Erba Brusca: Organic, Original Food and Wine in Milan

At first glance, this may not look like a restaurant in Milan, but it’s one of my favorites. Located on the Pavia Canal on the southern edge of the city, Erba Brusca is “farm to table” with a lot of the “zero kilometer” food coming straight from this garden out back. Forget the refrigerator.

Erba Brusca is a delightful intersection of California organic, French chic and Italian flair. It’s not surprising given that Alice Delcourt, the chef, was born in France to a French father and a British mother, grew up in Charleston, went to college in the States, worked in New York then, returned to Europe. Her business partner and husband (also the sommelier and maitre d’) Danilo Ingannamorte, is Milanese.

Here, the front room with a huge Prosciutto ham covered with a cloth for later slicing.
front room

In warm weather, the terrace out back is left open. In cooler seasons, it is closed in. (You get a discount if you ride your bike and park it here!) The first page of their website includes a quote from Wendell Berry, the famed American environmentalist:

People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best.


I stop in for lunch as often as possible to try Alice’s seasonal dishes and taste new wines. The wine shelves in the front room contain a lot of Italian artisan wines made naturally I’ve written about like Vignai Da Duline, I Clivi, Bruna, Montenidoli, Ar.Pe.Pe, Iuli, Pacina.

This time, a cool fall afternoon, I chose Vespolino Vercesi dei Castellazzo IGT , a bright ruby red made from native variety, Vespolino (also called Unghetta di Caneto). It comes from the hills of Oltrepò Pavese an area located in the region of Lombardia just south of Milan. Driving by the Oltrepò for the first time several years ago, I had the feeling that the hills popped out of the flatness of the surrounding terrain with unexpected beauty. <ahref=”” target=”_blank”>Vercesi dei Castellazzo wine

The grapes ferment with indigenous yeasts with no sulphites added except a tiny amount at bottling. I liked the earthy fullness and slight spiciness of the wine. It was slightly heavy for the meal I ordered but would be ideal with any kind of meat, especially on the grill or heavier vegetable sauces or casseroles.

I ordered the lunch special. The first course was Vellutata di zucca e carote con semi di zucca e olio al peperoncino, Pumpkin and carrot soup with pumpkin seeds and peppery olive oil. Lucious.
squash soup

Next came a playful risotto made with pistachios and bacon, Risotto con pesto di pistacchi con pancetta. This is typical of Alice’s kitchen, a new twist on traditional dishes.

Lastly was a meringue and yogurt dessert, Crunchy, light and refreshing: Meringua con yogurt e composta di frutta .

After lunch, as I was chatting with Alice and Danilo, their twins arrived with the babysitter. Energy, curiosity and personality exploded into the room. Alice is one of the few serious female chefs in Italy and probably the only one raising twins while working full time. It was immediately obvious that to make that possible, she and Danilo work as a team and maintain a great sense of humor.
with twins

They never stop changing, creating and evolving what they do. Their eclectic backgrounds and capacities are reflected in their family as well as their exceptional food and wine.

Addendum: When Alice saw this post, she wrote to say: “Today we are preparing for Thanksgiving. I have six turkeys in the fridge.” If you are in Italy for Thanksgiving, celebrate at Erba Brusca!

Erba Brusca is open Wed-Sunday for lunch and dinner. Live jazz on Wed evening.
02 87380711
Alzaia Naviglio Pavese 286
Milano 20142

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