Chinatown and Paolo Sarpi guide
What we now call Chinatown, before the arrival of the Chinese, was called Borgo degli Ortolani, a district located between Porta Tenaglia and the Arco della Pace.
In the 1920s this district became the stronghold of the Chinese community in Milan, specifically including via Canonica, via Bramante and via Paolo Sarpi. In fact, the first very numerous Chinese from Zhejiang (province of eastern China, below Shanghai) arrived in this area, so much so that during the fascism the area was renamed "Chinese headquarters".
The first Chinese activities in the area were mainly silk and, later during the war, leather.
With the second diaspora of the 1980s, Chinese-Italian cuisine also took shape - which is still today, in the imagination, referred to as "traditional Chinese cuisine".
In the 1990s, the first Chinese supermarkets, bookshops and herbalists opened, just as the wholesale clothing trade intensified.
At the beginning of the 1900s numerous telephone, technology, optical, telephony, karaoke and hairdressing shops opened. There is no shortage of episodes of crime and crime news, but despite this Chinatown continues to structure its strong identity also thanks to the opening of Chinese-language press offices and the organization of the colorful Chinese New Year, which attracts many tourists thanks to the parade of huge dragons .
Between 2010 and 2011 via Paolo Sarpi was then the subject of a profound urban redevelopment intervention, becoming the pedestrian and cycle path we know today.
Today food is certainly the main driving force of the neighborhood and a destination of interest. There are many places offering Zhejiang street food and restaurants, but in recent times Sichuan and Beijing style and hot pot are also gaining ground.
So here is the continuously updated guide to Chinatown and Paolo Sarpi! The first publication dates back to 11/29/2022
Chinatown and Paolo Sarpi are primarily a gastronomic destination and, in recent months, the number of both weekly and weekend tourists has soared. The success of this neighborhood is due to the numerous windows offering street food, practical to consume and quite cheap.
It was 2017 when the first ravioli shop opened, offering a product made with Italian ingredients to meet our local taste. Since then dozens of businesses have opened, so that today it is finally possible to find authentic and traditional flavours.
In my article STREET FOOD IN CHINATOWN IN MILAN I have divided all the specialties that you can taste: from ravioli to baozi, from skewers (chuan) to cong you bing (a sort of savory pancake), passing through takoyaki, lamian, mo (Chinese sandwich of meat) and much more.
The trattorias in Chinatown are divided between those where an Italian would enter and those where an Italian would never enter. All are united by the wide gastronomic offer.
I can proudly say that I went and ate in all the Chinese restaurants and trattorias in the neighborhood: I ate well (in some very, very well), I spent little, the service was kind and fast and I always left satisfied. Do you want to know more? Then read AUTHENTIC AND CHEAP CHINESE RESTAURANTS IN CHINATOWN IN MILAN.
JAPANESE RESTAURANTS and FUSION
Japanese restaurants have never been an important presence in the neighborhood indeed, I would say that they have always been a rarity. But lately something has changed.
First authentic and traditional Japanese restaurant in the area serving fine home cooking. The restaurant is very nice, perfect for an important or romantic dinner.
An elegant showcase where you can have a quick meal (there are few seats), or rather, where you can make a take away or delivery. Fresh fish and extremely colorful fusion recipes.
Of Mongolian origin, the hot pot has now become a winter classic for many Milanese people: the hot and rich broth is a real comfort during the coldest evenings. Better if in company.
Cozy and well-kept restaurant, certainly the best known and appreciated in the area. It also offers grilled dishes prepared in the kitchen.
Mao Hot Pot
Very nice and scenic restaurant specializing in Sichuan hot pot, under the same ownership as Maoji, Mao Hunan, Mini Maoji and Chifa. It is possible to order slices of beef or lamb from the kitchen, or help yourself from the dedicated area: dozens of skewers of meat, fish, many types of tofu, meatballs and vegetables. There is also an abundant choice of accompanying sauces.
Korean barbecue has also arrived in Chinatown. These places aren't always well ventilated (I suggest you bring plastic bags for jackets), but fun with friends is guaranteed.
Restaurant specialized in Korean bbq: great variety of meat (also marinated), lots of vegetables, beer and soju.
📞 351 888 6787 💰 $$$
Small tavern dedicated to Korean bbq with various dishes to accompany the grill. Very convenient.
