Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (2023)

Looking for the best restaurants in Lucca, Italy? From fine dining to budget friendly, the best restaurant for whatever you’re looking for is on this list!

Lucca is an Italian city that will charm you with its beauty and dazzle you with its local cuisine. Ideally situated near the region’s fertile farms and the bounty of the nearby Ligurian Sea, this Tuscan gem celebrates authentic Italian food with gusto—and you can too.

Lucca’s cuisine is so wonderful, you won’t have to settle for cliché dishes and lackluster red wine picked from a cheesy English menu tailored for tourists.

Instead, I’ll introduce you to outstanding restaurants in 10 categories where you will enjoy the best food in Lucca, Italy. Remember, magnificent marinara sauce can be made at home; use your time in Lucca to feast like a local!

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (1)

In my latest two-week visit to the city, I scoured Lucca restaurants for such local specialties as Tordelli Lucchesi (Lucca’s signature dish), Pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta), Ribollita (bread and vegetable soup), Panzanella (Tuscan salad), and Zuppa di Farro (Farro Soup). I found all of them!

The Tordelli Lucchese are so amazing that they are a must in Lucca. I ordered them in almost every restaurant I went to.

Versions vary, but these ravioli-like pasta purses are typically stuffed with beef and/or pork, bread, Swiss chard, pine nuts, and grated cheese. They are then topped with a hearty meat sauce made with beef, pork, garlic, onions, celery, red wine, tomatoes, and olive oil suffused with a blend of spices. Often, they are then sprinkled with cheese tableside.

But tordelli are just one of rich rewards of a trip to Lucca. For me, exploring the traditional and original creations of this Tuscan treasure was a dream come true. I love this city, and I want to make sure you do too! That’s why I am sharing this list of the best Lucca, Italy, restaurants with you!

Buca di Sant’Antonio

All-Around Best Restaurant in Lucca

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (2)

This popular restaurant in Lucca is an absolute jewel, and I’m calling it the best restaurant in Lucca. It has been satisfying diners since 1782 with its delectable Tuscan cuisine featuring “piatti tipici della cucina Lucchese”—typical dishes of Lucca.

Located just a 3-minute walk from the famous 14th-century Torre delle Ore clock tower in the heart of Lucca, this is a favorite restaurant among the city’s discerning locals and savvy visitors. It’s a restaurant Lucca truly loves—and deservedly so.

Sant’Antonio is a study in understated elegance. Its white linen tablecloths, suited wait staff, and courtly maître d’ are counterpoised by the hundreds of copper pots hanging from the ancient wooden beams that span the ceiling of the main dining room, and complemented by the warm, friendly demeanor of the entire staff.

Sant’Antonio’s version of Tordelli Lucchese is refined and dreamy. The restaurant makes all their pasta from scratch, and you can taste it. Their Tagliolini with Butter and Black Truffles is decadent and magical, and their Tortellini first rate.

I ate multi-course meals here twice, and both of the experiences were exceptional. Every dish was a real treat. From the first bite of crusty bread accompanied by their superb local olive oil, through their pastas and meat specialties, to their beautiful desserts, the food is first-rate. There is also an extensive wine list that will satisfy any palate.

Its ambience, charm, warmth, service, and impeccable cuisine easily earns Sant’Antonio its spot atop our Lucca list of restaurants!

Address: Via della Cervia, 3, Lucca

Hours: Sunday: 12:30–3:00; Monday: CLOSED; Tuesday through Saturday: 12:30–3:00, 7:30–10:00

Reservations: Online

Ristorante Giglio

Best Fine Dining in Lucca

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (3)

Dining in Ristorante Giglio is akin to being wowed by a contemporary art exhibit held in a refined museum housed in a stately mansion. Specifically, this Michelin-star restaurant is situated in an 18th-century palazzo, and the avant-garde dishes are so inventive and prepared so exquisitely that they truly are works of art.

Uniquely among the famous restaurants of Lucca, Giglio juxtaposes its frescoed-ceiling, fireplace-warmed, and chandelier-lit dining room with the sublime beauty of the courses served to you at your table. Setting the highest standards for the local ingredients provided by the finest purveyors, the restaurant’s three chefs transform the bounty of the region into mouthwatering masterpieces.

