Friday, July 21, 2017

Restaurant Review: Altopascio, Milan, Italy

Altopascio - dinner on June 25, 2017
For the next few posts, we now leave the US and head out to Europe. Right after Vegas, I flew back home just long enough to unpack, repack and head back out to the airport so I could catch my flight to Milan, Italy for a business trip. I arrived a day earlier because jet lag and I are not friends and I wanted time to acclimate to the local time zone.
Still water
I’ve been to Italy before but not Milan. It’s a very business-centric, Monday to Friday sort of city;I arrived Saturday night and ventured out Sunday so it was fairly quiet when I arrived. I spent most of the day walking around (okay, and napping because jet lag smacked me around) and ended up at a restaurant near my hotel for dinner. I’m not quite sure what the restaurant was actually called. It was Altopascio according to my check but I can't be sure. My Italian is almost non-existent. I speak gelato and that’s about it. (I did look it up later but the only reference to an Altopascio I could find in Milan was at a different address and according to yelp, had closed.)
Most of the restaurants I’ve seen in Milan and other Italian cities have primarily outdoor seating. At least the ones near my hotel did. Which is great because it made for good people watching. I passed by the opening of the restaurant, a server saw me and asked if I wanted a table, I said yes, she indicated a two-topper and I took a seat with a good view of watching people walk by.
I can’t be in Italy and not get pasta. It’s unthinkable. So I ordered pasta carbonara and it was delicious. Carbonara is often rich since it’s made with eggs and cream and this was no exception. But the ingredients were really fresh and the sauce was perfectly made. A bad carbonara is rich and heavy but very bland. This was a great carbonara and actually wasn’t too rich (or so I kept telling myself so I could keep eating it) and it definitely had flavor.

What I also like about dining in Europe is the restaurant portions aren’t too big. This one wasn’t too small either but just right, especially considering I had napped through lunch so I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. It left me with enough room to order dessert.
Now, with my Italian being almost nonexistent and I had turned off data roaming on my phone so I couldn’t look up what the dessert menu choices were, I took a chance that “Tentazione al Cioccolato” would be some sort of chocolate cake or at least something chocolate. Fortunately, I guessed correctly and I was served a piece of chocolate cake with some kind mousse and chocolate frosting. (After I got back to my hotel and logged onto the free wifi, I googled to find out the literal translation was Chocolate Temptation.)

When I took the first bite of cake, I almost regretted my choice. It must’ve just come out of the refrigerator and the first mouthfeel was of dry cake. Uh-oh. Fortunately, as in European people watching custom, I ate slowly and that gave the cake enough time to warm to outside air temperature (which was rather warm) and the cake righted itself to how it was meant to be eaten: soft cake, chilled mousse and creamy ganache frosting. I enjoyed the last bite more than the first. Still, for once, the entrĂ©e beat the dessert. That carbonara was quite excellent.

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