The Italian Job

Where: Milan, Italy

Take Italy's fervent food culture and marry it to Milan's exquisite fashion and design aesthetic and presto!, you've got Peck, the world's most upscale delicatessen. Actually, "delicatessen" is a pretty feeble term to apply to this four-story food showcase, on a side street quite close to the Duomo. Though it was founded way back in 1883 by a charcutier from Prague named Francesco Peck, Milan's famous food emporium has evolved over the years into a sleekly stylish and pricey showcase devoted to the foods of Italy.

Apparently it's no hard task to fill four stories with top-grade olive oils, balsamic vinegars, freshly made pastas in all shapes and sizes, porcini mushrooms, and truffles (where else would you pick up those essential Piedmont white truffles?). The cool cellar full of Italian wines is an amazing cave in and of itself. The cheese counter is a marvel, featuring pale glistening globes of buffalo mozzarella, enormous wheels of Parmesan, creamy Gorgonzolas, and luscious mascarpone. And given Peck's origins, it's no surprise that the salumeria is outstanding, with a stunning array of prosciuttos, salamis, mortadellas, cotechinos, Parma hams, and stuffed pigs' feet. The artfully decorated little cakes in the pastry shop can be taken right to the upstairs cafe, where freshly roasted coffee is also sold. The service is generally haughty and even rude, and don't attempt to comparison shop -- of course you can buy the same products elsewhere for less. But somehow this place makes you feel as if it's worth paying extra just for the Peck experience.

Naturally, the store has spun off a couple of eateries -- there's the sleek Italian Bar around the corner, which offers a selection of roast veal, risottos, porchetta, salads, aspics, cheeses, and pastries, and then there's the full-fledged restaurant Cracco-Peck, at Via Victor Hugò 4 (tel. 02-876-774). Like the store, they're both absurdly high priced, but for stylish, creative cuisine, they deliver the goods.

Information: Via Spadari 9 (tel. 39/2/802-3161;; closed Mon).

Nearest Airport: Milan's Aeroporto di Linate (internal European flights; 16km/10 miles) and Aeroporto Malpensa (transatlantic flights; 48km/30 miles).

Where to Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Milano, Via Gesú 8 (tel. 39/2/77088; Antica Locanda Leonardo, Corso Magenta 78 (tel. 39/2/463317;