It’s quite a pricey affair at Cafe Milano, from the decor to the clientele, culminating in a plate of buon cibo (aka good food).
With its terracotta floors and familiar sounding dishes that present like Michelin rated plates, Cafe Milano’s pop-up at the Expo 2020 is perfect for an exquisite night of Italian dining.
Breaking away from the square mould of Instagram worthy aesthetics, Cafe Milano seems almost alien with an aesthetic frozen forever in the mid-1990s. Located in the Mobility district at the Expo, the restaurant underscores its commitment to classic dishes with elegant plating.
This sister restaurant to its Washington DC outpost is the brand’s first international branch at Four Seasons Hotel, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. Like its award-winning counterpart, however, both the restaurant and the more recent pop-up stay committed to bringing the best of native Italian hospitality alive.
Since its iconic inception on Election Day in November 1992, the cafe has been a destination for high-ranking members of media and of governments around the world. Over and above serving world-class food, Cafe Milano prides itself on offering its guests a serving of relative privacy as well.
The philosophy carries in the restaurant’s rather secluded location at the Expo, quietly standing out without doing too much. Cafe Milano initially hooks the crowd with its glam interiors and vibrant art, before reeling them in with an impressive menu of dishes.
Franco Nuschese, the restaurant’s owner, continues to maintain his stand of giving out just a few interviews in the spirit of guarding his diners’ privacy. Originally from Minori, Italy, Mr. Nuschese’s tyle and swagger also feature in other elements of the restaurant. Frequently donning Zegna and Prada, the walls too bear framed and hung silk neckties and designer scarves on the walls — the likes of Moschino, Gianfranco Ferré, vintage Versace, and more. The menu at Cafe Milano carries pasta dishes named after the aforementioned fashion designers, too.
Expertly curated by Cafe Milano’s Corporate Chef Franco Sangiacomo, the cuisine on offer celebrates the beauty and variety of Italian flavours. From handmade pastas to fresh seafood, the pop-up menu helmed by Chef Pina Mangiapia wonderfully melds signature dishes and specials.
The beautifully crafted Italian specialties remain committed to the restaurant’s overall food philosophy, one that offers contemporary cuisine whilst still respectful of letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
Standout items include the Carpaccio, Ravioli zegna, and a special Soup of the Day that looks equal parts comforting and inviting. If all the fancy terms start to get overwhelming, General Manager Paulo recommends his favourite item on the menu, a quintessential Italian pizza. Given the restaurant’s use of the finest local produce juxtaposed with special Italian imported ingredients, you’re promised a slice leagues ahead of any other in town.
Serving up nothing but the finest Italian fare as a pop-up that came together at the eleventh hour is no easy feat. Add to that a fine selection of wines and some delightful cocktails, and Cafe Milano makes for the perfect rest stop amid a day at the Expo.
With dishes such as wagyu beef up for grabs, the steeply priced menu is hardly a surprise. But the restaurant embodies the Italian saying, ‘Parla come mangi’, roughly translated to ‘Speak the way you eat’. You definitely get what you pay for, in this case, a fine-dining Italian joint that takes both its food and diners seriously.