If you're planning or dreaming about cycling in Italy, my job is to make it happen for you.
Ride to eat or eat to ride? Either or, any Lucca based cyclist knows how to pin down the best restaurants in Lucca and here’s how you can too.
Not all restaurants in Lucca are created equal if you take into consideration the ultimate objective: a.) carb-loading or b.) a spiritual experience similar to climbing Pizzorne with golden legs.
€ restaurants are for curbing your hunger acceptably and delightfully. €€ restaurants are for Friday and Saturday nights, or in your case, any night. And €€€ restaurants are for celebrating victories.
Here’s what you need to know beforehand.
Don’t show up without a reservation, especially at €€ and €€€ restaurants in Lucca. Either call over lunch hours from 11 am-ish to 3 pm or over dinner hours from 6:30 pm-ish till midnight.
Some say the best restaurants in Lucca are outside the wall, but I graciously disagree because one of my favorites is, yep, in the historical center. So have your pick from restaurants inside and outside Lucca’s wall.
Restaurants inside Lucca's wall
1. Trattoria da Giulio
Trattoria, derived from trattare or preparare is historically a family owned laboratory that "treats" or "prepares" local ingredients into simple dishes for any hungry body at affordable prices.
Since 1945, Sig. Giulio's trattoria inside the walls of Lucca has fed generations of Lucchesi. When you take a seat in this old tavern, it will likely be in the company of locals who have been coming since childhood.
Your bowl of pappa al pomodoro or zuppa di pane is served from the same simmering pot as the nonna, her daughter and grandson a few tables away. Da Giulio is a community space where folks leave with full stomachs before going back out into the world to weave messy, intricate stories we call life.
€ | Via delle Conce, 45, Lucca | (+39) 0583 55948
2. Punto officina del gusto
Chef Damiano Donati fine-tuned his craft in Holland and France, as well as under chef Masaki Kuroda at Serendepico, before assuming his current position at Il Punto. Dishes here are prepared to reflect the philosophy of local and organic ingredients, with homemade bread to boot.
In summer months, they have an oh-so-Italian inner courtyard and front terrace, too. Next door is Il Puntino or “little punto” that’s open for aperitivo at 7 pm from Thursdays to Sundays.
€€ | Via dell'Anfiteatro, 37, Lucca | (+39) 0583 058490
3. Ristorante Giglio
One of my favorite restaurants in Lucca, Ristorante Giglio was recently awarded a Michelin star, yet it doesn’t necessarily charge Michelin star prices. As a cyclist, you know that teamwork makes dreamwork and it’s how they do it at Giglio.
With three chefs, informed waiters and a sommelier, dining here is an experience. Their homemade bread is so amazing that they recently opened Gigliola on Via Garibaldi to serve only bread and wine. (Header photo courtesy of Giglio.)
€€€ | Piazza del Giglio, 2, Lucca | (+39) 0583 494058
4. Buca di Sant’Antonio
Opened in 1782, Buca di Sant’Antonio is one of Lucca’s oldest restaurants and keeps to its origins with traditional Lucchesi dishes. It’s a classic cozy restaurant with pots hanging from the ceiling and easily one of Lucca’s most famous restaurants.
€€ | Via della Cervia, 3, Lucca | (+39) 0583 55881
5. Osteria Miranda
Osteria Miranda was introduced to me by cyclists and still a favourite restaurant amongst Lucca based pros. You're not just a customer to Gianluca and Luciano, but a measuring stick of how well they're performing their craft.
They're ambitious guys; replaced the cook with a chef who elaborated their offerings. Gianluca, with the handlebar mustache, is proud of his English but welcomes any playful attempts at practicing restaurant Italian.
Every square meter of this small cozy restaurant is carefully considered. Biodynamic wines line the walls in which they take pride in recommending. In the summer months reserve a spot on their beautiful terrace. The ambiance is unlikely to disappoint.
€€ | Via dei Carrozzieri, 27, Lucca | (+39) 0583 952731
Restaurants outside Lucca's wall
6. Cucina Dello Scompiglio
Occupying a modernly-renovated farmhouse on this 200-hectare estate in the Vorno hills, ingredients are gathered from the estate’s surrounding vineyards, orchards, olive groves and vegetable gardens, all grown using organic methods.
The real charm, though, derives from dining under the wooden veranda’s brightly-colored umbrellas with impressive views of the mountains toward the north.
€ | Via di Vorno 67/B, Vorno | (+39) 0583 971473
7. Antica Locanda di Sesto
Antique is for fourteenth century, locanda is for inn and Sesto is for Sesto di Moriano, a suburb north of Lucca. Located along the Serchio river, this place has an old soul. Once used by Lucchesi tradesmen and celebrities like Puccini as a place to stay en route into Garfagnana, Antica Locanda di Sesto is now owned and operated by Aurelio Barattini. If celebrities didn’t exist back then, they do now as Aurelio is the charismatic figure behind this go-to place for Tuscan steaks.
€€ | Via Ludovica, 1660, Lucca | (+39) 0583 578181
8. Osteria Candalla
This ancient water mill makes for a particularly romantic place to spend an evening, if not from the vantage point of a balcony suspended over the river, then lounging under banana leaves on the river bank beneath.
It's a one-of-a-kind restaurant that merits a 35 km drive from Lucca. Their menu consists of reasonably priced, typical Tuscan dishes like tordelli al ragu, testaroli, wild boar, and chianina.
€€ | Via di Candalla, 264, Camaiore | (+39) 0584 984381
Tucked away in a peaceful setting out in the hills toward Montecarlo, the dishes here feature a Japanese-Italian fusion because, you guessed it, Japanese chef Masaki Kuroda oversees the kitchen. Thursday nights are dedicated purely to Japanese sushi.
€€€ | Via della Chiesa di Gragnano, 36, Capannori | (+39) 0583 975026
That's it — my top nine restaurants in Lucca! Tell me in the comments, did you try any of them? What's your top Lucca restaurant recommendation?