Welcome to a new series on my blog! For a long time now, I've been meaning to capture some of my - or my friends' - favorite places in Milan, as a way to slowly start saying goodbye to my home of the past three years - and introduce my readers from other places to this city. Note that most of those places won't be vegan, but should nevertheless offer such options. Enjoy!
Located in a neighbourhood with a weird Chinatown feel to it, Pave is a "living room with a pastry lab", in their own words. In Milan, breakfast is usually an espresso, never more than a croissant and a cappuccino, consumed quickly, often without stepping away from the bar at which one's ordered. Lunch is characterised by the same haste to it, a necessary break between two shifts of work. Leisurely meals are a domain of the evening, be it aperitivo or dinner. And the idea of working in public spaces, cafes especially, has not really sunk in yet. Given all this, it is rare to find a space which encourages you to sit comfortably with your laptop or a newspaper, hang around with your friends and not run off to cross off another errand as soon as the utensils are down and the coffee cup is empty.
It is, of course, one thing to write down a concept and hope for the best, and quite another to actually execute it. Pave does so with skill, sitting its guests in old wooden chairs, allowing them to really sink in, and by playing mellow, undemanding music, making them lose sense of time, allowing their conversations to flow. In a typical Milanese fashion, instead of a wall, the space is separated from the street by full-lenght windows, so that even while eating inside, one can dedicate himself to some people watching, as long as a table downstairs is chosen. Upstairs, however, the sunlight is very muted and, assisted by a naked bulb here and there, creates a very cozy atmosphere.
A factor that unquestionably added up to the welcoming ambience was the warmth and patience of the staff, which is never a given in this city. Our waiter was very friendly, chatty but not overly so, and has never given us as much as a rushing look, in spite of how little we'd ordered and how long we'd stayed. We've never had an empty glass or unnecessary fork on the table for longer than a minute, either. Two details, however small, that I really liked was the choice of normal tableware, and the fact that the staff wore neat kitchen aprons. The small paper napkins could have been replaced with something less perishable, but maybe it's just my reluctance to use paper things in general.
Moving on to the food - the phrase "lab" in their tag line is not undeserved, either. Their signature are elaborate, state-of-art pastry creations, with original combinations of flavors and incredible, sculpture-like, precise forms. The kitchen is open, allowing curious visitors to peak at the process of production. I shoud have picked a better day for my visit, because with temperatures verging on 35 degrees, sweets and sandwiches are the last thing I want to eat. There is a tempting cold tomato soup on the menu, but I really wanted to try their pastries, just not on empty stomach. So I had a croissant with arugula, smoked cheese and a dollop of mayo - it was really flaky and buttery, and a mess to eat, the way all good croissants should be. We then shared a lemon meringue tart, filled with lemon curd rich and fresh at the same time, the way I never manage to make it at home (luckily for my calorie intake). The choice of sweet breakfast and treats is huge, and everything looks just amazing, especially the raspberry-filled croissants and the single-serving hibiscus cake. With time, people started coming in for lunch, and I took a good look at their sandwiches, made with sourdough bread and generously stuffed with different kinds of cheeses and charcuterie.
I sure am curious about them and want to visit sometime again. Hopefully early next month, with a healthy margin to my budget - it is surely not the cheapest of cafes, relative to other places. But then, I wouldn't spend more than an hour in those other places, and in Pave, I would have easily spent the day. Given how many friends (and one pastry expert) recommended this place to me, I am certainly not alone in that view.
Pave, via Felice CasaTi 27, Milano
breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffe/tea and aperitivo - click on the link for full menu
closed on Mondays!