Summer Lunchin’ at Silvano

Silvano Restaurant Milan Tiella
Pugliese tiella (mussels, potatoes, and rice) topped with tomato sauce, pecorino, and parsley

Milan can be insufferable during the summer: oppressive heat, sticky humidity, and sporadic conditioning. Establishments equipped with the latter don’t usually implement it with the frigid force we Americans are accustomed to, so, more often than not, air conditioning can feel nonexistent at worst and defective at best. It’s easy to see why locals generally flee to the seaside, where the lower mercury and breezier climes allow for a more comfortable, nature-infused weekend.

In recent years, though, Milan has become markedly less empty during summer weekends–whether for work, choice, or default, more and more locals have started to hang back. The city no longer has the “ghost town” vibes that used to make me fear a simple walk down the street turning into a true crime podcast waiting to happen. And this summer, there’s an excellent reason to spend a weekend (or two) in town: Silvano vino e cibo al banco.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Owners
Cesare Battisti and Vladimiro Poma, photo: Silvano vino e cibo al banco

One of my favorite new restaurants in Milan, the nearly-year-old Silvano is the brainchild of Cesare Battisti of Ratanà (a guest on the first season of my podcast) and chef Vladimiro Poma, who oversees the kitchen. As far as I’m concerned, Silvano is required eating in Milan year-round. But, if you’re in town on the summer weekends, you should book a table for lunch to sample the fish-centric Silvano Marittima menu.

The solstice officially marks summer, and I happened to lunch at Silvano on the season’s first post-solstice Saturday. When I arrived, most of the outdoor tables were occupied. Inside, the friendly young female staffer led me past the long, curved steel bar to the only vacant table in the house, its, worn dark wood tabletop bare except for a glass in the center containing burgundy napkins and cutlery. Groups of four or more animated twenty- and thirty-somethings occupied the others, except for the table beside me where Mina, a buoyant gray dachshund, sat up straight in a chair she had all to herself at the table, eagerly eyeing the food of the couple with whom she shared the table.

Silvano restaurant Milan dining room
photo: Silvano vino e cibo al banco

Massive glass jars tightly sealed with fruits bathing in colorful liquids topped the glass class facing me, displaying goodies like roasted potatoes, Russian salad, fruit, and focaccia below suspended seafoam green 1970s lamps. Vintage posters, like an old-school Carpano ad and an homage to former president Sandro Pertini, decorated the paint-peeled wall behind the counter, and natural-wine-stacked shelves lined the dining area near the entrance. It was a scorcher, and the sliding doors along the wall opposite the countertop were cracked for ventilation. Speaking of the atmosphere, the sunshine and scent of fried seafood was somewhat transportive, recalling the seaside. Though there’s nary a coastline to be found in Nolo – or Milan in general. Unless you count the canal banks. But I don’t love thinking about them because the rat-like heads of the nutria gliding along the shadowy water CREEP me out. Anyhoo, I digress. Back to lunch.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Ceviche
Ceviche of the day

Liguria is not only home to Milan’s nearest seaside; it’s also Poma’s home turf, so it’s only fitting that the menu references it. (It also happens to play host to the antique market from where Silvano’s owners procured the previously mentioned vintage lamps). A zucchini flower’s compact “alla ligure” stuffing included anchovies, bread crumbs, and ricotta and was complete with a dollop of cuttlefish mayo. (I don’t vado matta for mayo, so I didn’t avail myself of the condiment!) Brandacujun, a Ligurian stockfish or baccalà and potato preparation, was topped with three splodges each of a pesto-like green sauce that was actually “salsa verde,” a green parsley-based sauce, and a white sauce so glossy I initially thought it was burrata. But it was baccalà pil pil, an oil-based white sauce typically served with salt cod in Spain. I helped myself to a couple of large spoonfuls, then swirled it all around on my plate to get a little of everything in each bite.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Brandacujun
Brandacujun with salsa verde and salt cold pil pil

And speaking of Spain, we drank wine from Galicia: Conasbrancas 2022 by Fedellos do Couto, a smoky, minerally, savory blend of native macerated white grapes as golden as the sunshine. Its fruity freshness wasn’t too overpowering and enhanced the meal.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Spanish Wine
Conasbrancas 2022 by Fedellos do Couto in Galizia, Spain

The ceviche of the day (three pics up) was silky red snapper with meaty hunks of squash and avocado in a sloshy citrus sauce topped with raw red onions and shredded cilantro. Summer wouldn’t be summer without tomatoes, and they fittingly appeared twice. First, in a lively, gloopy sauce atop a Pugliese Tiella (rice, potatoes, and mussels) finished with pecorino and parsley (see cover photo), and later in a non-seafood summer classic: parmigiana! The eggplant wasn’t fried in advance – it’s baked only, and the tender, nuanced, hearty slab was coated with a sturdy mozzarella “crust” as crackly as a brownie top.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Parmigiana

If you were to twist my arm and force me to choose a favorite, it would be the fritto misto cacio e pepe: shrimp and calamari sheathed in a taut batter comprising club soda, flour, pepper, and pecorino. INSANE. The sturdy batter clung perfectly to the tender, juicy fish. The lingering peppery aftertaste was divine–I couldn’t stop digging into it, and I DREADED arriving at the last bite.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Fritto Misto Cacio e Pepe
Fritto Misto Cacio e Pepe

Also, no visit to Silvano is complete without toast. In its most basic form, the Italian bar snack is what we Americans might call a grilled ham and cheese on white bread. Silvano is one of the several spots around town that have taken it up a notch, sandwiching prosciutto cotto from Bonfatti in Emilia-Romagna and gooey Branzi (a cheese from the Lombard Alps) inside pillowy focaccia. It’s accompanied by a ramekin of house-made giardiniera that you can scoop into the toast–simply glorious.

Silvano Restaurant Milano Toast
Silvano’s toast with the most

For dessert, we ordered a slice of the ricotta al forno, or baked ricotta, whose burnt Basque-cheesecake-like exterior beckoned me all lunch long from the bottom of the display case. It tasted soft and sweet (but not cloying) and paired dandily with the bitter citron marmalade that accompanied it. And we also couldn’t resist a bowl of Ciliegia di Vignola, a PGI fruit from Bologna and Modena. These long-stemmed jumbo cherries take the stone fruit to a whole new level: fleshy, tart, vibrant, and sweet.

Silvano Restaurant Milan Ricotta al forno
Ricotta al forno with citron marmalade

Fifth-quarter devotees: fret not. You’ll find the veal pâté, tripe, tongue, and the other signatures on the evening menu, which, for the summer, is also undercut with a marittima touch.

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