Milan, Italy: Summer 2016 Restaurant Top Ten

INNOCENTIEVASIONI_FOOD1701_LAV

I owe you, dear readers, an update on restaurants in Milano, given the number and especially the quality of new openings in recent months. Here’s the definitive Top 10 for this summer according to my trusted sources.

  1. Enrico Bartolini at the Mudec
  2. Essenza
  3. Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
  4. Contraste
  5. Cracco
  6. Berton
  7. Joia
  8. Langosteria
  9. Innocenti Evasioni
  10. La Bottega del Vino

Please note that if we went 30mins outside Milan, we’d have to acknowledge D’O at the top of the list. Will we one day see Davide Oldani bring his talent into the city?

(Photo: Innocenti Evasioni.)

Milan, Italy: Summer 2014 Restaurant Top Ten

LamponiFreschiFragrantiFarcitiLiquiriziaeYogurtSoffiato-1170x780
Fine dining in Milan has never been in such great shape. If you are looking for that special dinner, you have a wide range of choices: traditional or stylish, formal or casual, classical or adventurous. But they all have in common passionate chefs and outstanding quality. Who are the Top Ten? This is the definitive Summer 2014 list from my trusted sources in the Milanese food and wine world.

  1. Enrico Bartolini
  2. Ristorante Berton
  3. Cracco
  4. Innocenti Evasioni
  5. Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
  6. Vun al Park Hyatt
  7. Manna
  8. La Bottega del Vino
  9. Al Pont de Ferr
  10. Ceresio 7

Photo: Enrico Bartolini’s liquorice-filled raspberries.

The beauty of living in Italy

A few days after the end of a fantastic Milano Design Week, where Milan blossomed around the world leading event in furniture and home design, let me reflect on one of the reasons why for me there’s no place like home: the quality of our homes.

I have lived in Germany, United States, Spain and Switzerland, and, outside the very top end of the real estate market – and often not even there, as plenty of Silicon Valley millionaires are known to live in rickety wood-frame houses, whose anti-seismic qualities are their only redeeming virtue – I have yet to see a place where the quality of urban living is as high as Italy. Our architects, designers, furniture makers are the reason why everybody aspires to “Italian living”. And they tell me that their Italian customers are the ones pushing them towards excellence: they won’t tolerate a lackadaisical design, a slapdash assembly, an imperfect color scheme. Having an exacting clientele at home makes our home design industry a worldwide winner.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank the superlative interior design team for the Milan home I recently furnished and moved into. Many people played a role, but here are the key ones:

A few images of the work in progress and the end product.

20140325_173627VLUU L110  / Samsung L110VLUU L110  / Samsung L110

VLUU L110  / Samsung L110

VLUU L110  / Samsung L110

Tony Oursler. Alienation, emptiness and videosculpture

Last Sunday I visited one of my favorite places in Milan, the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea. I have had reasons to praise their exhibitions in the recent past (Yayoi Kusama, Franko B., Joel Peter Witkin and Jan Saudek). The current show – until June 12th – presents works by American videoartist Tony Oursler. From the press release:

The work of the artist, since the beginning of his career, has been dominated by themes such as violence, the relationship with media, drugs, mental illnesses, pop culture, consumerist compulsion, sex, pollution. Ourlser’s analysis is focused on how all those things affect man’s corporeity and social and interpersonal relations.

Being all of these topics in which I am rather interested, I had high expectations. They were not fulfilled.

As I walked through the exhibition, I was nagged by the persistent feeling that the artists’ technical virtuosity as a videographer creating three-dimensional animated sculptures had taken over whatever meaning he wanted to convey to the viewer. I left the show not having learned anything about the unconscious, about schizophrenia, about art, or about anything else.

Tony Oursler was also the inaugural contributor to the Adobe Museum of Digital Media, which you can visit online (www.adobemuseum.com), but which at first glance looks to me line an elaborate showcase for Adobe’s Flash.

My hometown. A mini-essay

Note: I wrote this mini-essay several years ago as a writing exercise. Oddly enough, I still like the surreal antisocial murderous twist in the ending.

My hometown. Double- and triple-parked cars; public transport strikes; sidewalks eviscerated to hide fiber optic; the aquifer rising, cellars flooded when it rains. Hookers gain control of some streets at night, in waves, in fads: Brazilian boys; then Nigerian girls; then Albanian children. Opera, fashion, design. Two airports, no smoking signs ignored in both. Fetid railway stations, where bums and bag ladies make their home; one of them died last week; they called him “Nessuno”, nobody. Trade shows, conferences, fairs; times of the year when restaurants are fully booked and taxis are hard to find. University hospitals, research centers, places of higher learning. Multiplexes replacing traditional movie theaters. Giant bookstores opening, no one’s yet had the guts to offer customers somewhere to sit down while browsing. Sunday brunch, an imported habit; Halloween, another. Ski season approaching, well-to-do citizens wouldn’t be caught dead in the city during the weekend. Instead, teenagers from the hinterland swarm the streets of the center, with their stupid platform boots and identical piercings, you can tell they’ve grown up in homes that don’t have bookshelves because there aren’t any books, and it’s not even the kids’ fault, damn it. Outdoor advertising. Satellite dishes. Dog shit on the sidewalks. Parks teeming with syringes discarded by IV drug users. Can I choose the buildings to be torn down? The sociodemographic groups to be annihilated?

Instead, I hide indoors. And wait for a safe time. I will only come out on Easter Monday.

Web mood: search technology, hostile judges, and new highs for celebrity auctions

This past week has been full of interesting events on the Web: here’s a quick roundup.

