With its rough-hewn ceiling, vintage cupboard wall hangings, and 1950’s furnishings, Le Chiavi d’Oro (7 Piazza San Francesco; 39-0575/ 403-313; dinner for two $150) wins the prize for the region’s most outlandishly decorated restaurant. Chef Francesco Stilo prepares classics like wild-boar medallions with glazed chestnuts, while his sisters, Giovanna and Teresa, tend to the wines.
Colle di Val D’elsa
The Michelin two-starred Arnolfo (50–52A Via XX Settembre; 39-0577/920-549; lunch for two $290) has been at the forefront of Italy’s culinary scene since its opening in 1982. To find out why, try chef Gaetano Trovato’s pan-seared scampi with goose liver and prickly pears.
At the intimate, 20-table winery restaurant Cantinetta Antinori (3 Piazza degli Antinori; 39-055/235-9827; dinner for two $150), Florence’s sophisticated set gathers for simple comfort foods: pappa al pomodoro (bread soaked in tomato soup) and schiacciata col uva (sweet grape tart).
Snowy-bearded chef Fabio Picchi announces dishes through his open kitchen window at Teatro del Sale (111R Via dei Macci; 39-055/200-1492; dinner for two $93), a restaurant and theater club. At Picchi’s command, patrons queue up for platters of tender boiled meats, or risotto al dente with salty mussels. The performances, usually a play or musical act, start at 9:30 p.m.
A five-minute drive north of Lucca is the glass- walled dining room at the Michelin-starred Ristorante La Mora (1748 Via Sesto di Moriano; 39-0583/406-402; dinner for two $150). With just 10 tables, the low-key restaurant is disturbed only occasionally by the faint roar of a passing train. Don’t miss the fish from the nearby Serchio River, prepared with crisp-fried vegetables by chef Sauro Brunicardi.
Marina di Bibbona
The beach restaurant La Pineta (27 Via dei Cavalleggeri Nord; 39-0586/600-016; dinner for two $190) may cater to Tuscan cognoscenti, but down-to-earth owner Luciano Zazzeri (a former fisherman) still gets his catch from his family’s boats. Try his take on the Livornese specialty caicciucco, a frothy soup made from wine, garlic, and branzino.
White candles illuminate the communal wooden tables at the family-run L’Enoteca Marcucci (40 Via Garibaldi; 39-0584/ 791-962; dinner for two $170), a lively wine bar and restaurant. Michele Marcucci plies wines from his 2,000 label–strong cellar, while his father, Giuseppe, grills butter-soft Tuscan beefsteaks.
A classic trattoria in a 19th-century former grocer’s shop, the convivial Osteria Le Logge (33 Via del Porrione; 39-0577/48013; dinner for two $120) is owned by local celebrity Gianni Brunelli, thrice married to the same lucky woman. Brunelli rears his own Sienese belted pigs. It’s no surprise, then, that regulars swear by his baked pork with star anise.
For a lunch of expertly selected cheeses and cured meats, stop at La Vena di Vino (30 Via Don Minzoni; 39-0588/81491; lunch for two $45), a no-frills wine bar with barrel-vaulted cellars. The pecorino cheese served with crystalline acacia honey is a standout.