A “pesciolino” to the English is a minnow, traditionally a small carp used as bait to catch a bigger fish. The bait in the case of the Milanese restaurant, Pesciolini, is exquisite fruits de la mer – tartare, grilled or fried that capture the unwary traveller strolling through the ‘waters’ of Milan.
And just as a school of fish will return to their favourite feeding grounds around living reefs and wrecks, so, once captured, fed, unhooked and released to swim again, your fine diner is certain to seek out the reef of Pesciolini again, hidden between the larger structures of the city of Milan.
On our recent sojourn in the Milano, we returned to the Romana Residence and, without testing our room, crossed the tram-lines to find an early evening table on the footpath in front of the narrow shop entrance that barely is large enough for the swimming ‘Pesciolini’ sign. It was fortunate that we did arrive before dusk as we gained the last unreserved table at their ‘reef’. After gazing at the “spada” and smaller fresh fish in the front window, we navigated inside past the unopened oysters usually, but not tonight, the delicacy of my better half, to the salads de la mer with traditional accompaniments from Sardinia and Sicily and up the Tyrrhenian coastline and the Adriatic coast to Veneto.
With a deal of uncertainty we settle on a pinot grigio from Friuli to assist the selection process. It was surprisingly sweet compared to similar labels, but finely balanced, enough to help the choice of a tartare selection that was based on spada, salmon and tuna, each balanced with the chef’s selection of salad vegetables, herbs and spices – and each competing for flavour with the others, and each presented with a smile and some fun by Daniele our Friulian waiter.
The details of the secondi selections of grigliata and gamberoni will remain a Pesciolini secret, except to the extent that were blended with the second bottle of the Pinot Grigio which was sipped and quaffed as we watched the patient couples waiting for us to vacate so that they could sate their aroma sensations with their taste buds –a true pavlovian experience. But not yet. There is for this traveller just one dolce, and yes there is a god, it is the only dolce served in this fine ‘fish shop’, Sorbetto Limone con Vodka.
After this eulogy on the joys of dining at Pesciolini, you may be disappointed because I do not intend to tell you where it is. If you are a true searcher you may find the ‘little fish shop’, but hopefully not too soon as the regulars appear to like their little secret, and I don’t like standing watching others in succulent rhapsody while awaiting my turn at the reef.