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Vegetarian and Vegan Places in Milan

Vegetarian and Vegan Places in Milan

Every vegetarian and vegan in Italy has a story to tell that involves going to a restaurant or bar, asking about the veggie options and ends with the bemused waiter shrugging and offering them a salad. However, in recent years, that experience has become increasingly less common as ever more people turn to vegetarianism and veganism (over 5% of the Italian population according to one estimate), a trend driven as well by younger, more demanding diners and customers, including a growing number of expats.

Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants

Milan is now home to many of Italy’s most well-known veggie restaurants, from high-end establishments such as Joia, the first (and only) vegetarian restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star, to more affordable eateries, such as Flower Burger, serving vegan burgers in (literally) all the colours of the rainbow.

Since opening Joia with a group of friends, in 1989, Chef Pietro Leemann has pioneered the concept of vegetarian gourmet cuisine. The restaurant gained recognition quickly, receiving a Michelin star in 1996 and a green star in 2020 for sustainable cooking. Joia, located in Milan’s Porta Venezia area, emphasises artistic, seasonal dishes influenced by Mediterranean flavours and Zen philosophy, using only organic and biodynamic ingredients which do not harm living creatures. It champions traditional culinary methods, ethical sourcing and minimal waste, earning acclaim for its innovative vegetarian cuisine and commitment to environmental and health standards, including a “zero food miles” approach. Their menu includes creations such as the “Japan of Enrico Hillyer Giglioli” (named after an Italian zoologist and anthropologist, who was born in London and first studied there), which even reads as a sort of vegan haiku: “White asparagus and nori seaweed en croute, its tips in a fresh oriental salad, mashed potatoes flavored with green shiso, kimchi béarnaise sauce”. They also have other inventive dishes with quirky, Surrealist names such as “Man’s privileged relationship with Nature” (“Three grilled precious gems of this season, rich Edamame paté with Thai (sic) sauce and enriched with a landscape of different flavours to discover”) and the “Egg Apparently”, a combination of vegetables served in the shape of an egg.

Chef Antonio Tomaselli’s vegetarian offerings at Ghea in Porta Genova are evolving to include more vegan dishes, skillfully crafted from organic ingredients to appeal to even die-hard meat-eaters. His commitment to local sourcing is clear in the dynamic seasonal menu, which features ingredients such as spring peas and winter pumpkin, alongside staples like seitan and tofu throughout the year. Over half of the dishes on the menu are gluten-free. You can also create your own salad from the salad bar. The biodynamic wines from Triple “A” (Agricoltori Artigiani Artisti – Farmer, Artisans, Artists) are the perfect accompaniment for dishes such as the risotto with vegetables and spices, served with corn noodles with spinach and almond pesto.

Soulgreen, in the Porta Nuova area of Milan, has a light, airy feel with, appropriately, a lot of greenery. Starters include Crisp & Dips and triple-cooked potatoes. There is a marked Middle Eastern theme to the menu. (They also have another branch in Dubai.) Soulgreen’s highly popular Lebanese Bowl features a mixed salad, crunchy quinoa salad, hummus and falafel, drizzled with a sesame-based topping. Their Fish Specials are made using sustainably sourced fish of the highest quality. For dessert, the tempting vegan treats on offer include avocado-based chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis.

Antidoto Bistrot, on the edge of Porta Romana, combines an enchanting setting with an eclectic décor sourced from Japan and around the world, creating a magical atmosphere. Its menu, rooted in traditional and inventive Japanese culinary practices, includes diverse dishes such as Takoyaki meatballs and Gyoza ravioli, as well as Fassona tartare marinated with Yakiniku sauce, Yuzu pulp and mushroom cream. The bistrot offers excellent vegetarian and vegan urumaki options. The Omakase formula offered by Antidoto translates literally from Japanese as “it’s up to you”.

