Review: Ristorante Ratanà, Milan
Skyscrapers, new infrastructures and even whole new areas have sprung up in northern Italy’s industrial capital Milan over the last couple of years as it prepares to host next year’s EXPO 2015. At first glance, this often grey city might seem a strange choice for the event theme “for a more sustainable future”. But for many locals, it is a culture that has been quietly thriving for generations.
Just a short walk away from the imposing towers of recently inaugurated Piazza Gae Aulenti is an unassuming little palazzina from the early nineteenth century, which houses the restaurant Ratanà. Celebrated by locals for its creative and authentic approach to local cuisine, it’s starting to gain international attention too.
If you didn’t already get it from the appetising smells wafting out of the kitchen or the air of calm that seems to sit above the gentle buzz of conversations from surrounding tables, the menu will tell you that this restaurant takes the authenticity of its dishes very seriously. It’s down to the passion of chef Cesare Battisti, who takes great care in sourcing local, sustainable ingredients according to the season, searching for high quality products and “real” flavours even, and especially, if, that means going directly to a fisherman in a remote village, or growing them yourself. Provenance is detailed on the menu, and a few questions to any of the front of house staff will be answered with a beautifully woven narrative about the whos, whys and wheres behind each product. What this level of attention means is that each mouthful is packed with the true, unspoilt flavour of its ingredients.
Ratanà’s offering goes much further beyond authentically local cuisine, however. It’s fairly straightforward to find a well-made Risotto alla Milanese in town, but Battisti’s dishes are refreshing reinterpretations of traditional recipes, perhaps adding just one ingredient or removing another altogether.
Our meal can only be described as a voyage of the farms, gardens and vineyards of northern Italy, through all the senses, awakening the entire palette. Whether it was the light and zingy terrine of freshwater fish, the divine lasagne with courgette flowers or the stunning tartare, we were surprised and amazed with each bite.
The passion of its staff, the high quality ingredients and the faultless execution of the menu all contributed to a great experience, but the main reason we enjoyed the food so much was because we knew where it had come from. The key to a more sustainable future? Connecting the brain and the belly is a good start.