A Taste of Two Cities

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Vanessa Obioha

When Milano Restaurant opened business in 2013, it intrigued customers with its unique dining setting. Occupying the second floor of the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, its walls were lined with wine, cozy private dining room, intricate designs and Latin music pooled customers. It became a tourist attraction for guests who were not only fascinated by the edifice that housed the restaurant but beguiled by its sheer class and elegance.

Giving in to their curiosity, the restaurant soon became the go-to restaurant for Italian meals. The rich exotic wine list and mouth-watering cuisine added to the spellbinding experience.

Named after the exquisite city of Milan in Italy, home to iconic designs and high-end dining, Milano prided itself in offering its high-end guests the best Italian dishes in a very classy ambience. From breads to pizzas to pastas, the true Italian experience is on offer.

However, a recent visit to the restaurant shows a change in their menu. Understanding the diversity of Lagos and the rich flavour of Nigerian dishes, the restaurant experimented by adding local flavours to their Italian dishes. The result is a tasty harmony of flavours from two countries.

The restaurant’s Chef Allam Sayed from Egypt leads his team of chefs to explore different Nigerian spices. For instance, there is Suya Pizza, Gizzard Pizza and asun (goat meat) pizza. Each of these is embellished with local spices, tenderly made, giving it a very brilliant combo on the palettes. The names further show the emerging relationship between the two countries.

The hotel’s Director of Food and Beverages Ahmed Raza sees the new concept as meeting with their customers’ needs. “We notice Nigerians like their food to be spicy so we blend the key elements of Nigerian foods into our Italian meals, giving it the spicy feel that our diners want. It is an emerging relationship.”

He emphasised that the restaurant is deliberately designed to portray the Italian tradition. For example, diners could watch the chefs flip the dough when making the pizza as often seen in New York restaurants. Italian spices like the oregano; different wines are also on full display. Raza further revealed with a sense of humour his intention to serve palm-wine in the restaurant.

However, one cannot ignore the budding marriage between the two countries. From that standpoint, it is evident that the restaurant is creating a unique dining experience that will pool locales. It has also incorporated the playing of Nigerian music to blend with the Latin music that endlessly whispers from the hidden loudspeakers.

Albeit, Milano still retains some of its traditional meals like the serving of bread -in this case- Focaccia with sauces like pesto for starters. Its pastas (farfella, penne rigate) are also creatively served, rich in Italian flavours.