Well yes, Chinatown could not miss the Chinese breakfast. Get up early in the morning and expect hot, greasy, mostly salty, quick to consume and extremely cheap preparations. CHINESE BREAKFAST IN CHINATOWN IN MILAN.
Traditional Chinese and Hong Kong sweets are very different from Western sweets because they are not conceived as desserts to be eaten after a meal, rather they are conceived as an accompaniment to tea.
Over time, Asian pastry has evolved enormously and, thanks above all to the many foreign influences (especially from France, England and Japan), today it offers countless sugary or savory specialties with a strong appeal.
The shop is very small and only serves take-out. Go in the morning for the opening to buy some sweets, during the day you will find little or nothing. He specializes in mooncakes.
Small pastry shop specializing in mooncakes and more: you will find a myriad of savory products and the famous Chinese cheesecake.
Chinese pastry workshop where you can take away. Here you will find both sweet and savory products, as well as the possibility of buying drinks and commissioning birthday cakes. Do not miss the cheesecake (so soft that you will feel like eating a cloud) and the egg tarts.
This is probably the first Chinese pastry shop in Milan which has become famous for its modern design and the possibility of consuming sweets and drinks on the spot. Parigi Dolci is the favorite hangout for the youngest or more simply for those who love to take pictures of food.
Inside you will find the open laboratory behind a large glass, as well as the bar area and the self-service area for taking away sweets.
Chinese pastry shop with a large open laboratory and some seats with a modern design and ideal for taking photographs.
Here the desserts have a slightly more Japanese mold, as evidenced by the large presence of matcha tea, azuki beans and roll cake. There is no shortage of savory options and countless bubble teas and milk.
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 4, Milan 💰 $$
Chinese pastry of own production with seats and menu that includes bubble tea (also to take away) and cake design to order.
The choice is rather limited but very interesting: mango or oreo flavored mochi, mini durian cakes, soy sweets and savory cakes with taro and pork floss.
📍 Via Giordano Bruno 1, Milan 💰 $$
Hekfanchai Bakery (CLOSED)
Hong Kong's first real pastry shop to offer both sweet and savoury, traditional and modern. The on the go delicacies are interesting as well as the real velvety Hong Kong Milk Tea.
BUBBLE TEA and FRUIT TEA
In this neighborhood bubble tea and fruit tea are a real institution, in fact you can find them practically everywhere. Here I point out the ones that I think are the best.
Up until a few years ago it was virtually impossible to go shopping for clothes in Chinatown because Chinese clothing stores were intended exclusively for wholesale. This hasn't been the case for some time now, so here is a list of shops where you can shop in retail.
Here you can find Chinese and even Korean clothes, shoes and accessories. 📍 Via Paolo Sarpi, Milan - near to Tang Gourmet
📍 Tra Via Paolo Sarpi e Via Messina, Milan
Coco Woman Fashion
📍Via Paolo Sarpi vicino Cantine Isola, Milan
ASIAN GROCERY STORES
Chinatown is a paradise for those who want to cook ethnically, especially Chinese, Japanese and Korean, but there is no shortage of ingredients for Thai, Vietnamese or South American cooking. However, I would like to point out that in recent years many shops have opened, in terms of choice and prices they are all quite uniform.
Mood Market was the first large Asian grocery store to pay particular attention to aesthetics: shopping here is a joy for the eyes, but also for the stomach since it is possible to consume some spicy specialties during the lunch break or order takeaway tea and drinks such as bubble tea for a snack.
Milan Holiday is a grocery store with a small café and outside seating.
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 10, Milan 💰 $$
Tang Food Market is one of the oldest Asian food markets in the area that had a really good makeover some time ago.
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 33, Milan 💰 $$
International Store, unlike the other grocery stores in the neighborhood, has not undergone renovations and still today maintains the decadent charm of many years ago.
Kathay was the first huge ethnic shop in Milan. Despite the competition, it still defends itself very well today. To keep an eye on during the sales: you will find beautiful Japanese porcelain.
Da Zhong is a dairy totally dedicated to soy milk, the products on sale are therefore vegan.
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 4, Milan 💰 $
International Trade Group Sas
📍 Via Luigi Canonica 35, Milan 💰 $$
Mei Jia Le
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 7, Milan 💰 $$
KITCHEN TOOLS SHOPS
If your desire is to cook Asian at home but you lack the right tools and crockery, here are some useful and practical ideas where to go shopping.
