Risotto 2: Risotto Solo

Last night's rain turned into thunderstorms that continued throughout the day today. While I am enjoying the thought that I am in Milan, it is questionable how much I am actually enjoying Milan itself this week. I am fairly certain of one memento I will be bringing home with me this time as the ache I thought was pain from my luggage is settling into a slightly feverish feeling. The flush in my cheeks confirms it - I am catching a cold.

I had so much luck with risotto last night I decided to try for risotto number 2 tonight. Trattoria Alla Vecchia Maniera is directly across the canal from my hotel, and I have been eyeballing their menu since I got here. My travel guide says that a trattoria is a mom and pop restaurant. I do not think this is entirely accurate. While it may be run by a family, there is much pride in their establishment. This trattoria looked far more upscale than any other place I have visited and very well kept.

The busboy let me in a little before 7:00, the official dinner hour. Upon accertaining that I was American (this took all of 30 seconds -  the lack of scarf is indeed a dead give away), the traditional Italian music was gleefully replaced with Depeche Mode by said busboy. This was only tolerated by the management for a couple of songs. A compromise was soon reached, and the music was changed to the local pop music station. I will never forget that I heard Rebecca Black for the first time over risotto in Milan.

Even though the risotto is billed as a dish for two, the matron (and obvious prorpietor) served me a half-portion of risotto with cheese. And while this trattoria is definitely more upscale than the Bella Riva, you wouldn't knwo it by the risottto. This was not the same risotto as the risotto I had last night. The grain was different and felt much more like regular old rice, and not even cooked differently. The sauce was the more typical startchy liquid that always reminds me of leftover rice water. The abundance of cheese throughout the dish was its saving grace. That and the shreaded raddicchio, the bitter red and white stuff that you find in most packages of spring salad mix. Turns out if you cook it, it actually becomes palatable, adding only a slight edge to the otherwise creamy dish and just enough to make it interesting. Overall, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts in this version of risotto.

I let the matron select my wine and felt somewhat pleased with myself when she brought me a crisp, dry white. And I was right - this is a good wine for a risotto.

And because she had been so accommodating of my risotto solo request, I felt  obliged to order dessert. I had my second Italian tiramisu. This time it was served in a custard dish and tasted more of mascarpone. The yellow cake soaked in coffee was in the center, creating a bottom layer of cheesy custard that was less dense and rich than the top. When I get back to the States, I can nver eat tiramisu again.

And it struck me as I sat alone in this trattoria with a full belly and a warm feeling of gestation setting in that I was indeed alone in Italy, and what a grand adventure life truly is. I will miss Milan tremendously after this trip. Knowing this makes me want to stretch my time out as I do not know when I will return. I will make the most of my final two days, rain and cold be damned.

Inside Trattoria Alla Vecchia Maniera

Risotto Solo with Dry White Wine and Acqua Naturale

The gratuitous Tiramisu