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FOOD & WINE >> Food and Wine from Lombardia

Food and Wine from Lombardia

Milan is the business capital of Italy, where Italian and multinational companies meet. It also has its tourist attractions, such as the gothic white cathedral of Milan, the Basilica of St. Ambroeus, Brera and the Poldi Pezzoli Museum. It is the centre for culture, 80 per cent of Italian publishing houses are located in Milan, and is also famous for its industrial and fashion design. After the second world war it also became a mecca for restaurateurs from all over Italy, beginning with the Tuscans. Today you can sample most of the regional cuisines in Milan including that of Puglia, Abruzzo, Sardinia, and Sicily.

The city has always revered the culture of good eating, and both the Bagutta Prize and the Cooking Academy were born here, inspired by Orio Vergani, journalist of the newspaper Corriere della Sera, an institution in Italy. Going back to the beginning of 1800 one discovers an interesting tradition concerning Milan's La Scala, considered the "cathedral" of opera. Each box had an area in the rear where meals could be prepared, and curtains were prudently drawn around the boxes to protects its occupants from prying eyes. But with the popularity of Bellini, Verdi, and Rossini, the spectators started to pay more attention to the music and left their dining for later. Thus were born the traditional after-opera restaurants: Biffi and Savini.

Although there is not a typical Lombard cuisine in Milan, it has adopted that of the surrounding regions. More rice is consumed in Lombardy than pasta, and cheese is invariably served at the end of the meal. Butter (loved by the nearby French) substitutes olive oil, and heavy cream, unknown to the rest of Italy, is often used to enrich dishes. Local cheese specialties such as "crescenza," "robiole", "mascarpone," "gorgonzola", "taleggio, "grana lodigiano," and "belpaese." Cheese and first courses are the strong points of the regional cooking: cold "minestrone" (vegetable soup), "polenta bergamasca agli accelletti," (corn bread with little game birds), "pizzocheri della Valtellina," "tortelli di zucca mantovani" (little pasta shapes stuffed with pumpkin), and first among firsts, "risotto allo zafferano," (rice with saffron) prepared with meat broth, bone marrow from oxen, white wine, onion and Vialone rice which acquires a pasty shine as it swells with cooking.

Cuisine around lakes Garda, Maggiore, and Como, as well as d'Iseo and others is renowned for its crispy bread and for "misoltino' (sardines from the lake), and areas near the Po river feature its eel, catfish, and sometimes storioni. The city of Mantua, home of the Dukes of Gonzaga, cannot be overlooked, as they Dukes were hosts for over four centuries to the "celebrities" of the era. The self-exiled Swedish Queen Cristina was a guest on three different occasions, and detailed descriptions of menus and decorations still exist. One of the cooks at the service of the Gonzagas, Bartolomeo Stebani, published "The Art of Good Cooking" in 1671.

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Wines of Lombardia, Italy

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