During my recent visit to Milan, Italy, I asked a friend who is a Milan native for a restaurant recommendation. He did not hesitate to send me to Ristorante Al Porto, a delightful seafood restaurant located near the Piazzale Antonio Cantore, about a 25 minute walk or 10 minute taxi ride from the city center (Piazza del Duomo). As I entered the restaurant I realized that I may have needed to reserve ahead (but didn’t), as it was quite full of customers (always a good sign!). However, thankfully the kind hostess, Signora Barbara, was able to offer me a seat at the raw bar, which ended up being the best seat in the house! Where else do you get to watch as the chefs skillfully prepare each plate of “crudo” one at a time? It was immediately obvious to me that the seafood there was as fresh as it can get, as I drooled over the beautiful display of oysters, sea urchins, langostines, sashimi grade fish, and accompaniments. I knew I was in for a treat.
The ambiance of the restaurant is such that although you know its a bit high-end based on the menu offerings, it is very relaxed and unpretentious. I love this type of restaurant, where I know I can enjoy my food along with the other customers who are there for the food and not to “see and be seen”.
First things first- wine! The hostess promptly offered me several choices of wine by the glass, and recommended a lovely white to pair with my seafood dinner. It was an Italian wine from Tuscany, Sauvignon Melaia. It had a mild acidity, and was very light and easy-drinking, pairing well with my meal.
Now to the food, oh the food! As a first plate I ordered the shrimp cocktail (cocktail di gamberi). It consisted of small very tasty shrimp dressed in a creamy dressing. I was not expecting the sauce, but it was very good, slightly tangy and not too heavy so as to allow the flavor of the shrimp to dominate. The shrimp were very clean-tasting, sweet, and tender; exactly how shrimp should taste. For my second plate I ordered the spaghetti with clams and dried fish eggs (spaghetti alle vongole con uova di pesce essiccate). This dish was amazing, as the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, the clams were juicy and perfectly steamed, and the dry fish roe surprises by adding an unusual brininess and slight granular texture to the dish. Is your mouth watering yet?! Or as the Italians say, “mi viene l’acquolina in bocca”. My only regret was that I was too full to order more of the first and second courses; next time I will definitely order the “crudo misto”, a gorgeous dish pictured below.
It would be a sin if I had skipped dessert, so I had to take one for the team ;). While observing the food preparation throughout dinner, I had my eye on something special. Massimo, or “Max” was carefully and artfully making individual panna cotta one by one as the customers ordered it. It was difficult to decide between the one with fresh berries or caramel, but I chose the caramel because it also came with fresh strawberries on top. A win-win! This dessert was as delicious as it was beautiful, see photo below. They even gave me a selection of sweets compliments of the house, and wrapped it for me to take home for breakfast the next morning!
To summarize, I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves fine dining and seafood. You cannot go wrong here, with the combination of ambiance, superior quality food, customer service, and kind staff who will treat you and feed you like royalty. Don’t miss it when you visit Milan! Buon appetito and cheers! 🙂