Refettorio, a rich Simplicitas

Opened last year in Milan, between Brera and La Scala, it’s a new way of uniting quality and price

22-02-2013
The entrance to the restaurant Refettorio Simplici

The entrance to the restaurant Refettorio Simplicitas at number 2 in via dell'Orso in Milan, tel.+39.02.89096664, an oasis of goodness halfway between the Accademia di Brera and Teatro alla Scala

One year old: Refettorio, in Milan, turns one. It was opened at the end of February 2012 in Via Dell’Orso 2, in the palace on the corner with Via Brera. The name is in fact longer, namely Refettorio Simplicitas, where the reference to simplicity is a clearly stated mission: here you have to make-do with what is served (in Italian you’d say, literally, “eat what the convent passes, hence the wordplay with refectory). It’s that simple...

Locating the entrance is not easy. When you arrive from via Brera, it’s on the right, where the pavement becomes as narrow as a mountain path. The Refettorio, tel. +39.02.89096664, replaced an incredibly sad establishment, not much more than a canteen created in the grey basements. It’s success is due to a project planned in all its details, which in spring will be doubled in Salzburg and then even in Munich. Three clones, because what is on the menu on a particular day, in the shade of Milan’s Duomo, will also appear in Austria and Germany.

The idea is soon explained, so finely put into practice that it convinced us at Identità to award them with the Nuove realtà a Milano prize (New realities in Milan) on the occasion of Identità 2013 in mid February. It got even simpler, more essential, after the Christmas holidays. There’s a small defect, though: if the table holds more than 6-8 people understanding how it all works is not straightforward.

Let’s get to the point: the restaurant was created thanks to the idea and passion of Rinaldo Invernizzi, an entrepreneur and artist with a degree at the Accademia di Brera, who was able to engage Enrico Merli McClure as director - a manager with a previous experience at Standa, for instance, but also a restaurateur: he was the latest manager of the legendary Trigabolo in Argenta, in the province of Ferrara, and, nearby, of Calvi, in Milan. And in the kitchen there’s Giovanni Ruggieri, who just turned 28. He’s from Novara, professionally trained in Piedmont, including a year and a half with Enrico Crippa in Alba.

When the decisive moment came, Invernizzi and Merli reminded him not to ever forget that the guideline is that of a “non creative cuisine”. In other words, no frills, no special effects, no expensive raw materials, no blind and dusty tradition - quite the contrary. Here you can find light and tasty food, exemplary raw materials, precise executions and low prices, with a climate recalling the end of winter/beginning of spring, ranging from a minimum of 13 to a maximum of 20 euros. And we’re talking about the menu, not a single dish.

Cod mantecato with green sauce by Giovanni Ruggieri of Refettorio in Milan

Cod mantecato with green sauce by Giovanni Ruggieri of Refettorio in Milan

This is how it works, and this is the secret, the winning point: you eat what was prepared on that particular day, at lunch and dinner. Of course there are a couple of options, but that’s it, an extra. If you’re vegetarian or want a side dish, there’s a dish of cooked vegetables, finished with some creamed potatoes. Until Christmas, two thirds of the restaurant had the convent-formula, one third could choose à la carte from a wider menu. It was difficult to manage, especially at lunchtime. So, once the holidays were over, it became a total Simplicitas for the enjoyment of everyone.

Yes, because the authentic (and not conditioned) quality, almost dictated by the low prices, is matched in fact by a smiling bill, and in Milan, in the heart of the historic centre! I have at hand the list from Tuesday 8th January: hummus and grated carrots with lemon; homemade dessert (a choice of bunet, apple cake, fiordilatte ice-cream and fruit of the season), a glass of house wine (but there’s also a wine list) and a moka-coffee (convents haven’t discovered espresso, yet, it’s too fast).

Then there are the main dishes, two different ones, every day, but the same for lunch and dinner. That day there was Black lentil and kamut cream and Creamed cod and bagnetto verde sauce (I went for seconds, it was so good). I paid a total of 20 euros because I ate both the available dishes, but had I opted for the cream alone, I would have paid 13. 17 for the cod. Always including the hummus and desserts. The offer increases for dinner: there’s the Milan dish (Saffron risotto and ossobuco) and that of the month (I remember half a pork shin), plus an always different cheese.
A rich Simplicitas.


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Restaurants from all the world told in Il Giornale by Paolo Marchi from February 1994 to the winter of 2011. And since the spring, for the readers identitagolose.it