Do you want something tasty? Whether it's sweet or savoury, or even spicy, you can find it in Chinatown. In addition to the aforementioned groceries, there are shops specializing exclusively in snacks.
📍 Via Paolo Sarpi 41, Milan 💰 $$
📍 Via Bramante 23, Milan 💰 $$
One of the favorite pastimes in the Asian community is karaoke - Lost in translation I think has made everyone want to sing with friends!
Obviously, in the Chinatown area, locals specialized in this activity could not be missing.
Small workshop where he decorates decoden-style cell phone covers, mirrors, hair accessories and much more.
📍Via Bramante 18, Milan 💰 $$$
RESTAURANTS I DIDN'T LIKE
Chinatown is a neighborhood that has given me so much in terms of culture and knowledge. I proudly admit that I have eaten in every, absolutely every place in the entire area (it took me years, but I made it). With great regret some realities didn't convince me, others I didn't like at all.
While recognizing its historical value, I must admit that Ravioleria Sarpi just doesn't meet my taste. Perhaps because it was created specifically to please Italians (the recipe for the classic ravioli from northern China has in fact been reworked ad hoc), perhaps because there is always a very long queue waiting for one's portion (thereby not giving the cooks time to cook the ravioli correctly), in my opinion the result is disappointing. The ravioli are too thick, they are undercooked, the filling is decidedly coarse and the pieces of meat are annoying in the mouth.
Remaining on this topic, I share the same opinion as regards Mo, the shop window a few steps away from Ravioleria (of the same ownership) specializing in Chinese sandwiches with meat (mo, in fact) and baozi. Here the experience was downright "traumatic": the baozi was so full of melted fat that at the first bite I burned my face (and ran to the pharmacy) and all the filling dripped on me, permanently ruining my coat. The mo was all in all dry and didn't excite me.
All in all, an experience I do not recommend.
Finding a good mo in Chinatown is difficult but not impossible. But I didn't find what I was looking for at X MOO: the sandwich is very dry, as is the meat inside. With each bite given you will need a sip of water to wash it down. Pity!
Jubin restaurant has represented for many years the point of reference for Italians and Chinese in Chinatown, the perfect well-kept place to eat in company and order many dishes from a menu the size of an encyclopedia. Of the old glories today unfortunately not much remains. In my opinion, the food has gotten worse and the service needs to be reviewed: bored waiters and yes, unfortunately I have to say it, rude, who respond rudely to customers.
My Kimchi is the classic place that could have made a difference but instead turns out to be a flop. The dishes are ugly and not as good as they seem, the ingredients are not fresh (and it feels) and the final bill is not so cheap.
Ravioleria Su Fantasy 苏家饺子
The restaurant is small but rather well-kept and welcoming, the staff kind and helpful but the ravioli (as well as the bao), unfortunately, are the worst ever eaten in Milan. Although they are handmade, the shape is really ugly and the slightly raw and slightly chewy texture makes them inedible. Even the fillings are hard to swallow. In short, very very bad.
Takumi Ramen Kitchen Milano
Chain specializing in miso ramen in Sapporo, Hokkaido (Japan). Liquid and structureless broths and egg in an "onsen" version that gets lost in the bowl. Really very very low quality, too bad.
Yet another showcase offering guabao (baozi stuffed with beef or chicken, which has a central cut), but also jingbao (grilled dumplings), zhengbao (steamed dumplings) and some snacks.
At first glance, the proposal seems attractive: the colored dumplings are freshly prepared in the small open laboratory and a small room with a few seats allows for a comfortable break. The problem is that the dumplings dough is very chewy and the filling quite salty. Better than the guabao, the meat is tasty but the bread a bit moist.
Ramen e Ravioli
The comfortable seats and the preparation of the dumplings on sight boded well, but this place turned out to be a semi-catastrophe.
The Peking-style pork dumplings were average (both in terms of dough, taste and cooking) and the baozi decidedly "bready" (it was hard to swallow).
The real tragedy was the ramyun, spicy Korean cheese instant noodles. In Korea they are topped with mozzarella or stringy cheese, while this parmesan version was not good at all. I was unable to eat beyond the first "forkful" of this dish and, although I was sorry and pointed it out to the owner, she still made me pay for it.
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