Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italiano
About six years ago, I started to get interested in raw food and to conceive a dream: to open a raw food restaurant in Milan.
In Italy, there was still no example of exclusively raw food restaurant, even though in the United States and in Europe it had long been a successfully and popular model of the food business.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t cook at all but I am a passionate vegan foodie, circumstances that always pushed me to look with care and attention for places where to eat out. Back in 2011, I had not yet met that brilliant self-taught chef who is my boyfriend, so, in order to satisfy my desire for delicious raw food without resigning myself to eating just fruits and salads, I had to think of something.
The easiest way (!!!) seemed to me, at that time, to develop a project and a business plan in order to open a raw food restaurant in my city. I submitted my project to lenders and ideas fairs and, fortunately, no one took me into account. I said fortunately, and I emphasize it, because not only I can’t cook, but I also lack talent in management issues and I do not know anything about catering. Of course, I could find capable partners and great chefs, but something very important was missing, something that is essential when undertaking a task: the vocation, the call. The only call I felt was really from my taste buds and, more in general, from my body aiming to a healthy alive plant-based nutrition. In short, I wanted to eat raw food, not to open a restaurant! You can’t open a restaurant just because you want to eat a certain type of food. It would have been a disaster.
But the idea, I knew, was a great one.
And working on this project allowed me to look deeply into this idea, in all its aspects.
So, even after I gave up my insane project, I continued to imagine, more and more often, this idyllic place where I would eat courgetti (courgettes spaghetti) with almond pesto and coconut cream cheesecake.
I pictured it as a place of the future, a food oasis of well-being, through which people could reach a new frontier of natural, health-conscious, environmentally friendly nutrition. I wanted it that way.
What’s nice about desires, is that sometimes they come true.
In fact, about a year and a half ago, someone opened the raw food restaurant of my dreams.
Its name is Mantra and it is located in Milano, near Porta Venezia, in Via Panfilo Castaldi 21.
It’s the first exclusively raw vegan restaurant in Italy.
With joy and curiosity, high expectations and trepidation I rushed to explore it. I quickly sensed that in this project there is all the vocation, catering competence and culinary talent that I lacked. There’s also something that Mantra inventors and I have in common: a passion for the raw food world.
As stated in their personal mantra:
“According to the principle of raw veganism, Mantra prepares food but does not cook anything with heat, in order to keep unaltered the nutritional properties of the food we eat here“.
The kitchen, or rather the Raw Lab, is curated by Alberto Minio Paluello, which is often defined as more a food designer than a chef, and I assure you that he is a great chef, so you can imagine his skills as a food designer. Besides his obvious talent, what stands out is his rare, if not unique for Italy, background. Vegan for the last 14 years, Alberto Minio Paluello graduated as a Raw Vegan Chef from the prestigious Matthew Kenney Academy in Santa Monica, an international institution in the world of Raw Food. In the United States, he also gained a lot of professional experience, which completed his knowledge and expertise.
In his laboratory, with great care, passion, and tangible dedication, as well as with a gentle soul, the chef creates original and surprising recipes. Every day, with his capable staff, in the lab exposed in plain sight, he prepares those beautiful creations, using high quality raw 100 % plant based ingredients. In this place where the raw food magic happens, they select and treat with care the ingredients in order to extract intact their nutritional soul and return it enriched with textures, colors, and unusual flavors combinations.
The shades of colors, the perfumes and the taste of raw food are all particularly intense and persistent. Creating harmony with elements so alive and with a strong personality, when they are not smoothed and reconciled by cooking, it’s not easy at all. This is why the raw food cuisine is such a delicate art. The adulterations which may be used in traditional cooking are here banned, and that’s, in my opinion, why it’s harder to create a sophisticated cuisine based only on raw food.
I have been to Mantra over and over again and I tasted almost everything from the menu: breakfast, lunch and dinner specialties and, of course, the fabulous desserts.
The dishes are full of valuable ingredients, in balanced and surprising combinations. The recipes are interesting and well-considered inventions that communicate with extraordinary and rare immediacy all the taste, harmony, vitality and beauty of nature. Mantra’s food is delicious, full of surprises, intense, never dull, elegant and very satisfactory.
Everything is always exquisite to my taste (which is demanding, regarding raw food). An explosion of flavors and textures and aesthetics. A complete sensory experience.
From breakfast to dinner you can indulge in raw food culinary masterpieces: from banana pancakes with maple syrup to all the desserts, from courgetti to beetroot ravioli, from raw lasagna to velvety soups, from croquettes with mushrooms to pepper wraps, from salads full of edible flowers to cauliflower couscous, from spicy activated nuts to kale chips, without forgetting my passion: the delicious cookies, perhaps the best cookies I’ve ever eaten.
