When it comes to the ideal Italian restaurant, we yearn for a checked-cloth-covered table, un-fancy plating, affordable prices and vegetables done the no-nonsense way. We’re even happier when we discover that pop is stirring the risotto al Milanese back in the kitchen while mom is out front slapping down the lasagna right in front of us with a loving thud.
Such traditional trattorias are a rarity in Milan. But one day, while browsing our Instagram feed, we came face to face with such an old-fashioned locale. Shot after shot showed a hand-embroidered tablecloth, blue-trimmed plates bearing the restaurant’s name “Da Lobri” and piles of perfectly swirled pasta con zucchine, rustically charred baby asparagus, and salads showered in colorful pansies. “Where is this place?!” several keen followers wanted to know.
It turns out the trattoria lives in the head of Lorenzo Bringheli, a posh Milanese photographer whose love for cooking is on par with his passion for bespoke suits. “It’s a fantasy restaurant,” Bringheli explained one day, while preparing his most famous dish, a sweeping tower of perfectly al dente pasta al pomodoro. A group of guests, including his sister and shoe-making business partner Cecilia Bringheli, had gathered around the open kitchen and dining room of his apartment, which serves as the location for his make-believe trattoria.
“I like to eat simple, clean food,” Bringhelli said of the locale’s menu. “I am not into 7 Michelin stars actually,” he says with a laugh, “1 Michelin star I find more honest.”
Open only to friends and obliging guests, Da Lobri doesn’t observe traditional hours, but it nonetheless bears the mark of legitimacy. Bringheli took his restaurant’s name (“LoBri” is what his friends call him, “Da” stands for ‘Chez’), designed a blue logo (based on a dog sea monster known as Il Pistrice that symbolizes Positano), and slapped both on sturdy plates he ordered from Missaglia, a real restaurant supplier outside of Milan. Soon, he started photographing his meals and posting the images on Facebook.
“Suddenly a lot of people started writing to me saying that they Googled the restaurant but couldn’t find it!” laughs Bringheli. “It’s very flattering to me this joke. I have to say, sorry but I will invite you at home.”
Bringheli learned to cook as a young boy during his summers in Positano, where he chose to lock himself inside al Buca di Bacco restaurant instead of running around the beach with friends. He developed a sharp, persnickety palette by age 11. “I remember we had a Russian woman in the house [in Milan], “ he recalls. “I didn’t like her cooking so I said, ‘I’ll do it myself.’”
Even as an adult living in New York, Bringheli never caved to a bad meal. “I lived in New York 11 years and never once did take out. NEVER. I always cooked for myself,” he recalls. “Once I did a road trip from New York to LA. I left with a liter of extra virgin olive oil, a pan, and I brought a bunch of Italian pasta Rummo along with my luggage.”
Having returned to Milan four years ago, such drastic measures are no longer necessary. Now the only problem is accommodating all of the people who want to book a table at Da Lobri. “People ask me all the time if I want to open a restaurant,” he says. “But I already have too many jobs. I enjoy cooking and don’t like to please impolite customers. I like the joy of sharing my food for friends.”
– J.J. Martin
-Start warming up 2 cloves of pink garlic in Italian biologic extra virgin olive oil and Sicilian peppers in a large pan, larger than you would need as it will need to host the pasta for the final phase
-When the garlic is slowly frying throw in 3/4 leaves of fresh basil, better if straight from a plant
-After around 90 seconds put in the cherry Sicilian tomatoes (whole, without cutting them in parts, so to keep the best precious watery juice cooking protected from the skin) and stir (from now on with vivid flame) for 4/5 minutes than cover them with a lid and lower the flame to medium-low. (If not the season of fresh tomatoes, get canned La Torrente cherry tomatoes…)
-At this point most of the tomatoes’ skin will be broken, otherwise help them by pressing them slowly with a wooden fork so to loose the water, but cover right after as you don’t want to have the great and precious natural juice contained in the tomatoes evaporate!!!).
-Leave for 2 more minutes
-Turn down the flame, and keep covered
-Do not touch until when needs to be combined with the spaghetti
-Cook spaghetti Rummo Nr.5 in plenty of salty water
-2 minutes before “al dente” save a full cup of the boiling water in a tea-cup and put it aside
-“Scolare” la pasta and put the spaghetti into the sauce pan and put all of it on the strong flame and stir for a good 3/4 minutes, so the spaghetti finishes to cook altogether with the sauce. Add little cooking water if you think the pasta is getting too dry, but do not lower the flame).
-Remove from the flame
-Add a little extra virgin olive oil, sitr and let rest for 1 minute- 1 minute and a half.
-Stir and serve, adding 2/3 fresh basil leaves on top of the dish.
Scolare- to drain