There are many museums throughout the USA and other countries that have restaurants for patrons of the arts who like to dine among masterpieces, but this small contemporary art museum in Lucca Italy takes the cake (literally).
This palazzo, which dates back to the 1500’s, houses contemporary art and cleverly is called Lu.C.C.A.- Lucca Center of Contemporary Art.
What makes the restaurant L’Imbuto (The Funnel) so particular is that you actually get to sit amidst the artwork of the exhibition on view. Exhibitions change a number of times during the year. There is a main entrance, which is my favorite part of the restaurant. It has the best vantage point to people watch if you can tear your eyes away from the creative and truly amazing dishes Cristiano Tomei brings to your table.
Cristiano transferred his restaurant from Viareggio, on the coast of Tuscany, to the small town of Lucca last year and he has brought innovation to food that mirrors the colors and creativeness of the works of art on the surrounding walls.
This is one of the first places I have found where there is no menu and unless you have special allergies or do not like certain foods, you best leave the decision to Cristiano, who changes his menu daily.
You only have to select how many courses you want to eat and the choice of 2-6 tastings determines the price, which is from €20-90.
All of his ingredients are local and he uses extra virgin olive oil from Lucca for his starters as well as for many of his desserts!
One of his dishes, which I order as often as I can, is strips of beef served on warmed pine bark, with the added wow factor of potato strips, pan roasted, sitting on top of the beef.
His creativeness in combining cuttlefish with a gazpacho topping or his Russian salad and prawns crème brulée are just some of the concoctions that Cristiano brilliantly blends together guided, of course, by his passion for creating great food.
I do not normally like desserts but Cristiano has changed my palate for sweets with his sensational offerings at the end of the meal. One of the most delicious creations is a Chantilly made with Stracchino cheese, sprinkled with pieces of candied apricot and topped by coffee meringue and a pinch of coffee powder for color!
This is a chef who travels all over Europe to play host to royalty, nobility and VIPs, but his heart is pure and his love of what he does makes him one of the most unforgettable chefs I have come across in a long time.
L’Imbuto at Lu.C.C.A. – Lucca Center of Contemporary Art
Via della Fratta, 36