Milan has its own Chinatown: with my friend and fellow food lover Ivan, I took a walk there to try some of the new street food places that have opened in the last few months.
Milan’s chinese history is long. The first Milanese of Chinese origin settled here, in the via Paolo Sarpi area, about one century ago, originally specializing in the sale of imported goods. At the time, most people in Milan spoke only or mostly dialect, so a Chinese selling silk ties in the street and keeping kids at bay by scolding them off with grunted “Tegn giò chi mann lì, fieou” (keep your hands off, brat) was a common sight.
Generations have passed, for many chinese immigrants the Paolo Sarpi area is still one where it’s easy to settle and make a living, even though often the second and third generations opt to move away. Most of the places I ate at are run by Milan-born chinese, who speak perfect Italian and likely some English (as the went to school in Italy). Some, on the other hand, may not speak Chinese or speak very little Chinese.
How we stuffed our faces
Our first stop was Foodies, a take out place with just a handful of uncomfortable seats. As often happens in Italy, this is a Chinese place with Japanese dishes. Here you can grab, as we have done, a chinese pancake with veggies and a choice of meats (3.50€) or six Takoyaki (4€). There are also two pots constantly boiling fish stock (mild and hot) from which you can grab oden, a variety of fish balls, vegetables and tofu (1€ each piece) and bubble tea, which seems to have suddenly become popular in Milan.
Next place, after a short wlk and a stop in a Chinese market to get some dark sugar and spices, has been Ravioleria Sarpi, probably our favorite of the day. Ravioleria Sarpi is a fortunate joint venture with the adjacent (Italian) butchery, which provides all of the (organic) meats. It has two separate windows, about 10 meters apart, which are run as separate businesses. The first specializes in dumplings (4€ for a four dumpling bowl), offering three types (pork, beef, and egetarian, all also available raw, ready to cook at home in unsalted boling water, 4€ each six dumplings) along with more pancakes and a handful of other foods. The other offers mainly steamed buns (3€) and chinese burgers (4€). All of the foods we sampled were simply delicious, but the star was the chinese burger, with a delicious crisp bun and flavorful meats.
How about some dessert?
We tried to go for dessert, but we were honestly stuffed. In the very end we decided to have a seat at Parigi Dolci, a bakery that specializes in fantastic cakes and Chinese sweets located in via Messina and just drink a bubble tea (3.50€). The drink was delicious and refreshing, but the most interesting part of our stop has been the fact that the sitting area at Parigi Dolci has a window on the pastry kitchen and you can admire the wonderfully skilled bakers preparing delicious fruit-rich cakes. This was a bonus for me as food lover, and a double bonus for Ivan, who has trained as pastry chef in school.