I got in Milan round lunch time today and I couldn’t help stopping by Al Baretto’s (literally “at the little bar”). When I was a child – back in the ’70s – my mum had her PR agency right beside it and used to take me there for lunch every now and then. Al Baretto’s was the place to be at. And it still does. If there’s a place in Milan where it makes sense to go to see and to be seen (assuming that people may still be keen to see and to be seen that is, which seems to me to be quite anacronitsic in these days), that’s it.
Opened in December 1962, the Al Baretto’s has been hosting the top of the crop of the people in town. It moved from Via Sant’Andrea to its current location at Via Senato, within the Hotel Baglioni, but with its soft carpets, fine wood wall panels and its old English gentlemen’s club atmosphere, it has remained identical over the years. They serve excellent food and offer a very accurate selection of the finest wines. And their Martini Cocktail is by far the best in town.
But the real asset of Al Baretto’s are its people. Further to the competent and polite staff , Ermanno Taschera and Vincenzo Bagaria are those who really make the difference. I remember when I was a child, my mum always met somebody she knew and they usually started chatting, and though it was clearly not meant to be a pre-schooler-friendly environment, I didn’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with myself in the least (and – take it from me – I tended to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable with myself quite often) since Ermanno and Vicenzo always found a way to make me feel looked after and cared about. And, notwithstanding their huge success, they have never stopped been caring and sweet. Over the years I celebrated there the most significant events in my life. Threw my graduation party, my bechelorette party … And had my first Martini after delivering my son.
Today I had my 5-year old with me. To my dismay he’s a very picky eater. Among the other things, he doesn’t eat any ice cream or cake or sweet in general except for a dreadful industrial product called “cremino” that is basically a cream lolly-stick covered in chocolate. Of course Al Baretto’s doesn’t have it on its menu. Well, after all the practicable options had been refused by the little brat, Vincenzo asked what he liked, put on his coat and went to get a couple of Creminos for Costantino… Unrequested. Unexpected. The restaurant packed with people. And this magic they do with their regulars. If I were a foreigner and wanted to see what Milan society truly looks like, I would book a table for two in the smoking section before the bar.