At Milano Trattoria Restaurant, the recipes of the classic and custom Italian dishes are not written down anywhere.
The ingredients and steps to craft the meals were created and stored away inside the mind of the restaurant’s head chef and co-owner John Braga.
“Everything’s up here,” he said, tapping his temple.
Braga’s knowledge comes from years of studying Italian cuisine in New Jersey and working in high-end restaurants in New York. He has worked as an Italian chef for 27 years.
John and his wife, Roxana, moved to Texas so he could begin working at Andiamo Ristorante in North Austin in 2004, and he served as a chef there until 2009. For the next few years he served as a personal Italian chef.
In June 2012, the Bragas purchased Milano Trattoria and about three months later began changing the menu, adding more classic pastas and serving John’s own specialties.
During his years in New York restaurants, John cooked for celebrities such as John Travolta and Frank Sinatra, and he would craft custom dishes for them, including Sinatra Pasta—a blend of penne pasta with shrimp, porcine mushrooms and roasted peppers in a light cream sauce ($18.99).
The restaurant features classic Italian dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs, chicken fettuccine alfredo and spinach ravioli. However, John also offers his own specialties, such as Penne alla Italiana ($11.99), a penne pasta with Italian sausage and mixed peppers; and Gnocchi con Sugo di Pomodoro ($13.99), which is potato dumplings with tomato basil sauce.
John also offers two to three different daily specials, rotating specials and on the first weekend of the month, the restaurant offers its signature dish, Ossobuco Risotto, ($37.99)a traditional Italian stew with veal shank. Customers must reserve the dish, which sells out quickly throughout the night, in advance, John said.
Gilbert Cantu said he often travels from North Austin with his wife and neighbors about once per week to eat at the restaurant. Cantu said his table reserves the ossobuco dish in advance, though he also frequents the restaurant for some of his favorites, such as ragu with sausage, tilapia and seasonal salad with mandarin oranges.
“We really enjoy his food,” he said. “And just his personality and his customer service, you just can’t beat that.”
The Bragas shop at local farmers markets to find fresh and seasonal vegetables. John also occasionally has specialty items, such as cheeses, shipped in from New York.
The restaurant also caters and can hosts group parties or gatherings with 48 hours notice. Roxana said they have also considered expanding, and they could open a location in North Austin.
“We would like to leave this as our baby and find another venue someplace else,” she said.