If you’re walking through Piazza Duomo in Milan and you see a long queue of people in an alley, then you’re at the right place. A few meters away from you, under a little yellow sign, you’ll find Panzerotti Luini.
The story of Luini started back in 1949, when Mrs. Giuseppina and her family arrived in Milan from Puglia, a region in Southern Italy. Here, she took over the bakery in S. Radegonda Street. At the beginning it was a traditional bakery that used to bake bread for the people of the neighborhood and the main hotels in the city center.
Actually, Mrs. Giuseppina always gave importance to the products of her homeland and, one day, as she was copying some of her grandfather’s recipes, she found the one about panzerotto, a filled, savoury pastry, typical of the Pugliese cuisine.
At the beginning, the Luini family used to bake only a few panzerotti, because people in Milan didn’t know its taste yet. But in the early Eighties, the idea of panzerotto as delicious products was widespread thanks to the word of mouth referrals. As a consequence, this little neighborhood bakery became well known. And it is this very bakery which cranks out a sort of fried calzone that feeds everyone, from employees during lunch break, to broke students and tourists who – between the Cathedral and Teatro alla Scala – don’t want to waste time eating.
Since then, the bakery has attracted more and more people and you can now see longer and longer queues before it. As a matter of fact, Milanese have adopted the bakery and Luini’s panzerotti have become a key element in their meal. Luini has become at the same time a must see place in the city. Today, if you walk by Piazza San Fedele, you can meet different people holding a steamy panzerotto in their hands.
Mrs. Giuseppina’s three children are carrying on the family tradition and jealously keeping the secret about the recipe of panzerotto. The passion for the tradition together with the taste for innovation is now the main strength of the second-born Luigi, who has introduced – next to the classic fried panzerotto with tomato and mozzarella – several new flavors to satisfy the clients who have become more and more demanding. By introducing new fillings and preparations, today there are more than 100 typical and revisited products.
Ground-breaking of the Fast Food during the frenetic days of the “Milano da bere”, forerunner of the Street Food in the last decade, Luini follows today’s trend without giving up its heritage, thus becoming part of the Milanese tradition. So, we can definitely say that it’s not Luini who chose Milan, but Milan that chose Luini.
Luini, today a reference in Milan, has also been protagonist of some funny episodes. Some years ago, they received about 100 telephone calls – before turning off the phone – because rumors said Luini was going to be put out of business. The same rumors said that somebody had said Luini had been bought by a Chinese group.
Today, if you ask the Luini family what they are really proud of, they will for sure recall an episode like the one they told me. Last week, a client entered the bakery with a kid and told Mr. Luini: “I used to come here 30 years ago when I was a student and now I’m bringing my son here so he can taste your panzerotto. He cannot grow up without knowing it!”.
So, there’s a tradition on both sides of the counter!
A special thanks goes to Mr. Luigi and Mrs. Cristina Luini for their availability.