I just couldn't let this one pass.
Among all of the North American-esque things that the Italians here in Milano have appropriated, I think brunch has to be one of the most interesting.
It has been a number of years since the Milanese started engaging in the great North American weekend tradition, and today I think I finally may have found a place worthy of calling what they serve "brunch."
It's a diner-style atmosphere in a trendy part of town, a bit more fashionable and a bit more expensive than what you might expect sitting down to your hybrid meal in a Toronto grill, but nonetheless, the food was served with multiple items on the plate (everything is almost always a la carte) and homefries were not only served, but included! Shocking.
It is true that there are lots of places to have brunch, but it's always such a hassle. You need to book in advance and there are a finite number of "brunches" that can be provided and you can do a seating at either 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., and it all just becomes an activity absolutely contrary to what brunch should be: relaxed.
Rolling out of bed when you want, maybe a bit hung over, throwing on the first things you can find to wear and heading out without a plan knowing you'll find a nice warm and greasy (if you like) location to regroup and reload.
The place we went today doesn't take reservations and possessed a real brunch-y menu and vibe.
A most impressive thing I noticed upon arrival was the ketchup already placed on the table -- they must have consulted Canadian brunchers on this one -- also notable, the drinks menu item "Bloody Mary," which could have only been more arresting had the entry read, "Caesar."
If I hadn't had to wait outside for the 12 p.m. opening time, I might not have known I wasn't actually in Toronto. At the beginning, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, since the Italians didn't roll in until well after 1 p.m.
Why they don't just call it "lunch with the menu option of eggs or pancakes if you want them," instead of "brunch" escapes me.
But the most entertaining part of our midday meal was the moment when we realized we were the only people actually eating brunch food and that all the Italians around us were eating burgers. The couple at the table to my right was being served big, juicy, North American-style colossal patties piled high with cheese and tomato and lettuce. They looked delicious.
Then the guy with a hot burger basket just set in front of him looks over at us a bit perplexed, then starts looking around the room, presumably for a server, and I said to my Canadian friend,
"How much do you want to bet he's looking for silverware?"
He gets up and goes over to the bar and is just standing there looking around.
"Well," my friend says, turning back around, "He probably saw them" -- she points to the table on the other side of us where every one of the four adults seated there was eating a hamburger with a fork and knife -- and thinks that's what you do."
So, employing one of the many Italian social graces we have appropriated (rightly or wrongly) in our time here, we just simply stared at them as he sat back down with his companion, handed her a silverware roll identical to his own and began to enjoy their "brunch."
image: Brandie Silva, Jan 20, 2013, Milan Italy
Have a favorite brunch recipe? Share with us in the comments
Blueberry and pancakes were just meant to go together -- and this recipe does not shy from indulging in that perfect pairing. Loaded with the little berries and then topped with a blueberry compote, these pancakes will certainly hit the spot. Get the recipe for Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Compote
Inspired by the Spanish tortilla -- an egg and potato cake that's a regular at tapas bars -- with an Italian frittata methodology applied to the ingredients (no flipping involved) to make it a lot easier. The addition of kale adds some nice color to this soon-to-be favorite brunch item. Get the recipe for Potato and Kale Fritatta
Like banana bread, these especially moist muffins are a great way to use up overripe bananas. And the addition of chocolate ensures that you have satisfied your sweet tooth. Chopped toasted pecans would be delicious in them, too. Get the recipe for Chocolate Chip & Banana Muffins
Roasted artichoke bottoms stand in for English muffins in this quick yet elegant recipe -- while also making this beloved brunch item a tad healthier. Substitute roasted mushrooms for the pancetta for a vegetarian option. Get the recipe for Artichoke-Scrambled Eggs Benedict
Inspired by almond croissants, this baked version of french toast, which is assembled ahead and then slid into the oven, is the way to go when you are serving a brunch; the classic top-of-the-stove method for french toast is too labor-intensive. You'll love the way the almond topping crisps up to offset the custardy innards of the bread. Get the recipe for Baked Almond French Toast
Nothing says brunch morning decadence like an oversized biscuit. Fill it with sausage, thick-cut ham or eggs -- or if you are feeling particularly hungry, filling with all three is not a bad idea either. Get the recipe for Oversize Breakfast Biscuit
Skip the traditional bread at your brunch table and replace it with a fruity and hearty loaf. When this loaf bakes in the oven, a rich nutty aroma fills your home. It is a nice treat to great your guest when they arrive for brunch. Get the recipe for Fig and Walnut Loaf
This breakfast bake topped with runny eggs develops a terrific texture as it cooks slowly in a glass dish (which makes it easy to see when the bottom is perfectly browned). Get the recipe for Bacon, Tomato and Cheddar Breakfast Bake with Eggs
Scones are not just for English tea time. They are crumbly and rich and melt in your mouth. Think of them as the sweet alternative to the biscuit and you can understand why they deserve a solid place in the brunch line-up. Get the recipe for Strawberry-Almond Scone
If you want to take your hash browns up a notch, try the hush puppy. Golden and crisp on the outside, creamy and rich on the inside. Get the recipe for Hush Puppies With Green Zebra Tomato Jam
Baking is a perfect way to spend your Sunday; and baking for a Sunday brunch feast is even better. The sour cream in these muffins keep them extra moist and add an extra element to the beloved blueberry muffin. Get the recipe for Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins
The addition of bananas and honeycomb are a comforting combination. And serve them atop freshly made waffles -- who could ask for anything more? Get the recipe for Homemade Waffles with Honeycomb Butter and Bananas
Baked eggs with the added richness of cream and cheese makes for great Sunday fare. The fact that these eggs come in individual servings makes it a nice elegant touch to the brunch spread. Get the recipe for Eggs en Cocotte
Sticky buns get a make over with the addition of butterscotch. This recipe is sure to be a hit! Get the recipe for Butterscotch Sticky Buns
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