Founded in 1979, the restaurant is now run by its third generation of culinary talent. The young masters of the kitchen maintain the time-honored custom of using only the finest and freshest ingredients, but they do not shy away from painting outside the lines of traditional techniques and recipes.

The result is a broad palette of flavors that are either brilliantly spotlighted in isolation or expertly mixed in a creative collage. The greatest challenge as a diner is trying to discern which is more amazing: the visual or the gustatory.

Luckily, the wine list is extensive and impressive, so it’s easy to enjoy your selection while you ponder your decision.

Address: Piazza del Giglio, 2, Lucca

Hours: Thursday through Monday: 12:15–2:45; 7:45–10:00; Tuesday, Wednesday: CLOSED

Reservations: Online

Da Ciacco

Best Salumi or Quick Meal

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (4)

When you walk into Da Ciacco, the writing is not on the wall, but the message is hanging from the ceiling: “This place is serious about salumi!” Stalactites of smoked pork legs, sausages, and salamis of various sorts and sizes dangle above the kitchen staff as they ready meat-centric meals for their hungry patrons.

The delicious cuts of cured meat appear in lovely cheese and charcuterie boards, savory sandwiches, and scrumptious salads. All of which can be paired with a wine from a fine array of choices or a cold beer from an ample set of offerings.

For such a simple focus, the breadth of the menu may surprise. Some stand outs from my visits: Tagliere di Ciacco, their top-notch salumi and cheese board; Crostone Mortazza, a huddle of open-faced sandwiches on toasted bread, with mortadella and dreamy, creamy burrata cheese, sprinkled with pistachio crumbles; and Finochionna, a panino with fennel-studded salami, creamy pecorino, grilled eggplant, and arugula.

Da Ciacco is the perfect place to enjoy simply delicious food at reasonable prices. Eat in the cozy dining room or at outdoor tables that look out on the Piazza Napoleone. A meal here is a generous helping of Italian pleasure that is a favorite with the locals. It’s such a hit, in fact, that if you come for dinner, you should arrive early if possible; tables fill up and diners linger as the night deepens.

Address: Piazza Napoleone, 10, Lucca

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday: 12:00–3:30; 6:30–12:00; Monday: CLOSED

Reservations: Not offered

L’Angolo Tondo

Best Surf & Turf—With a Twist

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (5)

Something everyone needs to do when in Lucca is to visit the Piazza Dell’Anfiteatro. The buildings that form its perimeter trace over the elliptical outline of the Roman amphitheater that was built on the spot back in the 2nd century. The amphitheater is gone, but its location in the historical center of Lucca is memorialized by the piazza that now stands in its place.

Luckily, L’Angolo Tondo is in the piazza too—so you’ll have a fabulous Lucca restaurant in which to eat when you visit! The restaurant’s aim is to offer you delicious food in an atmosphere as friendly and familiar as you would find in your nonna’s (grandma’s) house. And their aim is true.

The restaurant resembles a cozy home with some great nonna artifacts, including an old radio the size of a suitcase, a crank Victrola record player, and a generations-old coffee grinder tucked into nooks amid the dish racks and family photos. Homey, not kitschy; warm, not forced.

But wow, nonna can cook—and keep you guessing! Here you get a mix of traditional local specialties and the traditional with a twist. The pappardelle melt in your mouth. These broad ribbons of pasta are so good you don’t even need a sauce—but how wonderful that they come with an amazing one anyway. Ours was braised wild boar. Yum!

The Tordelli Lucchese are intentionally oversized, playing with the traditional stuffing-to-pasta ratio. Points for originality, kudos for deliciousness!

L’Angolo Tondo also has great seafood. The range of options change daily according to what the restaurant’s fish purveyors caught off the Versilia coast—just west of Lucca—the morning of your visit. Among the specials on the menu the day we came were scorched octopus with caper flowers and tuna tartare with smoked black olive oil.

Our finale was an ode to one of the traditional dessert offerings of the region: Cantucci with Vin Santo. But instead of the usual biscotti-like biscuits to be dunked in sweet dessert wine, our version was a cheesecake with a crust made from Cantucci and drizzled with a Vin-Santo-based honey glaze. Amazing!

Apparently, we were too effusive in our praise. We were asked down to the bar after our meal and rewarded with a complimentary assortment of Vin Santo to see us off into the night. Salute!

