I tempi stanno cambiando [the times they are a-changin’]: the Michelin guide to fine dining now provides recommendations for vegetarians and vegans. There are 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in Milan, but just one of them is fully vegetarian. In the land of prosciutto and salami, Joia features a unique, fully vegetarian cuisine, blending European concepts with ingredients and preparations from around the world, particularly Asia.
Operating from the principle that a “healthy diet is a life philosophy”, the restaurant offers its signature alta cucina naturale [natural haute cuisine], turning fresh produce into edible works of art. The seasonal menu (look for the current one on Joia’s website) offers whimsical options such as: “Oh my dear planet”, a vegetarian version of foie gras; “Divertissement, thinking about winter and Zen”, mushroom ravioli in a horseradish sauce; “Smilla’s sense of snow”, a cold fruit-based dessert that can’t quite be compared to anything else. The menu is available in English and French versions, so you don’t have to do the poetic translations yourself.
Joia is the brainchild of Swiss chef Pietro Leeman, who’s been running the show for over 25 years. Nestled between Porta Nuova and Porta Venezia, the restaurant is about a 15-minute walk from the Central Station of Milan. The lunchtime tasting menu, at a surprising affordable price of under 20 Euro, is a convenient way to introduce yourself to the world of Joia.
If you’ve got extra time in Milan, take a vegetarian cooking class at the Joia Academy, just down the street from the restaurant.
If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!