Did I ever tell you about the time I had lunch with the famous Italian opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti? Well…
In preparation for my visit to Milan I brought with me a list of restaurants I wanted to try. Researching the local cuisine of any city I go to now has become a habit and I highly recommend it. There are so many great reviews and recommendations for food online and it really helps you focus in on what you are looking to taste. As with most large cities Milan has so many restaurants that leaving it to chance really doesn’t give you great odds that the meal will be one that you would never forget.
One such establishment I had on my list to eat at was the small panini restaurant that opened way back in 1964 called De Santis. With 50 different panini sandwiches on the menu it’s easy to see why the line stretches out the door every day and why De Santis has become famous in Milan and gained almost world wide recognition of foodies.
Located about a 10 minute walk from the Milan duomo, De Santis is an unassuming little store front sandwiched in between other buildings and if you weren’t looking for it you might just walk on by without noticing it but for a long queue of hungry Milanese waiting to get their favorite panini. I had been warned the lines would be long but when I arrived there was no line at all and I walked right in. An unintended consequence of the pandemic had many staying home.
As you walk in you notice a menu board lining the wall with countless different panini sandwiches to choose from. In fact, the hardest thing is making a decision. I looked over the menu from end to end but made my decision by asking patrons in line what their favorites were.
I ordered my panini and an Italian beer at the counter, paid, and sat down to wait for my sandwich. Although it was not crowded I had company at my table as I glanced to the wall and noticed an autographed portrait of Pavarotti grinning back at me. Apparently De Santis has a history of feeding famous Italians from soccer players to singers, actors, politicians, and now me. Other celebrities autographed photos adorned the wall and I contemplated where mine would end up.
In short order the waitress arrived at my table and delivered a delicious looking panini wrapped in paper exposed at one end along with my beer. I could not be more happy. The sandwich looked every bit as good as it tasted. So good in fact that I made it back to De Santis one other day for lunch before I left Milan.
I very much enjoyed De Santis. The food, ambience, service, and overall charm of this little shop makes it a must when you are in Milan.
The women working behind the counter seem to have the huge menu totally memorized as they prepare sandwich after sandwich for the guests with amazing speed, each looking more delicious than the last.
As I sat and ate my panini and drank my beer, I glanced at the picture and wondered what Luciano’s favorite might have been. Was he able to try all 50 on the menu? His belt line certainly looked as so. What a great afternoon in Milan, just me and Pavarotti having our panini lunch together.