Located in Brugherio, just outside Milan, in the heart of the Parco Increa and situated in Villa Tizzoni, a 17th century manor house, Samsara was the first vegetarian restaurant in Brianza, established in 1980. Its menu, which also offers traditional meat-based dishes, combines delicious flavours with more healthy eating. Among the vegetarian delights on offer are the oat, dandelion and potato veg balls with vegan mint mayonnaise. In the same location, below the restaurant, is the Volta Rossa, which was initially conceived as a tea room and beer garden, but in 2001 became a wine bar with kitchen, characterised by a fine selection of wines and a rich and intriguing menu, which includes vegetarian, vegan and traditional dishes. In this atmospheric ambience, you can sip an aperitif, dine or enjoy a pleasant after-dinner drink.

Flower Burger has several locations in Milan including Corso Garibaldi and Porta Genova. The first gourmet “veganburgheria”, the chain of vegan fast-food outlets serves legume-based burgers in restaurants with visually stunning interior design (psychedelic, really: think colours, man). The concept, developed by entrepreneur Matteo Toto, is to balance the convenience of fast food with healthy cuisine made from natural ingredients. Check out its spicy chickpea burgers or the kebroll, a green piadina made with spirulina seaweed containing spicy potatoes, vegetable strips, tomatoes and salad, served with spicy sauce and vegan Flower mayo.

During my search for vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafés in Milan, I asked my contacts and friends for suggestions. Here are some of the replies I received: Linfa in P.ta Genova, where Chef Antonio Alderuccio offers gluten-free and vegan fare; Govinda, off Via Torino, which has been serving plant-based dishes since the 1980s; La Vecchia Latteria in Via dell’Unione (on the other side of Via Torino); Mantra Raw Vegan, the first raw vegan restaurant in Italy operated by creative food designer Alberto Makarem: it is strictly vegetarian and nothing is cooked; Radicetonda, which has branches in Porta Venezia and Porta Romana; and Leccornie , the “best vegan pastry shop in Milan”. (Thanks to the people who commented!)

And, of course, apart from restaurants and cafés, you can make your own veggie food. While discovering vegetarian and vegan products and ingredients once involved trekking to the most far-flung, obscure locations in the city or belonging to a tight-knit group of insiders, plant-based food and brands have since gone mainstream. You can now find these pretty much everywhere: most supermarkets have their own “bio”, veggie and vegan lines, although there are still a number of specialist outlets that are worth knowing. First among these is NaturaSì, a chain of stores selling organic and biodynamic products. Founded in the 80s by the Free Rudolf Steiner Association, the parent company belonged for a time to Renzo Rosso, the owner of Diesel. NaturaSì sells a huge range of organic fruit and veg, bio food and drink products, natural remedies, supplements and healthy household items. Coccole di Gusto, located in Porta Nuova, near Piazza Gae Aulenti, is a small shop that sells organic and vegan items such as fermented cashew cheese, vegan fish products and snacks. (This last one comes from Emma Amadini’s “Vegan Guide to Milan”, which has some excellent suggestions.) 

Given the growing trend away from meat and towards a plant-based diet, the number of vegetarian and vegan options is set to grow, so this is a topic that I might revisit in time with even more great veggie places for you to try. 

Article by Robert Dennis for Easy Milano

Robert Dennis is a writer and Business English teacher based in Milan. He has been teaching for other 30 years both in the UK and in Italy. A long-time collaborator with John Peter Sloan, Robert published Business English (Gribaudo) in 2020. The book was launched with “Il Sole 24 Ore” and sold in newsstands throughout Italy. Robert has a website for people who want to learn Business English: PayAsYouLearn.com. The site features keywords and phrases, audio and exercises to help professionals improve their language skills. A graduate in English from Oxford University, Robert is a regular contributor to Easy Milano who often writes about plays staged in English in Milan and other cultural events in the city. He is also a translator and “buongustaio” who loves Italian food! robertdennis.it

Featured image by Victoria Shes

Easy Milano

Easy Milano is the online publication for the international community of Milan. We offer practical tips, key information and essential insights about living and working in Italy. Easy Milano has been assisting English speaking expats in Milan since 1999.
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Comments (1)

  1. Very informative, well-written article, Thank You Robert Dennis and Easy Milano!

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