Macelleria Popolare, Milan Street Food, Milan, Italy
I am delighted to introduce you to another guest writer: Valentina Lori. She is born in Milan but lives since many years in Berlin.
When I tell people I am from Milan, 90% of the time their reply is either, „Oh, I have never been there“ or „Oh, yes, I have been at the airport / at the station / on the freeway on the way to Florence / Rome / Liguria etc. “.
Fact is, Milano is not well known. It does not have the eternal appeal of Rome, the elegant charm of Florence or the unique beauty of Venice but it should not be underestimated. It is famous for its design and fashion industry but it has more to offer than fancy shops and a beautiful cathedral that took centuries to be completed. It has a few popular spots but also hidden treasures, unknown sometimes even to its citizens. It is also one of the very few cities in Italy where sometimes things really change.
Let’s take for instance, my most recent visit. After an exhibition at the amazing Palazzo Reale, my brother and I were meeting some friends at the “Darsena”. This is the old name of the spot where the „Navigli“ meet, the channels used in the past to bring into the city food and other goods, including the marble for the Duomo. The Darsena was abandoned and in disuse for many years, home only to rats and brushwood, but it has recently been completely renovated. Now it is a beautiful place to go in the evening, to have a drink or a bite, to walk around chatting with friends. There is maybe a certain lack of trees and other green decoration but Milanese seem to be genetically deprived of a sense for nature. So, waiting for friends at the Darsena, my brother and I, terribly hungry after the exhibition, were lured into a little market by an irresistible delicious smell of grilled meat. And that’s how we discovered “Macelleria Popolare“ (literally: People’s Butchery). At first sight the place looks like a mix of, well, butcher shop and a plain fast food hamburger joint.
But at second sight we noticed that the menu together with the usual dishes (“tagliata”, “arrosto” etc.) offered plates with exotic names. Then we saw on the display counter, next to the more common „svizzera“ (i.e. Italian Hamburger) or „salsiccia“ (Italian sausage) unusual meat cuts and skewers. So we joined the queue at the counter, very curious, discussing what to eat and looking around trying to understand what other customers had on their dishes. We had plenty of time for that, because the queue moved at an excruciatingly slow pace. When it was our turn I understood why: When I asked the owner at the cash desk what the dish of my choice actually was, apologizing for my ignorance, he replied enthusiastically that questions are a sign of intelligence rather than ignorance, and he started explaining at length the items on the menu.
So, first of all I quickly changed my order, discovering that behind the beautiful name of „Lampredotto“ hid a sandwich filled with pork tripe. Also I found out that those exotic names were actually typical regional meat dishes with names in different dialects, from Lombard to Tuscan to Calabrian, Sicilian and Sardinian. The interesting skewers and dishes included those parts of animals that are rarely found today in the common supermarkets, i.e. entrails, kidneys, brains, tongue, tails etc. Adventurous customers could also have many dishes served raw: Everything is promised to be 100% organic and produced from animals that lived free and happy to their very last day.
Eventually our choice was „Panino con salsiccia di pecora, mirto, menta e vino“ i.e. a sandwich filled with mutton sausage, spiced with myrtle, mint and wine. To wash it all down, we both opted for a dark craft beer. But there was plenty to choose from, a paradise for passionate meat eaters.
My evaluation of Macelleria Popolare, out of five points: Four points for the mutton sausage: I have never had mutton sausage before so I cannot really compare but it was very tasty and intense. I found that the taste of the spices did not fully come through, though. Also not exactly easy to digest on a late hot night (but that’s me).
Three points for the beer: I am not an expert but it was ok but not the best craft beer I have tried and certainly not for the price of 4 euro.
Five points for the establishment itself: It combines the traditional Italian market butchery with the hipster street food style trend and a touch of Slow Food political correctness. All at a reasonable cost: I think 6 euros for a sandwich (but there are also smaller or bigger dishes) is a fair price for fresh organic meat served with flair and originality in such an interesting and peculiar area of the city. By the way, Macelleria Popolare offer a few seatings but you can also take your sandwich or dish and sit at the water nearby, not super comfortable but very charming.