In the preparation of desserts, in addition to dried fruit, only coconut sugar with low glycemic index is used.
Mantra is also a complete raw food experience: it offers a large selection of cold-pressed juices, which are the best way to obtain a concentrate of everything good that fruit and vegetables have to offer. The juices’ combinations are designed and carefully planned to be delicious and very healthy: they are remineralizing, moisturizing, detoxifying, antioxidant and rich in vitamins.
You can also enjoy the wonderful smoothies that promise glowing skin or will take you for a trip down to childhood’s flavors memory lane. Try the Apple Pie.
In the name of consistency with intelligence and without fundamentalism, the food is only raw, but at Mantra they also offer traditional hot drinks as tea, herbal teas, coffee, cappuccino, and lattes. The lattes and the cappuccino are prepared exclusively with vegetable milk and enriched with superfood as matcha tea or maca. (Try them with cookies!!! ) It is a paradise for those who want to have a delicious vegan breakfast, with the lightness and the high nutrition profile of raw desserts and raw granolas, but without renouncing to the comfort and coziness of hot drinks.
Juices, smoothies, and lattes can always be boosted with superfoods (presented in a very wide variety) to enhance their already abundant properties.
A restaurant is not just a kitchen and its culinary offerings, is also a place where you should be in the condition to enjoy them.
Mantra is presented as an essential space, dominated by whites and neutral tones, with brighter colored details.
The modern and friendly space, outcomes cozy for my soul in search of relaxation. I like the dining room which I consider very zen and in line with the philosophy of the restaurant: with a chic attractive charm and minimal North European-style accents. An essential but perceptible appealing, never too much and never absent. A gentle and soothing environment, that welcomes you with softness, that does not overstimulate but reconciles your senses. The restaurant’s design reflects the style of the cuisine: the ingredients their self have it all, you just offer them a way to give their best, without suffocating them in mishandled actions. Sophisticated cuisine and sophisticated design without adulteration.
Mantra looks like a great place for anyone to experience a different cuisine and a new varied and unexpected ranges of taste.
In fact, this special place is not presented as a radical alternative to traditional food, but as an innovative complement to the wide offer of culinary experiences of all kinds and backgrounds, that large cities are already presenting, with the added value of nutritional excellence.
It’s a gathering place, comfortable and welcoming, that allows you to discover a new approach to food in an open form, without claiming or defending any culinary fundamentalism. Mantra simply offers with honesty and dedication a different point of view and leads to the discovery of innovative choices, for our own health, through tasty and attractive proposals.
A place like Mantra is also a new and modern way to deal with the topic of self-care.
It’s a place where it’s possible to eat healthy and relaxed, but it is also a place where you can choose to take care of your health with awareness if you want to look deeper. In fact, there is the possibility to choose a real detox path, through the cold pressed juices, proposed in ideal combinations to support the detoxification.
Why I love to eat here: Only delicious raw food! I love Mantra’s cuisine: I get lost in these dishes and at the same time, I find myself there, they speak the language of my taste. It is what I want.
Why I invite you to try it: because it is an interesting experience from every point of view, regardless of your habits or dietary preferences. Because the food is delicious. Because they are all extremely kind and professional. Because it is the first (and perhaps still the only) vegan completely raw restaurant in Italy.
I love: I am in love with all the corporate image: the colors, the fonts of the brand, the symbol of the seed that is repeated, like a mantra, in the logo, on shop windows, on the wallpaper.
Who can eat here: It is a place for everyone, absolutely everyone, including children. It is suitable for everyone who wants to experience the raw food quality and its gourmand appeal, although they are not vegan or vegetarian. Of course, it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and for those with special needs as allergies and food intolerances to dairy products, eggs, grains. It is also suitable for coeliacs and those who have to limit their sugar intake (only coconut sugar with low glycemic index is used). Please inform staff about your allergies or intolerances. If you are intolerant to yeast in a serious way, it might be a good idea to ask in which dishes is not used the nutritional yeast.
Via Panfilo Castaldi 21
Restaurant & Market
From Monday to Saturday from 12 am to 12 pm
Lunch from 12 am to 3 pm
Dinner from 7 pm to 11 pm
tel +39 02 89058575
Photos of me and Mantra: Sara Baj
Photos of Mantra’s dishes: Valerio Gavana. Courtesy of Mantra