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Eating Brunch, Italian-Style

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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."

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image: Brandie Silva, Jan 20, 2013, Milan Italy

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