Address: Piazza Dell’Anfiteatro, 51, Lucca

Hours: Thursday through Tuesday: 12:00–2:15; 7:00–10:00; Tuesday: CLOSED

Reservations: Online

Da Umberto

Best Pizza in Lucca

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (6)

Some might think it cliché, but for me, it’s a genuine treat to find a great family-run pizzeria in the country that gave us pizza! And although Napoli is pizza’s official birthplace, Da Umberto serves up the best pizza in Lucca, and definitely gives Napoli’s best some stiff competition.

The pizzas here are made in wood-fired ovens and have a classic Napolitano-style crust: thin, with just the right amount of chewiness. The crust’s outer edge is fuller, but airy too.

For the pizzas that sport tomato sauce, San Marzano tomatoes are used. These Italian tomatoes are famous for being light on seeds, rich in flavor, and mellow in acidity, with a kiss of sweetness.

Unlike many pizzerias in Italy, which offer a limited choice of toppings, Da Umberto offers some 20 different pizzas, each its own symphony of flavors. They serve truly tasty versions of traditional favorites well known stateside, like Margherita, Marinara, and 4 Frommagi (4 Cheese).

But they also do killer Capricciosa (mushrooms, artichokes, black olives, and Prosciutto) and Napoletana Sbagliata (anchovies, olives, capers, basil, and oregano), which are great, but something you might need to work your way up to. Alas, there were many more enticing options that we did not have a chance to try.

I would skip the perfectly fine but small interior and opt for outdoor dining at the restaurant’s tables on the Piazza Napoleone. It would be a real shame to miss out on this great way to chow down on some top-notch pizza while enjoying a satisfying slice of people watching.

Address: Piazza Napoleone, 24, Lucca

Hours: Monday through Thursday: 7:00–11:00 pm; Friday through Sunday: 12:00–3:00; 7:00–11:30

Reservations: Not offered

Enoteca Vanni

Best Wine Bar in Lucca

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (7)

Enoteca Vanni is a wine lover’s delight, and one of the top places for wine in all of Italy. There is the wine shop itself and then a tiny café next door that offers additional outdoor seating with plenty of umbrellas that work well against both the sun and rain. I know; I’ve comfortably imbibed there in the heat of day and storm of night.

The shop offers an astounding selection of wines—and an impressive range of liquors, for that matter.

The trick is to make your way to the very back of the shop. Then descend the small set of stairs that lead to an underground labyrinth that stretches in different directions under numerous neighboring structures. Thousands and thousands of bottles wait there patiently until someone—perhaps you—brings them back up to the surface.

As you can imagine, the café is a great place to get delightful local wine, but the wine list extends far beyond the immediate region. The ever-changing offerings spotlight different varietals from various corners of Italy to showcase the breadth and depth of today’s Italian wine scene. You can also purchase a bottle from the wine shop and pay just a 5-Euro corkage fee to enjoy your selection at the café.

The food menu is small but rewarding. Salumi and cheese selections predominate and make perfect accompaniments to your wine (or beer) of choice. Watch as your server expertly cuts thin slices of Prosciutto off the cured pork leg on display in the front window. Then sit back and watch the world go by as you enjoy the simple pleasure of a fine glass of wine and tasty snack in a lovely piazza setting.

Address: Piazza del Salvatore, 7, Lucca

Hours: Sunday, Monday 4:00—10:00; Tuesday through Saturday: 10:00–1:00; 4:00—10:00

Reservations: Not offered

Cantine Bernardini

Most Creative Cuisine

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (8)

Everything about Cantine Bernardini strikes a fine balance between the old and the new. The restaurant is located in the center of town, surrounded by historic buildings in the Palazzo Bernardini, built in the late 1500s. Yet the rooms are brightly colored, exhibit modern art, and have a contemporary sensibility.

The gorgeous, vaulted-brick wine cellar predates the palazzo itself. Yet it’s now home to wines that are decades old—along with those that were released just last year.

The contrasts are a reflection of the restaurant’s motto, Tradizione è/e Rivoluzione: Tradition is/and Revolution. Granted, it’s more clever in Italian, where only the accent above the “e” distinguishes “is” from “and,” but the meaning translates into any language.

It was made clearer to me during our fantastic meal: You can’t truly be a revolutionary unless you fully understand the traditional. And what is now traditional was once revolutionary. Some traditions are worth savoring, but there’s always room for experimentation and improvement.

