By Sabrina Sucato
Vegetarian food is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Italy. Pizza? Yes. Pasta? Absolutely. Tofu? Not so much.
That’s not to say that vegetarian and vegan cuisine does not exist in Italy. On the contrary, vegetable-driven restaurants have slowly but surely started to pop up in city centers across the country. Milan, the area’s unofficial international hub, leads the way with meatless meals. The great northern city is home to a number of vegetarian venues that are tasty enough to hold their own against their standard Italian counterparts.
Whether you’re in the mood for classic vegetarian, innovative vegan, or fresh raw cuisine, Milan has an option for you. As an added bonus, the city’s walkable layout means that whichever restaurant you choose will likely be only a short stroll away. You can channel your inner Italian as you take a leisurely passeggiata through town before making your way to a scrumptious green eatery.
Without further ado, here are five of the most mouthwatering, plant-based food havens in Milano.
If you’re in the mood for fresh produce and short wait times, look no further. Mantra serves up beautiful dishes based upon whatever is in season. Their menu changes fairly regularly to accommodate this, but you can expect a delicious spread whenever you go. Top picks include their mushroom meatballs or zucchini noodles. They also do fun takes on traditional desserts, like the “Brawnie” or “Tirawmisu,” which uses coconut cream instead of an egg cream base.
With treats that are just as healthy as they are delicious, you can’t go wrong no matter what you order. Don’t forget to wash things down with one of Mantra’s signature cold-pressed juices. You may want to order one to-go; they’re just that good.
This spot is an organic foodie’s heaven. The restaurant, which was Milan’s first certified vegan eatery, prides itself on all-natural ingredients and even goes so far as to offer 100% biodegradable servingware. If you go, order from the offerings of the day menu, which lets you mix and match between fresh grain, legume, and vegetable dishes.
Radicetonda has not one, but two locations in Milano, on via Spallanzani and in piazza Buozzi. In either spot, you’re bound to find something tasty and meat-free.
If you’re hesitant about ordering a burger in Italy, my advice is don’t knock it until you try it. I’ve had some of the best veggie burgers of my life in Italy, where fresh ingredients are essential. Flower Burger, located in Stazione Centrale in the heart of Milan, is all vegan, all day. The fact that the food is vegan, though, is almost overshadowed by how mouthwatering it is.
Don’t believe me? Check out their Instagram. You’ll undoubtedly lock eyes on their black bun, which comes on the namesake Flower Burger. This layered creation relies on a seitan patty as its base, and pairs with it mixed greens, tomato salsa, vegan cheese, soy sprouts, and an addictive herb sauce. Forget about vegan; this is just plain delicious.
At the other end of the spectrum, Joia is the only vegetarian restaurant in Europe to receive a Michelin star. If you’re looking for top-of-the line plant-based cuisine in the food capital of the world, this is the place to go. Select one of the prix fixe seasonal menus or choose your own eating adventure from amongst Chef Pietro Leemann’s curated individual plates.
Either way, you’re bound to have a meal like no other. The restaurant celebrates a return to nature by turning local, organic ingredients into edible art. This is one dinner you won’t forget anytime soon.
Located right at the start of the trendy Navigli district, Ghea is the perfect place to retreat to after an early evening of cocktails and people-watching at one of the many aperitivo spots nearby. The menu is ever-changing to keep up with what is in season. Don’t let the lack of a set menu stop you from making a reservation though (and you will have to make one). The artful presentations and creative concoctions make this veggie-friendly destination one you won’t want to miss.
During lunch hours, the restaurant sets up a gourmet buffet spread with both hot and cold offerings. The casual atmosphere makes it the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and taste test the eatery’s delectable vegetarian cuisine. For dinner, however, the locale transforms into a reservation-only hotspot designed to help guests relax as they experiment with flavors and savor only the freshest of ingredients.
Whether you’re a committed vegetarian or vegan or just looking to try something different, make sure you stop by one of these restaurants next time you find yourself in the Italian fashion capital. You’ll be living la vita bella as you eat delectable plant-based cuisine near the Duomo or along one of the city’s all-too-shoppable side streets. Your taste buds, and the planet, will thank you.
Sabrina is a 20-something freelance writer based in the scenic Hudson Valley, NY. She has lived in both Bologna and Milan, Italy, and is now hopelessly addicted to gelato. When she's not writing or dreaming of Italy, she can be found drinking copious amounts of coffee and testing out new dessert recipes.