  • The search technology battleground saw Microsoft add some new weaponry to its arsenal with the acquisition of semantic search engine pioneer Powerset. In light of the end of the Microsoft-Yahoo saga, this is actually a smart move. Yahoo would have brought to the Seattle troops a chunky slice of market access and a user base, but a search technology that, years after the integration of Overture, spent a long time chasing Google’s (“Panama”, anyone?) and is now admittedly doomed not to catch up.
    Powerset, on the contrary, is a different animal. The chances that Powerset’s approach will revolutionize search are small (and the big G is obviously not standing still), but the upside can be huge.
    Is the price (rumored to be about $100m) too small for Powerset to be the next big thing? I don’t think so. Not if, as GigaOM reports, a Powerset search “requires 100 times more processing than simple keyword searching and indexing”, according to Search Architect and Engineering Director Chad Walters. This means you need to sink a huge amount of money into data centers (or, I guess, rent a ton of capacity from Amazon Web Services, which ultimately can’t cost you less if you play for real). Get a bunch of VCs to fund your second round, and you will always have a Damocles’ sword pointed at your neck. Get Microsoft to open its wallet, be clear on what you’re going to deliver and when, and you actually have a chance of making it.
    Out of hesitantly nationalistic pride, let me add that Lorenzo Thione, one of the Powerset founders and the company’s computational linguistics guru, is a native of Milan and studied at the Politecnico di Milano before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Internet-hostile judges picked on both eBay and Google. A lower court in Paris upheld LVMH‘s arguments against eBay and fined eBay to the tune of €40m not just for not policing counterfeits to the satisfaction of the luxury goods house, but also for allowing resale of perfectly authentic items – a French example of favoring restrictive sales practices, and a perfect display of those anti-competitive attitudes that make Anglo-Saxons look at us on the Continent as if we were a bunch of bozos. What LVMH seems to be trying to do is as if Mercedes told you: once you’ve driven your Mercedes for a while, you can’t sell it. You can’t return it to the dealer, you can’t trade it in for a new car, you can’t list it on your local bulletin board, and most of all you can’t put it for sale on the Internet, the evil Internet. You have to keep driving the car until it disintegrates, I guess. eBay has released a statement vowing to fight for freedom to trade on the Internet, and is appealing the decision. Myself, I am reluctantly quitting my favorite perfume ever, a 1925 vintage fragrance: Shalimar by Guerlain. Please join me in boycotting LVMH fragrances with the Christian Dior, Givenchy, Kenzo and Guerlain brands until the court’s ruling is reversed.
    In Google news, the spectacular cluelessness of the ruling obtained by Viacom from the federal court for the Southern District of New York, ordering Google to hand over log data about every YouTube video ever watched by every user, has already been vastly commented upon, not least by the EFF. In fact, some suggest Google should hand over the data in paper form – it should be about as much paper as the entire Library of Congress book collection, therefore more than enough for the Viacom legal department to have fun with for several lifetimes.
  • Finally, some fun news. Most Western stock markets are down between 15 and 20 per cent since the start of the year, with China and India doing worse. Real estate is a mess, the banking sector is still looking shaky, and the word “stagflation” is hitting the headlines again. You’d think that the price of a charity lunch with Warren Buffett at the Smith and Wollensky steakhouse in New York would not reach the highs of previous years? Well, wrong. On the contrary, it has shot up even more than oil and steel. After fetching $620,000 in 2006 and $650,000 in 2007, all benefiting San Francisco charity Glide Foundation, the annual eBay auction offering lunch for up to 8 people with Mr. Buffett ended at $2.1 million.  The winner, Mr. Zhao Danyang, is a Hong Kong-based investment fund manager. Mr. Buffett is reportedly quite surprised.
    In Italy, on a much smaller scale, an eBay auction for a San Siro stadium seat next to Inter chairman Massimo Moratti for the forthcoming 2008-09 season Inter-Milan derby ended at Eur 5,050. Proceeds will benefit the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation of Europe and support the publishing and distribution of “Speak Truth to Power”, an educational project about human rights. The winner, a young Kuwaiti fan of the Italian club, has suffered though his favorite club’s years and years as an underdog, and must now be quite happy that Inter has grabbed back its opportunity to shine!

The psychedelic roots of Portishead

Any band that takes ten years to come out with its third album has either dramatically run out of ideas, or has taken its time for very good reasons. After seeing Portishead perform at the Alcatraz in Milan on Sunday night, I am very glad to report that it’s the latter.

I’ve always thought that their music had a peculiar cinematic quality: it would make a haunting soundtrack to a 1950s noir, or a sci-fi flick, or (as my friend Max suggested) one of the better James Bond movies. As they unfurled their rich tapestry of sound the other night, it became clear that they are much more than a trip-hop band from Bristol. They’ve done their homework, so to speak. The same way Bill Viola is no mere video artist, but has become a scholar steeped in his Pontormo, his Wagner and his Zen Buddhism, Portishead have delved into the encyclopedias of our musical heritage, dug out a few distinctive and unrelated sounds that interested them, and remixed them to come up with something that belongs uniquely to Portishead, yet pays homage to those ur-sounds in our collective memory.

Their Milan performance was powerfully “in the flow”, as that of an athlete winning a race, and opened up glimpses into their psychedelic roots. Max said they sounded like the Pink Floyd in the Pompeii period. Pink Floyd, of course, didn’t have a contralto lead singer, and only occasionally collaborated with female vocalists (one would like, though, to hear Beth Gibbons’s cover version of The Great Gig in the Sky, now that I think about it). Texture, complexity and distortion are some of the attributes that link their music to the glorious era of progressive rock.

Their new album, called Third, comes out this month. To read more about its birth (and the band’s instrumentation, including the “lovely old harmonium” elegantly squatting in their studio, bought on eBay for £29), check out this article by Ben Thompson.