At Bernardini, everything is worth savoring. When I went with my husband Mike, our server greeted us with a menu and a complimentary flute of refreshing spumante. We were then brought an amuse bouche that both amused and amazed.

Two great taste experiences and we hadn’t yet spent a Euro or made a single decision about ordering. This intriguing, intimate restaurant was the ideal spot for me—I could do this forever.

The first choice we did make kept the streak of winning flavors alive. (Spoiler Alert: The streak would continue the entire meal). It was a Panzanella.

However, this was not the refreshing summer salad variety, but a modern take on the traditional winter version, made in the “style of a lumberjack’s wife.” I kid you not; think forest foraging fare. A hearty dish, served warm, with Chanterelle mushrooms, snatches of dark bread, and a deliciously mysterious sauce. Outstanding!

Next was an elegant version of the classic Roman dish, Tagliolini All’Amatriciana, but with a Tuscan twist. And, of course, we had to try their take on Tordelli Lucchese. Named in honor of Nonna Maria, this dish was tradition excellently preserved and utterly delicious.

The last of the savory dishes was a picture-perfect grilled mackerel with Vin-Santo-braised radicchio and “cocktail sauce.” Unforgettable!

Desert was a dream! A deep vanilla panna cotta with a drizzle of salted caramel—and popcorn. I can assure you this did not come from Nonna’s recipe drawer.

Bernardini was true to its motto: It perfected the traditional, reworked its elements to expand its possibilities, and invented new dishes worthy of becoming new standards—all in one extraordinary meal.

Address: Via del Suffragio, 7, Lucca

Hours: Thursday through Monday: 12:15–2:00; 7:15–10:00; Tuesday, Wednesday: CLOSED

Reservations: Call or email contacts on menu page of website

Ristorante Mecenate

Best Traditional Restaurant in Lucca

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (9)

Located near the 19th-century Porta Elisa, one of the later-built gates that allow passage into the walled-in, historic central part of Lucca, is Ristorante Mecenate. The restaurant bills itself as a relaxed, no-frills environment in which to enjoy the best of traditional, regional cuisine. Although true, the description does not do the place justice.

Perhaps not frilly, the restaurant is nonetheless highly inviting. The large dining room is vintage old world, with its wood-beamed ceilings and brick archways. The warm colors and interesting historical artifacts that adorn the walls and windowsills draw you in and set the scene.

But it’s the food that most piqued my interest. No other Lucca restaurant menu boasts as diverse an array of regional specialties.

Zucchini-flower pies, fish bread soup, ravioli with nettles, and stuffed squid are just a few of the typical Tuscan dishes featured. Ingredients come from local farms and local fisherfolk. Locals also make up a healthy percentage of the clientele.

Our meal started with some complimentary artisanal bread and local olives. I could have eaten the entire loaf of bread, savored every olive, and been satisfied. But there was so much more food to explore.

Our first dish was pigeon risotto. Come on, we came for authentic regional specialties; I wasn’t going to let a little pigeon scare me off. And there was no need. It was fun to try and totally tasty; I’d easily order it again.

Next was Mecenate’s version of Tordelli Lucchese. This must have been our fifth version of the dish while in Lucca, and it was delish! Wow, I really miss this pasta—in all of its variations!

Another traditional local favorite, Cinghiale in Umido con Polenta (stewed wild boar with polenta) was not my personal favorite—but it was enjoyable. The meat was a little tougher than I would have hoped, but the flavor was intriguing, and the polenta was yummy through and through.

Naturally, we had to finish on a regional note. Castagnaccio, or Tuscan Chestnut Cake, was our choice. Its hearty nutty taste took me back to the oven-roasted chestnuts that were a staple of the family Christmas feasts I grew up on.

And since chestnut trees are so prevalent in this part of Italy, and their nuts so cherished, it was a fitting end to this ode-to-Tuscany meal. The homemade whip cream was just a pleasant bonus.

Address: Via del Fosso, 94, Lucca

Hours: Wednesday through Monday: 12:00–3:00; 7:00–10:30; Tuesday: CLOSED

Reservations: Online

Undici Undici

Most Hip—For Eats and Drinks

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (10)

The first time we stopped at Undici Undici was during the sprawling antique market that spans the 3rd weekend of every month and fills up nearly every square in the city. We were in the lovely Piazza Antelminelli, and it seemed like a perfect place for a little break from the action.

