As the Negroni cart scoots between tables, the restaurant’s charm becomes undeniable. From the undulating fabric on the ceiling to the rounded white marble bar to the green leather seats and curved emerald light fixtures, the new Bar Milano in New York is gracefully chic—and the mobile bar only adds to the ambiance. The walls are adorned with vintage reproductions of artwork by Milanese modernists Enzo Mari and Bruno Munari, as well as contemporary pieces from emerging Milanese artist Olimpia Zagnoli. And the food? Pretty outstanding too. You almost forget that you’re dining inside a supermarket.
Eataly’s US flagship in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood recently debuted its first new indoor restaurant concept since 2018, immersing diners in gorgeous mid-century modern decor that brings Italy’s fashion capital to the forefront. Bar Milano replaces the meat-centric Manzo, which closed in 2019. After the now-expected pandemic delays, the new restaurant finally launched last month.
“Our design team constructed Bar Milano to feel like a secret that’s hiding in plain sight,” says Alex Saper, managing partner of Eataly. “Once you get past the understated exterior, we want to transport you to an elegant restaurant where you forget that you’re in the middle of Eataly’s bustling Flatiron marketplace.”
But really it’s the food and drink that impress, beginning with a roving Negroni cart that features an array of Campari-like bitters, gins and vermouths made by Northern Italian producers. Watching the beloved three-ingredient cocktail that was perfected in Milan being made tableside gives an elegant start to the meal.
Although Randall Restiano, beverage director of Eataly Flatiron, says they came up with more than 20 Negronis, they settled on six versions for guests to choose from.
“What I thought was really cool, was that, for example, Campari, they also make their own gin and their own vermouth, and they make them to all ultimately work together,” Restiano says. “I thought it’d be fun to put all the different producers individually into the Negronis, which ended up coming out to a sort of rainbow effect when they’re all lined up.” So if you order Restiano’s favorite, the Fred Jerbis d’Oro, you’ll get the Friuli producer’s Fred Jerbis Bitter, vermouth and gin, garnished with a peach slice instead of the orange.
The cuisine is authentic Milanese, but goes beyond osso buco and bone-in veal, pork and chicken Milanese breaded cutlets—although it has all of those on the menu and all are perfectly executed.
“If you don’t have those items, you really can’t call yourself Bar Milano,” says Michael Nogera, executive chef at Eataly Flatiron. “But my goal was to dig a little bit deeper into things that you don’t normally see, especially here in the United States.”
This means the menu also has less recognizable dishes like Mondeghili, a Milanese meatball made with braised beef, pork and mortadella; and Risotto al Salto, a crispy rice pancake traditionally made from leftover saffron risotto and topped with Taleggio Fonduta.
“Risotto al Salto is a story of a Milanese grandmother who would have leftover rice after making Risotto Milanese. She’s not going to throw that away. What is she going to do with it? She’s going to fry it up in a frying pan and serve it crispy, and it’s wonderful and delicious,” Nogera says.
Restiano helps diners pair their dishes with a wine from Eataly’s massive wine cellar, which has been hiding in almost-plain sight underneath the supermarket for the last 10 years. For Bar Milano, the list features bottles from Northern Italy, with a focus on Barolo (labeled “the Wine of Kings” on the menu), and diners can even order a Barolo flight or glasses poured by Coravin from exclusive bottles.
“Barolo is just about 100 miles outside of Milan, so that was our marker, and we just drew a big circle around Milan and everything that fit within 100 miles of that is what we were going to talk about in this restaurant,” Restiano says.
At the end of the meal, guests can select an amaro from another elegant cart, which currently has more than 40 bottles on it—but the hope is to have the largest amaro collection in NYC. Pair it with a dessert like tiramisu (which, according to Nogera, has to be on the menu otherwise there would be a customer revolt) or the current seasonal favorite, Panettone di Bignè alla Nocciola, a gourmet version of panettone, which hails from Milan, with hazelnut chantilly and caramel butter. A sweet way to end this Northern Italian excursion.