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Lucca: Trattoria da Leo

Via Tegrimi, 1 , Phone: 0583.492236

Reviewed by: Patrick, Arkansas from AR, review #3249

When: 2009

Eat like a local, with the locals. It was full of people but we were the only tourists in there. That's a great sign that it's good food at a good value.

Our B&B host recommended Trattoria da Leo during our stay in Lucca, Italy, and we were so grateful! We got there about 8 p.m., after attending the performance at the nightly Puccini Festival, and the restaurant was full of people, but I'm pretty sure we were the only tourists in there. That's a great sign that it's good food at a good value.

The food was not only delicious, but nicely presented. Our young waiter was attentive. I'm pretty sure they assigned him to us because he speaks good English. The other waiters looked older, and perhaps didn't want to deal with our poor Italian.

If I ever get back to Lucca, I'll definitely go to Trattoria da Leo again!

Reviewed by: Jeff Whiteaker from CA, review #2527

When: 2007

We dined here on two separate occasions: the first night was fabulous while the second was, quite bafflingly, awful.

In Lucca (at least within the walls) great restaurants seemed more elusive to us than in any other city or town in Italia. After spending an afternoon cruising the menus in the windows of countless trattorie and ristoranti, only a scant handful of places seemed promising. Sure, we've got high standards and always single out and ignore the tourist traps, but finding some truly life-altering restaurants in Lucca proved unusually difficult.

The night before in Lucca, we'd had what was indisputably the worst meal of the entire trip. So, the night we chose Da Leo, we were hoping for a better experience, which, luckily, we found. With ample outdoor seating, the May evening weather a gently breezy 75f, and friendly wait staff, the atmosphere was perfect. For primi, I enjoyed an excellent dish of ravioli in a spinach cream sauce with basil. This was very similar in taste to pesto, albeit subtler, and the ingredients were clearly fresh and quite tasty. The ravioli were cooked perfectly and I could detect a subtle but pleasant sweetness that perfectly balanced the other, savory flavors.

My girlfriend had an amazing gnocchi dish with basil, tomato, and pinenuts, all served in a rich, garlicky, creamy (yet not made with cream) sauce. The cook was quite heavy-handed with the garlic - something definitely not common in your average Tuscan cuisine - but we loved every bit of it.

For secondi, we split an insalata mista and a dish of Coniglio. The fresh, tender, expertly cooked rabbit came in a tangy, fresh tomato-based sauce with a heaping pile of soft, yummy polenta. Quite good.

We decided to return to Da Leo on our last evening there to ensure that we'd end the Lucca stage of our trip on a culinary high. Sadly, night #2 at Da Leo did not turn out as hoped. The menu was different, but no matter - at least that's usually indicative of a cook using only the freshest ingredients he/she could find that day. However, this time around, the dishes were disappointingly mediocre.

I ordered a primi of tagliatelle with funghi porcini - a rich, robust Tuscan specialty that I normally *love*, but Da Leo's version was the most boring and tasteless version that's ever crossed my palette. My girlfriend ordered the panzanella, which was soggy and bland, not at all like how it's supposed to be. The grand insult came in the form of a secondo of veal scaloppine in a chianti/gravy mush with pine nuts. The meat was decent and tender, but the grey sauce was completely devoid of flavor and reminiscent of some kind of mushy gruel found in a convalescent home cafeteria.

So, what happened? A different cook that night? Or had we unknowingly entered into some bizarre parallel universe where everything was the complete opposite of how it was the previous night? Who knows! All I can say is that Da Leo definitely lost a point or two after this second visit. Very odd how a place can be great one night and horrible a few nights later, but this would make me think twice before eating here again.

Reviewed by: caplanco from CO, review #2200

When: 2006

A lively place serving typical Tuscan and Lucchese food in a warm atmosphere.

Dinner for 2 with wine €38

Trattoria da Leo had been recommended in several guidebooks and I'd walked by it and liked it's looks. So I made a reservation. I chuckled when we walked in to the packed room and saw a scrap of paper with our misspelled name on it in the center of a table for two.

