If you are a meat lover you definitely heard of the famous Wiener Schnitzel which is one of the most popular Austrian dishes. But have you heard of the Cotoletta alla Milanese? Me neither until I visited Milano, Italy. It seems that there is an old “war” between this 2 for the origin of the dish.
In case you don’t know, the Wiener Schnitzel is a thin crumbed slice of veal fried in oil and served with lemon, Erdapfel potato salad (German potato salad) or boiled potato with parsley and butter. In Austria the term “Wiener Schnitzel” is protected by the law and only if the dish is made of veal you can call it so
The Cotoletta alla Milanese on the other hand, is also a breaded cutlet traditionally made of veal but fried in butter. From the name we can depict one of the only 2 differences I, and many others, found between these dishes. It is supposed that the name comes from “costoletta”, which in Italian means little bone, and it refers to the fact that the cutlet is cooked “bone-in”.

Austrians claim that they had the dish first. Even though according to a tale the recipe has been brought in Vienna from Italy in 1857 by field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, linguist Heinz Dieter Pohl insist this story is invented. He called the story “scientifically meaningless” as it cites no sources. And this study was made in 2007, so they are still trying to prove their Wienerschnitzel, as it is sometimes spelled, was the first of its kind.
In Italy though there are some evidence of the dish being present since 1134 at a banquet given for the canon of Milan’s St. Ambrogio Cathedral. If we want to go even further in history, there is evidence around the 1st century BC of the Romans enjoying dishes of thin sliced meat, breaded and fried. Also, in Latin America some dishes were inspired from the cotoletta alla milanese and are now known as milanesa.

There is also the book Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages by William Harlan Hale where he says the following “Wiener Schnitzel and its Italian counterpart, Cotoletta Milanese, involved two Hapsburg domains in a culinary quarrel. Both branches of the family, Austrian and Italian, claimed credit for the invention of the dish”.
With all the above and many other information I kind of made an opinion regarding the origin of the delicious piece of meat, but I couldn’t get a definite answer. Instead I decided is not even important, at least not for me. I will let fellow Italians and their Austrian friends to argue over it and I will just enjoy it whenever I am traveling to any of this beautiful and filled with culture places.