Five great spots for aperitivo on a budget in Milan

Aperitivo - evening drinks with a free unlimited food buffet - is one of Italy's most delicious traditions. The Local contributor and aperitivo connoisseur Izzi Wilkinson shares her top five picks of spots across Milan for those on a budget.

Five great spots for aperitivo on a budget in Milan
Aperitivo. Photo: oneinchpunch/Deposit Photos

Deseo (Corso Sempione, 2, 20154 Milano) 

Located on the corner of Arco della Pace – the summer hang-out spot for young Italians – Deseo is a trendy bar, popular for after-work drinks. The stylish ambiance lives up to Milan’s fashionable reputation, so it's perfect if you're in the mood for dressing up.

Drinks prices range from €10-15 with an extensive variety of cocktails on offer, but my go-to here is the timeless aperitivo classic, the Aperol spritz. An impressive selection of food spans the length of the bar including pizza (obviously), hot and cold pasta, sandwiches, salads, meats, cheeses and more. You definitely get your money's worth.

But the prime reason Deseo makes it into my top five is the enormous chocolate fountain, surrounded by bowls of marshmallows, sponges, brownies and fresh fruit. I suggest visiting Deseo on an empty stomach as you will be more than satisfied!


A post shared by Georg Boldeskul (@georgdes) on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:34pm PDT

READ ALSO: A beginner's guide to aperitivo in Italy

Yguana Café (Via Papa Gregorio XIV, 16, 20123 Milano)

Only a 12-minute walk from Piazza Duomo, Yguana Café is ideal for those in search of an informal atmosphere, typical Italian dishes and cheap cocktails. This modern, tropical-themed bar offers a relaxed alternative to the chic but pricey rooftop spots and cocktail lounges that inundate central Milan.

Not only offering innumerable exotic cocktails for €10, Yguana café allows its customers the option of choosing the size of their drink for a minimal extra cost; I usually opt for the ‘MAXI’ mojito, because why not! Yguana offers an assortment of hot and cold snacks, typically pizza, pasta, gnocchi, salads, meats and cheeses. Make sure to save some room for the tiramisu and chocolate brownies! 

As you can see, the ‘MAXI’ really is maxi… Photo: Izzi Wilkinson

Madeira (Viale Monte Nero, 3, 20135 Milano) 

Less well-known than the previous two bars, Madeira – situated in the slightly more provincial area of Porta Romana – offers its customers an all-encompassing aperitivo buffet well worth the trip! For only €8 on weekdays, Madeira is a must if you are craving food fit to cure even the worst of hangovers, or feel in the mood to indulge.

Hot dishes are updated throughout the night, always including some type of pasta (with a lot of cheese!), chicken nuggets, chips, mini sandwiches, sausages, prosciutto or salami bruschetta, and if you desire a healthier option, there are several salad and vegetable dishes to satisfy your palate, such as grilled courgette, or the olive, feta and tomato platter.

At the weekends, for €2 extra the buffet also supplies a selection of freshly baked Italian tarts. The laid-back staff create a relaxed and casual atmosphere, making Madeira a great place to go for a chilled evening out.

Princi (Via Ponte Vetero, 10, 20121 Milano – Brera district) 

Located on various street corners and piazzas, Princi crops up all over the city, beloved by both locals and tourists for its excellent coffee and first-class pastries. What many don't know about, however, is that it also serves a high quality aperitivo from around 5pm.

Opening earlier than most aperitivo, Princi is perfect for a late afternoon snack after a shopping spree or a lazy day spent sunbathing in Parco Sempione.

The Spritz one of the best I've ever tasted (and I've tried a lot!), and the extensive array of six kinds of pizza, several salad and pasta options, and a DIY bruschetta platter always leaves you wanting more… a bonus when it’s all you can eat!

The perfect Spritz Aperol. Photo: Izzi Wilkinson

Fonderie Milanesi (Via Giovenale, 7, 20136 Milano)

If you are looking for something off the beaten track, try searching out this spot. Hidden away in the backstreets of Navigli, beyond the crowds that swarm the canals, you will find Fonderie Milanesi.

At first you might feel as though you've taken a wrong turn somewhere, but as soon as you step inside the vintage-style bar it all makes sense. Fonderie Milanesi is popular among those in the know, so get there early or make a reservation as it can get crowded.

The collection of signature €10 cocktails is unique –  I recommend experimenting with your choice of drink here rather than opting for a classic as you will not be let down by the more unusual mixes. Among the aperitivo dishes, my favourites are the freshly-baked focaccia and the flavourful Thai Green curry. All the food here is of great quality, as are the drinks, and paired with the rustic interior and quirky outdoor courtyard, Fonderie Milanesi is beyond compare.

Vintage bikes hanging of the ceiling and crumbling brick walls… if this isn’t ‘off the beaten track’ then what is!? Photo: Izzi Wilkinson

Izzi Wilkinson is an English and Italian student from Warwick University currently studying in Milan and in love with all things Italian! As her year there comes to an end, she hopes to share some of her experiences and observations from living in an Italian city.

Want to write a guest blog or opinion piece for The Local? If you've got something to say about Italy, get in touch at [email protected]

READ MORE: Want more Italian food news and features? Head over to our Food & Drink section

21 photos that could only be taken in Italy
Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


RANKED: The 11 worst food crimes you can commit according to Italians

From fruity pizza toppings to spaghetti bolognese, an international study has revealed which of the most common 'crimes' against Italian cuisine are seen as most and least offensive.

Pasta with sauce on top and vegetables on the side.
The Italian food police are on their way. Photo: logan jeffrey on Unsplash

It turns out that putting cream in carbonara is not actually the worst thing you could do when holding a dinner party for Italian friends.

