Ristorante Erba Brusca Milan: Leaving the city
On warm evenings and weekends, the Milanese get on their bicycles and ride 4 kilometers south of the city along the canal towpath towards Pavia. Leaving behind roadworks and traffic jams, graffitied walls and grey skylines, they head out of town in pursuit of the true scent of summer, not exhaust fumes.
Erba Brusca is a little restaurant on the towpath with a hidden garden which supplies the kitchen with seasonal produce and dictates the menu. Run by Italian chefs Cesare Battisti and Danilo Ingannamorte and French-American Alice Delcourt, it gives great care to local ingredients and sustainable production chains whilst serving up fresh and creative dishes rooted in both Italian and international cuisines. Having their own garden lets the passionate trio offer a more immediate dining experience, free of chemicals and food miles, in the heart of nature. Rosemary, mint, sage, marjoram, chamomile, rocket and five types of thyme grow two steps away from the kitchen and dining area, their fragrant aromas wafting over the terrace and punctuating the air.
Seated on the very edge of the garden at plucking distance away from the lettuce patch it only seems proper to order the rabbit rilletes for the starter, as it comes with a garden salad. Dressed simply with a light vinaigrette whose tangy edge gives ample breathing space to the leaves, which retain their earthy flavour and firm form. The rilletes, made from a whole rabbit that had been cooked for some hours, are divine.
The starter of white gazpacho with marinated apricots is a surprise both in appearance and in taste; white as it is and strong in almond flavour, though anything but sweet. Its silky texture is at once refreshing and satisfying. The main course of baked chicken with red pepper cream, roasted onion skins and oregano sauce is presented beautifully, the sauce a rich red contrasting with the tender meat. As for the tarte tatin, the pastry base retains its crunchy texture despite being buried underneath a colourful heap of roasted tomatoes and aubergines, a sprawling ball of stracciatella and basil oil.
When it comes to dessert the spiced whole-wheat couscous with summer berries and verbena gelato is a must-try. Initial worries that it might be a somewhat heavy end to a hearty meal were quickly dispelled as a little heap of the aromatic grains, crunchy pistacchios and zesty gelato were spooned up and swiftly popped into the mouth, the entire bowl licked-clean in mere minutes. Amused by the awed expressions around the table, the waitress explains that soaking the couscous in tepid rather than boiling water for a short period of time prevents it from turning into a soggy mass, giving the dish its nutty texture.
For the Milanese, Erba Brusca provides a tranquil setting for an enjoyable meal that lets them get closer to nature. But for those in the kitchen preparing their food, this relationship with the earth goes deeper, allowing them to prepare dishes knowing where its ingredients have come from, sure of their provenance, freshness and quality. It’s as fresh as food can get, and I’d sure choose that over a microwaveable meal any day.
Ristorante Erba Brusca
Alzaia Naviglio Pavese 286, Milano 20142
+39 02 87380711