I assume most of the people having Facebook and living in Milan know Pescaria. They made such a huge ad campaign before the opening, that it was impossible to miss it. Indeed, no one missed it. The night of the opening I went there and the line was sooo long that I went away. Still, I saw on Instagram that some people waited for more than 3 hours to get the famous sandwich filled with raw fish.
I’ve always been impressed by the capacity of Italians to queue for good food. I had a similar experience when the Napolitan pizzeria Starita opened in Milan. The situation was just insane but it did not stop people from staying in line during hours to get a pizza. I finally go there after a few months and did not have to queue (excellent pizza BTW).
After the opening episode, I did a second attempt the following week: still an approximately two hours line. So I went away. Again.
The third attempt, I was in the area after a business meeting and I decided to go there for lunch. I arrived there, and… oh god, emotions: no queue outside, “fantastic” I told myself. I entered and understood immediately why this place was non adapted to big crowds. The restaurant looks like a long corridor and there are almost no seats.
That day, I ordered a Panini with salmon tartare and buffala and it was simply heaven.
A few months later, I decided to go there for lunch with some friends on a Saturday. It was 14.30, I had told myself the rush hour would be at 1pm. We arrived and we could barely enter inside, still we managed to enter (and close the door). 10 minutes later we were ordering at the cashdesk.
The problem, yes I would say it’s a problem… (first because I’m French :-) , then cause I worked in the past as a process flow engineer in the industry) is that you order but then you don’t get a table. They are more orders than tables available. Besides, in order to gain in efficiency, they proceed to the orders by batch, meaning you can have your sandwich before someone that arrived earlier just because they made a batch of your typology of sandwich first. If you go there on a packed day and are with friends, be prepared not to eat together.
So basically, you stand there, people are like lions trying to intimidate the person looking for the same prey (i.e. the seat of a person currently eating and hopefully leaving soon). When we went there, some people got a seat before us and got their food after us. Meaning they were waiting sitting while we did not even know where to put our glass so we can eat our sandwich. My friend had to eat her fresh oysters, standing!!! Can you imagine what kind of experience you get? Obviously people get nervous when a seat is free and start argueing.
That day, all this waiting time ended with a sandwich that was tasting more than bread than fish (maybe they were running out of fish), I was quite disappointed for the price. I got the opportunity to bite the one with the shrimps, but those latter were boiled and then put cold not enough drained into the Panini, resulting in wet bread, not really tasty.
I heard the best one was the one with the fried octopus.
This place got famous in Polignano, but there the context is different. In Puglia, the restaurant is a bit bigger and if there is no room, you can sit outside to enjoy your panini. It’s almost common sense to eat raw fish outside cause it’s not too cold and you have the sea.
Exporting the format in Milan was an amazing idea as Milan is full of people from Puglia, people eating raw fish to diet, and foodies always looking for new typologies of food.
But I have difficulty to understand how they could spend so much money in the fb ad campaign, and not in the findings of a bigger space or better arranged.
After that Saturday lunch, I told myself, Italians are crazy. It was sadomasochist to eat with your winter coat standing in the middle of an aggressive crowd. Where is the pleasure in that? Well you know what? People love that place, and the worst? I’m already thinking about going back there again, just dreaming about this Panini with salmon tartare.
I guess after all those years; I became a bit Italian too…