And, while not ideal, neither is snapping your spaghetti before cooking it, or even serving it as a side dish.

The many unwritten rules around eating and drinking in Italy are often baffling to foreigners, while Italians themselves are famous for raging against what they see as “disgusting” interpretations of classic dishes.

READ ALSO: Seven surprising Italian food rules foreigners fall foul of

But in Italy, some of these food-related faux pas are viewed as far more upsetting than others, according to the results of a international study published by YouGov.

At the end of last year, researchers compiled a list of 19 ways in which foreigners are often accused of abusing Italian cuisine and asked people in 17 countries, including Italy, whether each was acceptable or unacceptable.

Of these, eight culinary practices were judged as being either fairly acceptable or divisive by Italian survey respondents.

Eating pizza at lunchtime instead of in the evening was deemed wrong by only a minority of Italians; while many also reserved judgement on people combining Bolognese sauce or ragù with spaghetti – which is famously not the done thing in Bologna.

Putting sauce on top of pasta, as opposed to serving the pasta coated in the sauce, meanwhile, was seen as mildly controversial.

However, the majority deemed 11 of the listed transgressions to be completely out of order, issuing a clear warning against certain habits which are widespread outside the country – and which, for the most part, were not seen as problematic by the majority of respondents in other countries surveyed.

Here’s the list of the very worst crimes against Italian food according to the study – ranked from the offences seen as deeply disturbing to those deemed slightly less terrible.

1. Putting ketchup on pasta – this was by far the most distressing item on the list according to Italians, scoring -82. It was one of only two food crimes on the list that Americans also deemed unacceptable (-48), with Spaniards similarly against (-46). However, in 11 countries people said this was perfectly fine, with Indonesians (+76) and Hong Kongers (+79) the most enthusiastic. People in Sweden also seem to enjoy pasta with ketchup, the survey found (+46).

2. Putting pasta in cold water and then boiling it – the results are clear with a score of -71: don’t do this in front of an Italian unless you want them to run screaming from the kitchen. Of course, you’re supposed to add the pasta to water that’s already gently boiling. Adding pasta to cold water was the most disdained practice around the world overall, including by Americans, with only Chinese (+16) and Hong Konger (+31) respondents more likely to be ok with it. 

3. Putting pineapple on pizza – there’s a reason you won’t see a Hawaiian listed on the menu in many pizzerias in Italy – it’s seen as the third-worst thing you could do to the national cuisine with a score of -63 .France isn’t keen either (-15) though Australia appears to have plenty of fans of fruity pizza toppings (+50).

4. Serving pasta as a side dish – think a mound of spaghetti would be a nice accompaniment to your grilled meat or fish? Think again if you’re in Italy, where the idea of having pasta as a contorno ranked as one of the worst possible food crimes with a score of -63. As all Italians know, pasta is served before the meat, fish or other main course, as a primo. No other country surveyed had a problem with this, though, and the French were especially big fans of pasta as a plat d’accompagnement.

5. Cutting long pasta with a knife while eating – the message is clear: don’t snap it, don’t cut it; you’ll need to learn how to twirl your spaghetti elegantly around your fork if you want to be invited back to an Italian home for dinner. This habit is another one people in the country apparently find disturbing, with a score of -46.

6. Putting cream in carbonara sauce – perhaps surprisingly, this famous crime against Italian cuisine – which regularly provokes furious online outbursts and stern warnings from Italian chefs – came in at only 6th place with a score of -45. As any Italian will tell you, there’s no need for cream in the authentic recipe.

7. Topping seafood pasta with cheese – this rule may not seem obvious to non-Italians, but we don’t recommend asking for the grated parmesan after being served a steaming plate of spaghetti alle vongole. It’s a major faux pas in Italy, where it scored -39, while Americans gave a far more positive rating of +38.

8. Rinsing cooked pasta in cold water – while many people abroad may think they need to rinse boiled pasta, Italians wouldn’t do this. Instead, many recipes call for the starchy pasta water to be conserved and used to finish the sauce. While perhaps seen as more senseless than revolting, this practice scored -23 in Italy.

9. Drinking cappuccino after lunch – Long, milky coffees are for breakfast in Italy, and while the barista probably won’t refuse to make you a cappuccino at 3pm, be aware that this might cause confusion and could turn other customers’ stomachs, as Italians gave this habit a score of -23. That’s despite the rest of Europe being fine with the concept; it scored +65 in Spain, +62 in Germany and +53 in France.

10. Boiling pasta without salt – Italians will tell you that a pinch of salt is essential in the cooking water for pasta, and leaving it out is highly controversial, with a score -17. Meanwhile, the British don’t see a problem (+15).

11. Eating garlic bread with pasta – While the rest of the world may ask what could possibly be wrong with this, the concept of filling a baguette with garlic butter and baking it just doesn’t really exist in Italy – even if it does seem to exist in every Italian restaurant on the planet outside of the country itself. Americans are particularly enthusiastic about this combination (+83), as are Brits (+80) but Italians gave it the thumbs down with -14.

The results also showed that attitudes to some of the established food rules are shifting among young Italians.

The biggest difference comes with drinking cappuccino after a meal, something which 18-24 year-old Italians tend to think is fine (+24), but which older age groups – and especially the over 55s (-36) – say is unacceptable. 

READ ALSO: The common Italian food myths you need to stop believing

Young Italians are also substantially more likely than their older peers to say that eating garlic bread with pasta or having risotto as a side dish is ok.

However, younger Italians seem to have turned against the practice of adding oil to the water when cooking pasta. Those aged 18-24 and 25-34 tend to consider this unacceptable, whereas their elders tend to see it as fine, the survey found.