Osteria via San Giorgio, Lucca
I knew nothing of Osteria via San Giorgio, other than I had walked by it the last two years several times on my daily and nightly walks around town. A “fancy” patio with lights and color, the interior is much more seasoned and typical rustic Italian.The crowd during my visit was 100% Italian, with a large family party celebrating a birthday. It gives me some comfort to know that the place is frequented by locals.
To start, raw artichoke salad. The salad was spot on for flavor, texture and depth. Raw artichoke sliced on a mandolin and hit with a good punch of Parmigiano, olive oil, salt, lemon, some herbs and pepper. Simple and wonderful. Loved the dish and one of the best of the trip, even up against Manzo and Scacco Matto.
Pappardelle with venison, but it wasn't the venison that made the dish, it was a combination of pine nuts and raisins as garnish that added texture and less sweetness than you'd think. The raisins were plump, but not over-sweet or hard nuggets; they added acid and character, rather than detracted. The venison was stewed first and that cooking liquid was used in the dish.
Antica Drogheria Pizzeria, Lucca
Antica Drogheria Pizzeria sees everything from students to families. It has a smart and inexpensive local lunch as well as a take away counter if you're looking for something quick. I sat down to eat the smart lunch.
Polenta cake with truffle. As billed, with a strong residual truffle flavor, more like a truffle salsa as the truffles were preserved in some way. Polenta has a good sautéed texture to the outside. Simple appetizer to make and serve for a party.
Beef cheek, with potato. Delicious cut, not overcooked. Had to be a bay leaf base sauce, plenty of that flavor in the meat. Dark brown sauce, simple and delicious preparation.
Pappardelle with a wild boar meat sauce. Thick noodles with good chew, I would have preferred a slightly less watery sauce and allowed the noodles to release a little starch, but the overall profile was good.
Wine was red, local, a hint stinky, and easy to drink and cheap. Have no clue what it was. What did we learn from this wine? Clean your barrels.
Osteria Baralla, Lucca
Osteria Baralla is THE restaurant that is probably a huge tourist spot during the summer, due to its proximity to the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, its large space, and air conditioning. It's big, has a larger menu and a staff that speaks English. Our server didn’t even offer the normal Italian pleasantries in Italian, just jumped right into English.
Breseola of water buffalo over arugula. Perfect start to things. Simple construction, albeit elegant for a plate of cured meat and greens. Garnish your own salad is the way of things in many Italian restaurants, the server offering olive oil and balsamic, along with salt and pepper. Salt and pepper were offered in preground shakers, rather than fresh cracked or course grain salt, like many other places.
Tordolli in meat sauce was a good representation of what many Lucchese restaurants claim as "the best in town". Most restaurants here have this dish, a stuffed pasta with a meat sauce. The issue here was too much residual pasta water on the final plate. I'm looking for a red sauce without water in the final product. A quick toss in the sauce pan should eliminate any water as the pasta will release starch and thicken the resulting meat sauce. Otherwise, a good plate of pasta.
Tripe in red sauce. No nonsense, tender and without excuses. I'm eating stomach lining in red sauce and it was good, not the best I've had, but not rank amateur either. Wine was of the local variety without much consequence.