Lucca, Italy has no shortage of restaurants. Prior to visiting, I scoured countless reviews on Tripadvisor, Yelp and several foodie travel blogs to find a great place to make a reservation before arrival (I always like to have one recommended reservation before visiting a new city). While not at the top of all lists, several blogs/reviews highly recommended 1586 Osteria Cantine Bernardini, so I made a reservation for dinner on our first night in Lucca. It was certainly not a mistake. It was there that I had my favorite meal of the entire trip, and we enjoyed the food so much that we went back for lunch the next day!
Located in the center of Lucca, Cantine Bernardini is situated in a cellar on the back side of Plazzo Bernardini. Most of the seating is outside. The waitstaff was extremely nice, all spoke English and were happy to explain the various dishes, including the specials. I would describe the food as modern Tuscan, and absolutely delicious!
For our first-night dinner, I started with a Lucca specialty – cecina! Cecina is a chickpea dish, which Bernardini served with local vegetables and pumpkin. Very delicious, and not too filling. A good choice for a starter.
Dan started with another Lucca speciality – trippa (tripe). Dan’s tripe was stewed and served with pinto beans. Dan loved the tripe – I did not try it! In fact, he liked it so much that he ordered it again the next day at lunch!
For my main dish, the best dish of my entire trip – black truffle pasta topped with a single sprig of fresh rosemary! The pasta was perfectly cooked and the truffle flavor was amazing!!! I ate every bite.
Dan also had a great dish – prochettina toscana al forno, which translates to roast suckling pig on a custard salt and rustic chips. The pig was perfectly crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside and set atop a basil sauce. Dan highly recommends the pork if they have it!
For desserts, we tried both of the restaurant’s specialties. First, zuccotto lucchesse. This dessert is famous in Lucca and consists of a pinenut cake of sorts soaked in Biadna liquer. It had an alcohol flavor and the texture of a biscotti. I did not love this dessert, but I can see how it would be appealing to others.
Second, the cheesecake santo, because I love cheesecake! This was cheesecake flavored with vin santo served on chopped almond biscuits! YUM!
As I mentioned, we enjoyed our dinner so much that we went back for lunch the next day! Ha! We did not have a second reservation, but were able to walk in. The lunch and dinner menus (including prices) are identical.
For lunch, I started with the local sweet onion soup. It tastes kind of like French onion soup, only with a lot more onions. The cheese and croutons in the soup were very tasty, but the dish was very heavy. Maybe too ambitious for a late summer lunch! This would be excellent for dinner on a chilly night!
For mains, I ordered the gnudi. The gnudi was described as typical “strozzapreti” (Tuscan ricotta and spinach served with sage butter). The dish came out with five huge balls of ricotta, spinach, sage butter and cheese! They tasted delicious!! Side note – this dish is huge and I couldn’t finish it…
Dan ordered braised beef in Chianti wine and whole black pepper served with polenta and white beans (Peposo di Manzo al Chianti delle Cantine). Dan enjoyed this dish, but not as much as his crispy pork. The white beans were really delicious!
Steal Our Trip
Osteria Cantine Bernardini – Via del Suffragio, 7 | Via Del Suffragio, 7, 55100, Lucca, Italy. T: +39 0583 494336. Open Mon. – Thus. 12:00 – 2:30 and 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. I recommend calling beforehand for a reservation. Seating is limited, although you can probably walk-in without a reservation on many nights.
Note – Osteria Cantine Bernardini has a good selection of non-meat items for vegetarians. Uncharachterisitically (and unintentionally), everything I ordered was vegetarian.
Second note – Osteria Cantine Bernardini has a good wine list at reasonable prices. This is a good place to splurge on some of Tuscany’s famous wines, which would be triple the price in the US. We ordered a brunello – a steal at about € 35,00.
On A Budget
While not cheap, Cantine Bernardini offers high quality food at fair prices in a comfortable setting. The plates are large and are served with complimentary bread. I would put this on your splurge list!