We grabbed our seats, ordered some drinks, and then drank in the gorgeous views. From our outdoor table, we looked out directly over the piazza’s large fountain at the Cathedral of San Martino. Two additional churches and bell towers looked back at us. To our right, trees towered over a wall draped in a flowing cloak of green foliage. A nice nook indeed.

We were in good company. Almost every other table was taken, and overwhelmingly by young locals.

People would walk by, notice someone they knew or were called over by someone who knew them. Kisses and animated conversations would follow.

Like their patrons, the staff was young, hip, and friendly. In talking with our server, we mentioned that we’d be in town for a while. She mentioned that Undici Undici was a popular spot for both its drinks and its food, so we should definitely come back by for a meal during our stay. Why wouldn’t we?

Young and hip was not an antique-market-weekend fluke. When we arrived for dinner, some such customers clustered at the bar. Others grouped while waiting to be led to private event rooms. Still others sat at the tables in the main dining area. That’s where we were led.

Everyone seemed to have a different dazzling cocktail in their hand. So, we ordered our own. Delightful! We had had a big lunch that day, so this dinner was to be uncharacteristically light.

First, we shared an order of Tagliata con Rucola: Sliced Steak on Arugula with Shaved Parmesan. It’s a traditional go-to dish in Tuscany, and it did not disappoint. Next was Tordelli Luchessi. When in Lucca, right? Like every other version we tried on our trip, it was great yet subtly different from every other version we tried.

For dessert, we had more cocktails. When in Undici Undici, right?

This spot is open 7/7 from noon til late. Extensive lunch and tapas options are offered every day, but the dinner menu is only served on Fridays and Saturdays.

Address: Piazza Antelminelli, 2, Lucca

Hours: Sunday, Monday: 12:00 pm–12:00 am; Tuesday through Thursday: 12:00 pm–1:00 am: Friday, Saturday: 12:00 pm–2:00 am

Reservations: Not offered

Pizzicheria La Grotta

Best Budget Friendly Restaurant in Lucca

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Lucca, Italy — Chef Denise (11)

Pizzicheria La Grotta has been operating in the Piazza Dell’Anfiteatro since 1865. But unlike some of the other restaurants in this must-see tourist magnet, it does not rely on gouging with high prices or skimping with low quality to stay in business.

Instead, it retains the time-tested recipe that has kept customers coming through its doors for over 150 years: high-quality food at reasonable prices.

The restaurant prides itself on preserving local culinary traditions by serving a wide variety of Lucchese and Tuscan specialties. Among them are Tordelli Lucchese, of course; a number of pappardelle dishes; and Testaroli, an ancient pasta dating back to Etruscan times. Testaroli are flat and cut into diamond or square shapes and then served with a sauce of choice—here with a delectable pesto.

Passed down in the family through generations of butchers, La Grotta still makes a diverse array of salumi in house. Some of these delicious meats find their way onto antipasto platters, others into stuffed focaccia, and still others onto the long list of pizzas on the menu.

La Grotta offers ample seating outside at umbrella-shaded tables on the piazza. Indoor seating is available as well.

Also indoors is a shop that offers plenty of fresh salumi, cheeses, and breads that are perfect for a picnic. In addition, a large selection of pastas, sauces, olive oils, cookies, and many other regional specialties make great souvenirs.

I, for one, hope that La Grotta’s good food, good service, and good value enable them to keep their doors open for at least another 150 years.

Address: Piazza Dell’Anfiteatro, 2, Lucca

Hours: Monday through Saturday: 9:00 am–10:30 pm; Sunday: 10:00 am–7:30 pm; Tuesday: CLOSED

Reservations: Not offered

Tips for Eating in Lucca Restaurants

Now that you know which restaurants in Lucca you want to try, here are a few tips to hep you.

1. If the restaurant takes reservations, make one, even for lunch.

2. Always double-check the days and hours of operation; they seem to change frequently.

3. Most often you will not receive the check until you ask for it. Kindly request, “il conto per favore.”

4. A gratuity is included in the bill. However, for exceptional service or in finer restaurants, leaving extra change or a small percentage (no more than 10%) is customary.

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Italian, Travel

Denise Macuk

food travel, restaurants


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