Lucca, in my opinion, is the most underrated Italian city in Tuscany. Often overlooked in favor of places like Florence, Lucca is a perfect place to visit and is well-loved by local Italians and in-the-know tourists. After living in Florence for 12 years and hosting and running retreats in Italy, I often get asked where to go and what to see when people are planning trips to Tuscany.
Without hesitation, Lucca is always at the top of my list, and after all these years of recommending it, I have yet to meet someone who didn’t fall in love with this quaint Tuscan town. So, here I’m sharing the best restaurants in Lucca Italy that I recommend to my friends and family who travel there.
What Makes Lucca Special?
Located less than a half hour from the coast of Versilia, at the base of the Apuan Alps, the town of Lucca is an easy-to-reach both by car and train. Besides its great, accessible location, though, the historic city of Lucca has an outstanding feature that has been mostly destroyed in other parts of Italy: an entirely intact city wall. The current city walls that encircle Lucca was built between the 1600s and 1800s and is the fourth version (the original was built by the Romans in the 2nd century BC).
Today, the city walls of Lucca serves as a kind of open-air park that is a popular spot for bike riding, walking, picnicking, and relaxing. Simply walk up the historic stairs to find yourself 40 feet above the city yet surrounded by pathways, lush greenery, playgrounds, and bike rental companies. Once you’re done walking (or biking) the wall, the town itself is a great place to explore with ancient churches, historic towers, a merry-go-round for kids (and childlike adults), plus some of the best restaurants in Tuscany.
Three Classic Local Foods From Lucca
Though you can find great food throughout Italy, there are a few traditional foods from Lucca that you’ll want to tray such as testaroli pasta, tordelli lucchesi, and cantucci e vin santo. Read on for a few dishes from Lucca’s cuisine that we insist you try when you visit!
Considered by many to be the first pasta ever made, testaroli pasta atraces its origins back to the Etruscans (the people who first inhabited modern-day Tuscany thousands of years ago). A testarolo (singular) is a thin, spongy pasta that is made into large sheets that are then cut into diamond or rectangular pieces. As opposed to traditional Italian pasta that is boiled, testaroli pasta is made using a batter that is poured onto a hot cooking surface (called “testo,” thus the origins of its name). It’s often served with a pesto sauce, but depending on where you’re eating it on the northern Tuscany and Southern Ligurian coast, the sauce can differ based on local preferences and available ingredients.
Lucchesi Tordelli is a local Lucchese pasta that is very similar to ravioli but semicircular in shape instead of square. They are often filled with pork, wild boar, or beef, plus Swiss chard, pine nuts, raisins, spices, and cheese. These delectable, light-as-air pillows of pasta are then served topped with a rich ragù made with pancetta, soffrito (a mix of onion, carrot, and celery) plus sometimes beef and pork, and spices including sage, nutmeg, and red wine.
Cantucci e Vin Santo
Cantucci, which resemble the American Italian cookie “biscotti,” are small, crunchy, almond cookies that come from the town of Prato, which is about 20 minutes east of Lucca. However, cantucci have become a staple all over Tuscany, and, as such, Lucca has also adapted them into their local cuisine. They are often served with a sweet, golden fortified dessert wine called vin santo. But don’t make the mistake of drinking the wine first. The vin santo is used for dipping, and the cantucci are eaten bite by bite after being dunked into the delicious wine.
Best Restaurants In Lucca Italy FAQs
Some of the top restaurants in Lucca include L'Angolo Tondo, Ristorante Giglio, Osteria Da Pasquale, Enoteca Vanni, and more. Each offers a unique dining experience, from traditional Tuscan dishes to modern Italian cuisine.
Lucca is known for its traditional local dishes such as testaroli pasta, tordelli lucchesi pasta, necci, and buccellato. Many restaurants in Lucca offer classic Tuscan fare, including pasta, meat dishes, and local wines.
While some restaurants in Lucca may accept walk-ins, it's always a good idea to make a reservation, especially during peak dining hours or tourist seasons. We help our travel clients with restaurant reservations when we create their custom itineraries.
5 Best Restaurants to Eat in Lucca, Italy
In Lucca, you can enjoy all kinds of amazing food from homey pizza to Michelin-star dining without the crowds and chaos of more popular cities like Florence and Pisa. If you’re heading to Lucca, you’ll want to read on as we’ve collected our favorite dishes and best places to try them from newly-opened Sotto Sotto Ristorantino to fine dining at Ristorante Giglio.
Good Value Traditional Food: Sotto Sotto Ristorantino
New to the food scene in Lucca is Sotto Sotto Ristorantino. A little hole in the wall, their sole focus is local specialties, done perfectly. Offering indoor and outdoor seating (we recommend reservations as they have very few tables), this is the ideal, easy, laid-back dinner spot. Their dishes are mostly local, with things like bean and farro soup, tortelli (“tordelli” to locals) Lucchesi, and testaroli done two ways. If you’ve never had testaroli and you consider yourself a lover of Tuscan cuisine, don’t miss a stop here to try it.
If pasta isn’t your thing, they also offer a selection of “secondi” (second, or meat-based plates) that include things like local sea bass drizzled with local olive oil and braised pork. Prices are also moderate here, with pasta dishes coming in under 15 euros a plate and meat dishes around 20. It’s a place to sit back, enjoy, let the chef’s menu inspire you, and taste some of the lesser-known and more historic options in the Lucchese cuisine.
