[November 2017] – My first night in Milan brought me directly to the Navigli neighborhood; known for the bars and nightlife along the big canal. Or at least that’s what I remembered from the time when I was studying here back in 1996. Fortunately, the Navigli is still a lively scene – I wasn’t wrong. I may be much older, but I wasn’t wrong.
I took the tram from Duomo down to Porto Genova and walked down the right bank of the grand canal to my first destination: Mag Café. Fortunately, I had read about this place prior to coming to Milan and knew I had to check it out – and in my research I learned reservations were highly suggested – especially during aperitivo hour on a Saturday evening.
Mag Café has both indoor and outdoor seating; which were made from wine barrels, painted with the Mag logo. The entrance to the locale was a tight squeeze giving you an introduction to the cozy feel of the place. Inside, the Mag Café is not too small, but not too big. Honestly, the space was close enough to feel comfortable like you were in someone’s living room.
Just at the door a barman greeted us. He was standing at the corner of the oak bar that housed a beautiful display of bottles mixed among random objects. Thinking back, the bar space actually resembled an old apothecary. Above it hung a chandelier made from parts of a bicycle, including the wheel; which had filament lightbulbs sprouting around it. We were seated on a pair of wood and velvet arm chairs and a settee along the wall opposite the bar.
Quirky would be the word to describe the interior design. Behind us hung mostly mixed-media art including dioramas of Italian Neapolitan playing cards – made by local artist Simona Cozzupoli – and a variety of other random trinkets, mostly based on Alice in Wonderland.
A waitress placed dishes of cured meats, cheeses, crackers on the marble coffee table before us. This is what aperitivo hour is in Italy: snacks galore, depending on the bar. She proceeded to hand us peculiar cocktail menus printed on a folded brochure with drink categories listed as subway stops; each with an inventive cocktail by the talented Mag Café barmen and -women.
Perusing the menu, I looked up at the beautiful display of bottles around the bar. Immediately, I spotted something totally new to me. It was something that I had also read about prior to my trip, and something that I wanted to taste, and possibly something I wanted to take home. And my face lit up immediately upon the sight of the bottle.
- Mag Café – Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 43, 20143 Milano
[This cocktail story continues…]