A beautiful garden, many candles, and the charm of late 19th century greenhouses. Born from an idea of the garden designer Emanuele Bortolotti, this a restaurant that has made history in Milan.
A garden like that of a Thousand and One Nights, set up every three months with ever new floral scenographies, and over 400 candles and lights lit every night, in the heart of what in the early 1900s was one of the most industrial areas of Milan, via Savona. It was in 2000 that Emanuele Bortolotti, famous garden designer – suffice it to say that he was the first Italian to win a medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in London – fell in love with what had been a mechanical workshop, where tinsmithery for hydroelectric plants was built, and began to renovate the large spaces. In particular, he dedicated himself to the large internal courtyard which he used as a showcase for his urban recovery projects.
Years later, they meeting with Ferdinando Ferdinandi, advertising guru with a passion for interior design, and together they decided to transform this secret garden into an innovative concept, pioneering for the time, which will make history in Milan: that of garden restaurants inspired by the glasshouses of the late 19th century. Thus, based on the model of the Petersham Nurseries in London, a spectacular restaurant set up inside a greenhouse, Al Fresco was born in 2013.
Inspired by the greenhouses of the late 19th century, the garden designer Emanuele Bortolotti renews the fab garden every 3 months with new floral games.
In 2019 the restaurant joins the Sapori Italiani Group led by Silvano Allambra, famous patron of the Panino Giusto chain, who supervises the kitchen, further raising the quality of the restaurant’s food and wine proposal, while remaining firmly anchored to its origins.
The garden is today a real wonder, full of centenary trees, such as mulberry, beautiful peach trees, cherry trees, and many flowering species such as jasmine, wisteria, and roses. In 2020, an enchanting terrace was also opened, overlooking the garden, called “Dei Glicini” (wisteria in Italian) because in spring it is enveloped in a spectacular purple cloud.
The cuisine looks to the Mediterranean tradition, with mainly fish dishes such as red tuna tataki on cannellini bean cream, Teriyaki sauce and caramelized onion or linguine with garlic and oil, Mazara red prawns and raw cauliflower, but also the typical ones of the Milanese tradition. The menu is based on recipes based on seasonal ingredients and many collaborations with local suppliers. Like the one with Berlucchi, a winery synonymous with Franciacorta wine, which produces a special branded line for Al Fresco.
Al Fresco is also famous for pampering its loyal clientele with always new ideas: for example, all the ladies are given the bag “Il Buongiorno de Al Fresco”, a small package containing homemade biscuits to be enjoyed the morning after.
In the small square in the center of the garden, a concrete casting conceals the many work tools that had been abandoned by the pre-existing workshop, such as wrenches and screwdrivers. A sort of silent “monument” bearing witness to the history of this characteristic corner of Milan.