Crisp, golden breadcrumbs coating a tender veal chop: the cotoletta alla milanese is a classic of Milan’s cuisine, up there with saffron-stained risotto, osso buco and panettone.

La Cotoletta alla milanese, the bread cutlet consists, traditionally, of a slice of calfskin with bone, breaded and fried in butter, which is also finally poured on the cutlet. Modern versions tend to avoid this last step and replace the butter with slices of lemon that are squeezed by the commensal once the dish is served. It is a simple and fast recipe to prepare.
A second version of the cotoletta is made with a big cutlet of veal, aptly called l’orecchia di elefante (elephant’s ear), as reference to its size and shape. It’s for those who like their fried goods crunchy all the way.
A recent version of the Cotoletta alla milanese, prepared especially in the spring season “primavera“, is expected to serve it cold covered with tomatoes, cut into thin pieces, and rocket.

History:

The cotoletta, one of the most typical and well-known dishes of Milan, has very ancient origins. It is in fact named as “lompolos cum panito” in the list of dishes offered at lunch by a canonical abbot of S. Ambrogio in 1134. In spite of its ancient origins, however, in the 19th century, the paternity of the cotoletta was at the center of a dispute with the Austrians, who at the time ruled Lombardy and the Milanese.
The Austrians, in fact, claimed that the cotoletta came from the Wiener Schnitzel, while the Italians maintained the exact opposite.
Very fast, the question became a real patriotic dispute, which settled only when the field marshal Radetzky, in a letter addressed to the Emperor Francesco Giuseppe’s Attendant Count (the Count of Attems), described with attention the cotoletta and claiming that he has never eaten such a dish in Austria.
The admiration of the field marshal was accepted as recognition of the cultural milanese identity, so that the legend spread after that.

Curiosity:

  • Gallicism: the name has a clear French origin. It comes from the word “côte” or “côtelette”, “veal” is taken from the cutlet with the bone, which in Italian corresponds to coast, rib or cutlet.
  • In 2016 thousands of restaurants worldwide celebrate the cotoletta, one of the symbols of Milanese cuisine, during the 9th International Day dedicated to Italian specialties. In past 8 editions the IDIC chose spaghetti alla carbonara (2008), Risotto alla Milanese (2009) Tagliatelle al Ragú Bolognese (2010), Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese (2011), Pesto alla Genovese (2012), Tiramisù (2013), Spaghetti al Pomodoro (2014), Parmigiana di Melanzane (2015).
  • The milanesa is a dish common in South American countries where generic types of breaded meat fillet preparations are served. The original recipe, as the name suggests, was most probably brought to South America by Italian immigrants during the mass emigration between 1860-1920s.

You can find the cotoletta alla milanese everywhere in the city from a Michelin-starred restaurant to a bar serving lunch or a fast-food restaurant on the side of the road. Any Milanese restaurant will have some version of the cotoletta on the menu unless the place is vegetarian or specializes in fish.

Have a good discovery and buon appetito!