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Milano dining: Alfredo - Gran San Bernardo no great shakes...

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Milano dining: Alfredo - Gran San Bernardo no great shakes...

David Russell | May 4, 2002 05:37 PM

It saddens me to report that while, according to numerous sources, this long-established Milanese trattoria may have been a reliable standby for competent execution of classic, traditional Lombardian fare, such is no longer the case. At least based on my meal there about three weeks ago.

The first sign that something might have been amiss was the sparsely populated dining room, and we arrived at about 9:00 p.m., an hour at which things should have been starting to hum. I'd say the place was maybe half-full at best.

The second tip-off was the wine list: a rather hackneyed affair with mostly well-known (i.e., highly commercial, boring) names, at least a third of which carried no prices (indicating that they didn't actually have the wine in stock), all at rather elevated prices (in stark contrast to, say Gigina in Bologna the night before where we drank '97 Scavino Bric dël Fiasc for 50€ or thereabouts).

The coup de grace was my primo of risotto alla Milanese arriving literally--this is no exaggeration--within three minutes of my having given the maître d' my order. The entire surface had become slighly hardened from having sat under a heat source since being made who-knows-when (that afternoon? earlier in the evening?). Once that plate was cleared, the second course (a perfectly decent osso buco) arrived even more quickly than the first, probably inside of a minute. We elected to skip dessert and head back to our extremely pleasant hotel bar (the Sheraton Diana Majestic) for a nightcap, where earlier we had derived considerable entertainment from watching a stream of well-dressed Milanese businessmen parade through and mingle with a gaggle of lithe, drop-dead gorgeous model types.

The inescapable conclusion I drew from my visit to Alfredo - Gran San Bernardo is that whatever spark that might have burned there for so long has since been extinguished; the whole vibe was a dispirited one, a feeling that they had long ago lost interest in what they're doing and are now merely going through the motions, and not even doing that terribly well. Judging by the [lack of a] crowd, most of Milano has figured that out and moved on.

Next time: back to Osteria del Binari (unless someone would care to chime in and tell me whether Sadler or Osteria di Porta Cicca or ??? should be my next choice for dinner in Milano).

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