Visit Munich in the warmer months and it’s difficult not to detect an Italianate vibe throughout the city: people wearing dapper shades and sipping espressos on café terraces, dining on Italian food al fresco and relaxing in the parks and beer gardens.
Italians have been settling and working throughout Germany since the Middle Ages,from architects and craftsmen to traders. By the time of the Renaissance, Italian bankers, architects and artists were successfully integrated into German society, and after World War II large waves of immigrants from Italy relocated to secure work on the country’s prodigious rebuilding project. Munich, being the closest city to the Italian border, has enjoyed an especially long and venerable connection with its neighbour, hence its nickname, “the northernmost city of Italy.” There is a large Catholic population (Bavaria is the only German state where Corpus Christi is a bank holiday), and Italians still run a lot of businesses throughout the city – in the realms of fashion, art and media, but also restaurants, cafés and food markets. There are 800 Italian restaurants dotted around, and as if to underline the importance of the Italian-German culinary connection, the ever-expanding Italian company and cultural force Eataly has just launched their debut German project in the city’s historic Schrannenhalle.
Munich’s nineteenth-century Schrannenhalle, a grain market originally built as an indoor extension of the neighbouring Viktualienmarkt, has been through several incarnations over its decades-long existence. Most recently its vast 4,600-square-metre interior was chosen as the site for the launch of the first-ever Eataly in Germany.
Spread over two floors, the ambitious project is heaven for Italophiles, with no less than 10,000 high-quality products displayed and over 200 members of staff employed throughout the enterprise’s restaurants, stalls, stands, cafés and cooking school. As well as dining, drinking and shopping, you can chat to wine and beer experts about vintages and regions, visit a Bianchi bike shop and learn about artisanal production from one of the many traders. Some of the most mesmerising stalls include one selling a delicious range of mozzarella from all over Italy – buffalo mozzarella from La Bontà degli Antichi Sapori in Piedmont, along with more delicate types from Lombardy or South Tyrol – where you can watch the cheese being made through a large show window; and the panetteria and focacceria, where you can witness Italian flour being ground with rollers and natural stone before being baked to perfection in a wood oven.
Feinkost Spina has been importing gourmet food and wine specialties from Italy and distributing them around Munich’s hotels, restaurants and delicatessens for over three decades. Located in the somewhat nondescript Euro Industrial Park to the north of the city, the Feinkost Spina warehouse is surrounded by other giant supermarket buildings and best accessed by car, which is all the better for transporting home the vast array of delicious goods available here. The stalls scattered around the building’s raw, relatively industrial interior are more than happy to cater for individual customers too – and with more than 7,500 products from all areas of Italy and all kinds of traditional and modern cuisine on offer, you will want to ensure you’ve saved enough time to browse the shelves and vitrines. As well as exploring over 1,500 different wines, there are endless types of pasta available in all kinds of colours, shapes and sizes; sauces, vinegar, oils and coffees from renowned manufacturers and freezers full of frozen fish and seafood – not to mention a whole range of fresh products such as salami, hams and cheeses and freshly baked breads: it’s an Italian food experience not to be missed.
Munich’s Lenbachhaus, a celebrated art museum that forms part of the city’s Kunstareal (art area), showcases famous Munich painters as well as contemporary artists. It was reopened in 2013 following an expansion and restoration by UK architect Sir Norman Foster, and as well as a brand new entrance, the museum’s much- loved Italian restaurant Ella was given an overhaul too. Named after the moniker Wassily Kandinsky bestowed on his friend and fellow Blaue Reiter artist Gabriele Münter, the restaurant is a local favourite thanks to its modern take on classic Italian dishes, bountiful breakfasts and great selection of coffee and cakes. One of the main draws, aside from the food, is its expansive terrace, which seats up to 120 people and offers generous views over the grand neoclassical architecture of the Königsplatz.
Sipping a cappuccino or eating al dente pasta while catching some sun and gazing out at the Glyptothek, Propylaea and the State Museum Of Classical Art is a highly recommended warm-weather activity. The chic dining room – all blonde-wood floors and contemporary artworks by the likes of Thomas Demand – is pleasant too, and it’s possible to eat at the illuminated onyx bar or in the lounge area. There’s even a private dining room should you wish to host your own dinner party.
This hip and convivial Italian eatery is living proof that it is possible to stand out in a city that’s all but overrun with Italian restaurants. Located just two blocks from Marienplatz – an area generally known for its beer halls and traditional pub food – the place offers a refreshing combination of warmth, simplicity and great quality eating at reasonable prices. Opened by 33-year-old Sandro Petaccia and his business partner and long-time friend Jonas Bissinger in April 2015, the venue has a rustic setting – light woods matched to classic red-and-white chequered tablecloths, wooden wall cabinets filled with wine bottles and fresh green herbs sprouting from small red plant pots – that is immediately appealing. The daily changing menu offers several antipasti choices and a couple of unpretentious Italian mains (think tagliatelle with ragout or vitello tonnato), with specials handwritten in colourful chalk on a blackboard. The drinks list is considered, too, with a full range of Rieslings and Spätburgunders (Pinot Noir) from Germany and Austria plus reds and whites from Tuscany, Piedmont, Sardinia and beyond and some good beers.
It’s also possible to buy all the wines from the menu to take away, and even order a gift basket of Italian delicacies for a picnic.