Trattoria Aurora ★★

image. (Photo by TK)

Elegant eating at trattoria prices at this excellent restaurant in Milan, Italy

There's no way Luigi Perotti's trattoria should be as remarkably cheap as it is, not with its classy restaurant-style service and impeccably prepared Piemontese dishes.

The Aurora was wildly popular from its 1980 opening until quality stumbled in the mid 1990s. Chef Perotti brought it back from the brink by refocusing the kitchen on traditional dishes, using only fresh veggies sold at the best market stalls and meats from small, old-fashioned Piemonte farms.

The setting is elegant yet fun, a series of Liberty-style (Art Nouveau) rooms where swooping carved wood and broad, arched windows set off sheets of frosted or stained glass. The lovely cement patio out back is lined by lush vegetation and shaded by a thick arbor of grape vines.

The set-priced menu is, hands-down, the best deal in all of Milan. For less than $40 you get the proverbial soup-to-nuts, wine and water included, starting with a flute of spumanti and a selection of amuse-bouches—tiny sweet-and-soup pickled onions, bell pepper confit, crostini topped with a florette of whipped herbal cheese, wedges of roasted red pepper cupping a dollop of pureed olives, slivers of tender veal swimming in a caper-studded cream sauce, and a pile of delicate lardo (basically the cured fat trimmings from prosciutto). All that before you even start in on the meal itself!

If you go a la carte, you might want to try tajarin (ribbons of egg noodle) tossed with sausage cooked in red Barbera wine; gnocchi (potato dumplings) or wide egg noodles in a heady porcini mushroom sauce; risotto thickly mixed with porcini mushrooms and beefy Barolo wine;a beef sirloin cut from fassone (Piemonte's large and rare double-muscled cow) grilled and showered in juniper berries and rosemary sprigs;roast suckling calf; rabbits raised on the restaurant's own farm served in a bell pepper ragout; perch filets fried a deep golden brown and served with a side of riso in cagnùn (sticky rice cooked with melted butter and Piemonte's toma cheese).

For dessert you might select something typical of Piemonte's typical French-meets-Italian style such as tarte tatin di fichi (a thick slice of homemade pie stuffed with fresh figs) or sample a selection of six cheeses.

Service is professional yet friendly; the mustachioed chef makes a point of waddling over to each table for a brief chat. Reservations are recommended, especially for an outdoor table.

Tips & links


Via Savona 23
tel. +39-02-8323-144
Closed Mon

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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Trattoria Aurora
Via Savona 23
tel. +39-02-8323-144
Closed Mon Mon

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