Opening vegetarian restaurants in Milan, a city of carnivores, is a gutsy move. Yet Joia, under the charge of Swiss/Italian owner-chef Pietro Leemann, has thrived as Milan’s meat-free paragon since 1989, earning a Michelin star and even spawning a satellite in Navigli called Joia Leggero (Corso di Porta Ticinese, 106; tel: 02 8940 4134).
Leemann, who often roams the restaurant floor, has turned vegetarian cuisine on its head, adding style and sophistication (and fish to some dishes). Witty, quirky food peppered with Pietro’s Zen philosophizing brightens up an otherwise rather solemn atmosphere. Thus Egg Apparent is a faux egg of broccoli jelly with a joke yolk of pumpkin pesto. Presentation is key – Cubist in style – and painstaking.
Prepare for a long innings: the slow service could be attributed to the chef’s artistic licence; hurried diners should take the set menu or, better still, return with more time.