myriad of tasty morsels all day long, 10.00 to 01.00. The ambiance is designfully rustic, spartan, a little vintage, as befits an industrial building dating back more than three centuries. Speaking of kids, they’re very welcome. It’s a family sort of place, uno spazio pubblico, with various rooms, a garden and play area, wi-fi, books, newspapers and toys. And events. Bring the dog too. If you’re coming from further afield, that hostel-cum-guesthouse might be just what you need. It has two six-bed rooms and a couple more with only two beds and a private bathroom, plainly furnished and accordingly priced, with use of all those communal facilities.