Net curtains and an almost-closed, ivy green door screened off the Antica Trattoria della Pesa from the humid heat of June and the rest of Milan. Lunch was taking place in a room of white tablecloths, an ancient dresser of oiled wood bearing crockery, glasses, bottles of grappa, and a porcelain bowl full of bright vegetable pickles.
A waiter in a crisp shirt showed me into a back room half-full of male pairs having business lunches, and an unlit coal-fired burner painted with green enamel paint. Dark wooden panelling covered the lower half of the wall, and the top was painted white, and covered with a sparse collection of poor-quality prints and cuttings. Overall, it felt like I was in a Sherlock Holmes novel.
I had a plate of finely sliced Lardo di Ballabio first – sweet and salty and with a thin rind of pungent, hard herbs. I was given the large bowl of pickles with a spoon to add some piquancy – they were extraordinary and tongue-twisting.
Then came fresh tagliatelle with a large heap of porcini mushrooms fried in butter. An excess of melted yellow butter formed pools underneath the pasta. I sat in silent awe at what I was eating and at the place with its efficient and benevolent waiters. Intense, good coffee was served with a dish of warm langues de chat. As I left I told the young, female maître d’ that her restaurant was a heavenly place.