Sotto Sotto Ristorantino, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, 1, 55100 Lucca
Fine Dining: Ristorante Giglio
If you’re looking for the ideal spot for fine dining, look no further than Ristorante Giglio. As a beacon of true excellence in Italian food, they received their first Michelin star in 2019 and have since continued their legacy. Opened originally in 1979 as a mix of classic Lucchese food with a touch of specialties from Mantova thrown in as an homage to the original Mantovan owner, the location has grown from a sleepy local favorite to now a contemporary take on Italian classic foods.
The atmosphere is full of charm as well; from its frescoed ceiling to its large plush chairs, you’ll feel like Italian royalty in their perfectly decadent dining room. This is a place not to miss if you’re in the mood for Italian but slightly dressed up, something that will surprise you while still holding true to the fresh food mentality that Italians love. If you’re a wine drinker, this place also has an outstanding wine list, and the waiters are knowledgeable and capable of directing you to the perfect glass (or bottle) to go along with your food. Don’t miss Ristorante Giglio if you want to experience true Italian dining excellence while you’re in Lucca.
Ristorante Giglio, Piazza del Giglio, 2, 55100 Lucca
Outdoor Dining: L’Angolo Tondo
A must-stop on your vacation to Lucca is the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. This piazza is built following the ellipse shape of the ancient Roman amphitheater that was originally constructed here in the 2nd century. Nowadays, the amphitheater is gone, but the piazza remains the bustling center and beating heart of Lucca.
There are many options for a good meal with outside tables in the piazza, but one of our favorites is l’Angolo Tondo. Stepping into L’Angolo Tondo is sort of like visiting your grandmother’s house if your grandmother was an elegant Italian nonna. Inside, the restaurant is warm and inviting with family photos, curious artifacts (like a record player, an old coffee grinder, hand-painted Tuscan pottery, and old copper pans) dispersed throughout and hanging upright on the more modern and elegant striped wallpapered walls. It’s a juxtaposition of new and old, much like Italy itself, but of course, the best part of this restaurant is not the decor but the food.
This restaurant serves traditional Lucchese food, using products local to the area, including fresh seafood fished right off the nearby coast. Don’t miss their fresh take on the classic Tuscan dessert of cantucci e vin santo (cookies dipped in a sweet dessert wine). Instead of the classic presentation, they make the cookies into a cheesecake crust, and instead of dessert wine for dipping, the sweet wine is mixed with honey as a type of delicious drizzle all over the top.
L’Angolo Tondo, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, 51, 55100 Lucca
Pizza: Funiculì Pizzeria
Italy wouldn’t be Italy without its iconic pizza, so even though Tuscany is not famous for this dish, it’s crucial to know where to find the best one when you’re in the region. Enter Funiculì, a traditional Neapolitan pizza right in Lucca. Full disclosure, though: this pizzeria is not within the historic center of Lucca, but honestly, that’s also part of the appeal. Besides serving southern Italian pizza classics, they also integrate local ingredients into their varied menu options. We recommend getting the classic with the stuffed crust (cornicione), or trying a pizza topped with local seafood since it’s all freshly caught nearby, just 30 minutes from Lucca.
And, since this restaurant is located a bit off the beaten path, expect to find mostly locals. You may very well be the only tourist when you visit, and trust that the southern Italian hospitality will ensure you’re welcomed with open arms. Fair warning: this is not pizza by the slice (it’s one pizza per person). If you’re craving pizza and want to eat well for less than 10 euros a pizza, don’t miss a stop at Funiculì.
Funiculì Pizzeria, Viale S. Concordio, 483, 55100 Lucca
Pasta: Buca di Sant’Antonio
Have you ever had dinner in a 241-year-old historic restaurant? If not, you can’t miss Buca di Sant’Antonio. This is the place to go for the atmosphere (hundreds of hanging pots, anyone?) and traditional Lucchese pasta dishes, including the famous tordelli Lucchesi. All of their pasta is made entirely in-house, and there isn’t a single dish on the menu that isn’t outstanding, but our vote is for the tordelli.
Besides food, don’t miss their extensive wine list that includes some of the best wine producers in Tuscany, plus some you’ve maybe never heard of. Don’t be afraid to ask for bottle recommendations. Their staff is knowledgeable and friendly and will happily provide insight into their favorite wines to try. The location is also ideal as it’s just a 3-minute stroll from the famous clock tower in the center of Lucca, so after dinner, you can continue with a passeggiata (walk) to all the nearby sights Lucca has to offer.
Buca di Sant’Antonio, Via della Cervia, 3, 55100 Lucca
Venture On To Forte Dei Marmi
Lucca’s location in the heart of Tuscany means it’s as easy to explore local traditions. Our travel clients go on wine tours of the relatively unknown Lucchese wine regions, doing tastings in the nearby olive groves, or go to our favorite local agriturismo for a hands-on cooking class featuring traditional cuisine. Another big plus of Lucca is that it is just as easy to get to Florence as it is to the beaches of Tuscany.
One of our travel clients’ top places for beach time in Italy is Forte Dei Marmi, which is an easy day trip from Lucca. While Lucca has medieval walls and the beautiful Piazza Anfiteatro, Forte Dei Marmi has chic beach clubs, stylish hotels, and sophisticated restaurants serving delicious food. Read on for more of our tips for a first time in Forte or contact us to have us create a custom itinerary for your upcoming Italy trip!
Photo Credit: Opening photo by Catarina Belova; Old buildings in Lucca, Italy and Teens on a bicycle tour of Lucca, Italy by Gabi Bucataru; Testaroli by simona flamigni; Ristorante Giglio by Leigh Trail