Latteria di San Marco

image. (Photo by TK)

Mamma's home-cooking meets Papa's odd alchemy at a moderately-priced restaurant in Milan's Brera district

In the lean times following World War II, many Milanese latterie (dairy shops selling milk, cheeses, other dairy products, and eggs) began to double as simple osterie, serving basic down-home dishes and offering meals on credit to a city that was rebuilding itself from the ruins of war. Several of these treasured cheap eats have survived, and none is more popular than this latteria in the heart of the artsy Brera district.

It's a tiny joint of just nine tables and no reservations. (Show up either at opening time—7:30pm—as the tables are packed within 15 minutes, or drop in around 9:30pm; they'll continue seating until 10pm).

The high walls are a confusion of framed oil paintings, prints of roses, and the occasional hand-scribbled praise gushing from an old place mat. These invariably compliment Arturo and Maria Maggi on their old-school Milanese cooking and friendly, family-run atmosphere (though not necessarily the service, which is swift but not always on the ball).

Arturo is a self-proclaimed alchemist, and has this idea that many foods are not yet completely "fermented" when we eat them, forcing our bellies to work overtime. Therefore he cooks in solid silver pots and pans, which he claims "...revive the fermentation process and purify the food, rendering it more easily digestible."

Well, the grub is certainly tasty, in large part due to Arturo's fondness for strongly flavored ingredients such as anchovies, fennel, peperoncino, and horse (which is a common commoner's meat in Italy; if you wish to avoid it, don't order anything called cavallo [horse] or asino [mule]).

Favorite dishes

  • riso al salto (a delicious dish of leftover saffron risotto alla milanese sauteed in a pan of butter)
  • spaghetti in an anchovy-based sauce spiked with red peppers and chopped parsley
  • homemade pasta spirals tossed with fresh anchovies and chopped fennel)
  • farro (emmer, a barley-like grain) served in a hot gooey mass of fresh mozzarella and diced tomatoes
  • maccheroni served simply under a tomato sauce or coated with melted butter and cracked black pepper
  • grilled curly endive
  • horse filet flavored with rosemary
  • a thin veal scallop flame-kissed on the grill; thick slice of roast beef cooked on an open grill.

For dessert, most regulars go with a cheese selection, though there's also a different homemade pie available every day.

Tips & links


Via S. Marco 24
tel. +39-02-659-7653
Mon-Fri 12:30pm – 2:30, 7:30 – 10:00 pm
Closed Sat and Sun

General dining tips
  • "Pane e coperto" is not a scam: Nearly all Italian restaurants have an unavoidable pane e coperto ("bread and cover" charge) of anything from €1 to €15—though most often €2 to €5—per person that is automatically added onto your bill. This is perfectly normal and perfectly legal (though a few trendy restaurants make a big deal about not charging it).
  • Find out if service (tip) is included: Don't double-tip by accident. If the menu has a line—usually near the bottom of the front or back—that says "servizio" with either a percentage, an amount, or the word "incluso" after it, that means the tip is automatically included in the price. (If it says "servizio non incluso," tip is, obviously, not included.)

    Even if the menu doesn't say it, ask É incluso il servizio? (ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo)—"Is service included?" If not, tip accordingly (10%–15% is standard).

    Don't be stingy about tipping, though. If il servizio is, indeed, already included but the service was particularly good, it's customary to round up the bill or leave €1 per person extra—just to show you noticed and that you appreciated the effort.
  • Tourist menus: The concept of a bargain prix-fixe menu is not popular in Italy. Some restaurants do offer a menu turistico ("tourist menu"), which can cost from €8 to €20 and usually entails a choice from among two or three basic first courses (read: different pasta shapes, all in plain tomato sauce), a second course of roast chicken or a veal cutlet, and some water or wine and bread. With very few exceptions, tourist menus tend to live up to their name, appearing only at the sort of tourist-pandering restaurants that the locals wisely steer clear of.

    However, a menu à prezzo fisso ("fixed-price menu") is often a pretty good deal, usually offering a bit more choice than a tourist menu.

    Then—especially at nicer (and pricier) restaurants—there is the menu degustazione ("tasting menu"), usually far more expensive (anywhere from €25 to €110) that is a showcase of the chef's best, or of regional specialties, and can make for an excellent way to sample the kitchen's top dishes.
  • Book ahead: For restaurants that I am truly eager to try, I go ahead and book a table—at least at dinner. I find that a corollary of Murphy's Law seems to apply. If you prudently book ahead, you are likely to show up to a half-empty restaurant and feel a bit like a fool for having worried about finding a table. If, on the other hand, you just show up at the door expecting to find a free table, the place will inevitably be packed and its bookings full for the evening.
Italian dining phrases
English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a restaurant un ristorante oon rees toh-RAHN-tay
...a casual restaurant una trattoria
oo-nah trah-toar-RHEE-yah
oon ohst-air-EE-yah
I would like to reserve... Vorrei prenotare... voar-RAY pray-note-ARE-eh
a table for two una tavola per due oo-nah TAH-voal-lah pair DOO-way
...for 7pm per le sette pair lay SET-tay
...for 7:30pm per le sette e mezzo pair lay SET-tay eh MET-tzoh
...for 8pm per le otto pair lay OH-toh
I would like Vorrei... voar-RAY
...some (of) un pó (di) oon POH (dee)
...this questo KWAY-sto
...that quello KWEL-loh
chicken pollo POL-loh
steak bistecca bee-STEAK-ah
veal vitello vee-TEL-oh
fish pesce PEH-shay
meat carne KAR-neh
I am vegetarian sono vegetariano SO-no veg-eh-tair-ee-YAH-no
side dish [veggies always come seperately] cotorno kon-TOR-no
dessert dolce DOAL-chay
and e ay
...a glass of un bicchiere di oon bee-key-YAIR-eh dee
...a bottle of una bottiglia di oo-na boh-TEEL-ya dee
...a half-liter of mezzo litro di MET-tzoh LEE-tro dee
...fizzy water acqua gassata AH-kwah gah-SAHT-tah
...still water acqua non gassata AH-kwah noan gah-SAHT-tah wine vino rosso VEE-noh ROH-so
...white wine vino bianco VEE-noh bee-YAHN-koh birra BEER-a
Check, please Il conto, per favore eel COAN-toh pair fah-VOAR-eh
Is service included? É incluso il servizio? ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo
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Latteria di San Marco

Via S. Marco 24
tel. +39-02-659-7653
Mon-Fri 12:30pm – 2:30, 7:30 – 10:00 pm
Closed Sat and Sun

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