Friday, November 03, 2006

Under-dressed in Milan

In all my travels through Italy (& there have been quite a few), I’ve never spent anytime in Milan (apart from hopping on a train to go somewhere other than Milan).

I sorta wished it stayed that way !! Milan didn’t impress me at all. It has no soul or an obvious history behind it...we are talking about the business & fashion capital of Italy & that shows. Also...the hotel I stayed at was less than memorable (or very memorable depending on which way you look at it) & deserves a blog itself but that’s for another time.

Sure it has some painting by a guy called Leonardo about some “dinner party” & it has it famous Duomo but they weren’t why I came here.

In keeping with the food theme, my reason for coming here was to visit the “Pek” food court. It started life as a deli back in the 1880’s: a place where everyone & anyone was welcome to browse or buy. Since that time, it has expanded to a tea room/bar upstairs; an enoteca downstairs & a top-class restaurant across the road.

It’s smaller than I imagined it to be but it didn’t disappoint. What did disappont me was that wouldn’t let me take photos so that did piss me off. I'll try to give you a description of what it's like to be in there.

As you walk in to the right, you a greeted by an exquisite display of chocolates, pralines & pastries that simply cry out for you to buy them. Following that counter around the corner, you hit the gelato stand with its display of fresh made gelato; continue on a bit further & you get to the cheese stand (with different varieties of Parmigiano-Reggiano; Provolone; Gorgonzola; goat’s cheese, etc...).

Walking across from the cheese stand, the next counter you are greeted by is the collection of seafood products, caviar, pates, followed by yet more cheeses. Continuing along the from yet more cheeses, you then come to the stand selling the pre-made foods that you take-away. We’re not talking your burgers & chips here: we’re talking grilled veges; crumbed veal & turkey breast; stuffed veges; rice balls, lasagne, etc...

To the left of this counter is the fruit & vege stand. They also sell truffle products, olive oils & balsamic vinegar (but not the real stuff).

The actual deli & butcher’s part of “Pek” is located on the other side (near the chocolates & pastries).

I said earlier that the whole philosophy of the place was that everyone would be made to feel welcome. Being dressed as the backpacker that I am, a place like Milan can make you feel like you don’t belong. How refreshing it was then, to be treated with professional courtesy, as I ordered my simple meal of rice balls, stuffed olives & meatballs. You have to pay for your items before they give them to by the time I’d paid for them & gone back to the couter, they had been re-heated in the microwave, placed it a lined bag to retain the heat THEN gift-wrapped (with a bow) for you to take away.

It really seemed a shame to break open the gift-wrapping to actually eat my lunch but what are you going to do ?? Did I tell you that buying anything from “Pek” is not cheap ?? Well...the gelato was pretty much the same price as anywhere else.

The Enoteca downstairs had quite an impressive collection of wines, grappa & scotches. I was very careful to make sure that my backpack was in front of me at all times so as not to “take out” any of the collections !!

A surprise find in Milan was the “La Scala” Opera house. They have a museum containing all sorts of opera-related items including posters advertising the first performance of “Aida” (or any of the other great shows) & the death mask & hand cast of Verdi.

The best bit was you got to peek into the theatre itself. It is truly breath-taking & I can only imagine what it must be like to see a performance (any performance) here.

"Pek" & "La Scala" were the highlights of a very ordinary stay in Milan.

The next series of postings will be from one of my favourite cities in Italy: Turin. The home of Giandujiotto chocolate & Lavazza coffee. Mmmmmmm.....chocolate & coffee !! My two favourite food groups !!

Until then...take care.



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