From the moment you open the door to Officine Brera your eyes are ready to explore. There’s the open kitchen to your left, separated only by a patchwork of glass and some stacked firewood, inviting you to peer into the food preparation process that somehow flavors the bites you’re about to enjoy in a few minutes. Walking to your table you’re still taking it all in — the high ceilings, the beautifully organized bar shelves to your right, and the large industrial frosted glass windows allowing the gentle and muted light to spill across the leather, wood, and metal details. The masculine warmth here cradles you and what you’re about to eat is a nostalgic reimagining of a childhood in Italy.
“My dad used to take me to the countryside, to the Mainland as we call it, and we went to this restaurant called the Baldin (Chioggia) where this guy had a little place. He had a pig, he had a few chickens, he had quail, geese and he made everything very organic,” remembers Officine Brera’s CEO Matteo Ferdinandi. These memories of a simple and earthy approach to dining is something he and his business partner Chef Angelo Auriana share even though they grew up in different parts of Italy. Today, both look to their childhood for inspiration, translating memories everybody can understand through taste. Officine means workshop and Brera is an arts districtarea in Milan reminiscent of the DTLA’s arts district.
The Officine Brera concept has been on their minds for a long time. The two actually wanted this space back in 2012 but it was occupied so Matteo reluctantly looked at a place a few feet away. So instead of waiting around, Matteo used that roadblock to build and create The Factory Kitchen.
Now Officine Brera is enjoying the same success and here’s a breakdown on what to order from Matteo himself: The risotto alla Milanese (served lunch and dinner). This dish has it all from the strategically scraped cheese that it melts into every nook of the risotto to a stuffed marrowbone towering over it all. This dish is the epitome of the too casually used “melts in your mouth” — this dish WILL melt in your mouth and into your mind and you’ll be back for this. There’s also the Lardo Al Pepe — cured pork back fat curled up to look like a decadent rose with chesnut honey, walnuts, and peppercorns. Manzo All’Olio — an ancient recipe of slow braised beef shoulder. The Pollastro is another must — one bite will quickly reprimand you for the way you’ve been making chicken. This is what chicken should taste like. Also try the Farinata, a chickpea flour pancake made in their wood oven. But you won’t find it on the menu, so just go ahead and ask for it. And leave room for dessert: castagnole, fried donuts with a side of liquid gold — salty bourbon caramel sauce or the mousse al cioccolato chocolate mousse surrounded by a pool of pistachio sauce. We can keep going but come in and do your own hungry homework.
Written by Linda Hosmer
Photographed by Natasha Lee