The restaurant is set in a small, but warm atmosphere recently restored to expose the original architecture of its Medieval Cortonese heritage.

It is an authentic family-style restaurant featuring typical Tuscan cuisine. Specialities include Ribollita, a Tuscan minetrone soup served over toasted bread, and Zuppa di Farro, a white bean and barley soup. We tried them both and they were delicious - hearty and warming on a cool evening. After the soup we had fried meatballs with verdure fritte, and grilled chicken breast.

A table of about 12 young 30-somethings behind us was having a very gay time and we couldn’t help but laugh along with them as they took silly photos of one another. At one point the lights went out and a birthday dessert was brought in and given to a couple and their two kids and we all sang and applauded.

Reviewed by: Debra from CA, review #1472

When: 2005

Good food, lively atmosphere and a place where they soon will know your name.

We loved this place for the friendly waitstaff and owner, the food and the atmosphere. Reservations are mandatory unless you want to arrive late and wait.

The only thing I personally would recommend is to order anything, it will be wonderful -- but not anything 'on the bone'. We saw several people here (and in other restaurants in Italy) where the struggle to release the beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc. from the bone was a struggle that left many frustrated.

Reviewed by: Carol M from CA, review #1404

When: 2005

A thoroughly enjoyable, very popular trattoria, often full of Lucchesi and tourists alike. Lots of fun, good Lucchese food, very lively!

We've now eaten at da Leo 3 times, last Fall (2004) and this Spring twice. Except when raining, the outdoor tables fill up quickly, but indoors there is a large dining room which is very lively, informal, and full of Lucchesi enjoying their own regional cuisine. Everyone, even the staff who are rushing around like demons serving, yelling to the kitchen, etc., seems to be having a great time.

The most recent visit, lunch for two with secondo, dessert, house wine and coffee, cost €33.5. (We had a marvelous fig tart with pinoli for dessert.) We haven't been there for dinner. It's a fun place and definitely worth a try when you're in Lucca.

Reviewed by: Monica PIleggi from USA, review #878

When: 2004

A Warm Welcome, good food.

Directions: Center of town near the Cathedral

My cousin and I arrived just as the Trattoria was about to close for the afternoon. We were welcomed anyway.

For lunch I had a pasta dish with pine nuts and basil, which was very good. I also had a salad, but it was quite large and I would have been fine with just the pasta and bread. Reenie ate lightly and had a couple of side dishes: baked fennel and white beans with onions. We shared a small carafe of vino de la casa. Equivalent of $24 for the two of us.

Reviewed by: Wendy and Rob from CA, review #757

When: 2003

It seemed to be THE place to eat; it was hopping.

Directions: Inside the walls of Lucca

We didn't have reservations - if we return to Lucca, (which I am sure we will), we will definitely go back but with reservations in hand. This was the place we wanted to eat. It was hopping, people were waiting, the inside was overflowing with diners, the outside was quite full too. There were probably 10-12 tables outside; I don't know how many inside. It seemed the restaurant was a good size.

We wanted to eat outside on such a lovely evening, so we had to wait about an hour 'til we were seated. At 9:15 a table opened up for us.

The menu was quite nice, lots of choices for all the various courses. We had a mezzo litro of vino rosso della casa and aqua minerale.

I started with tortellini in brodo. The tortellini were so light I thought they might float out of the bowl. And they did, right into my mouth and down to my very appreciative tummy. :-) The broth was very light also and just perfectly seasoned. Rob started with Tagliatelle con salsice e cavelo,(cauliflower). His too was extremely light considering it was a cream sauce. The sausage was locally made and had a hint of fennel, yumm. (I would like to try this one next time, but the tortellini will continue to call for me.) His portion was quite large.

For our secondi I had Vitello arosto con potate arrosto. It was just okay. Nothing to write home about. Not even memorable after only six months. Rob had Fettina di vitello alla griglia, and it was very good. He also had a side of roasted potatoes.

We finished the dinner off with espressi and vin santo and biscotti. Our total bill came to €50.20

The service was scattered, but they were jammed and they tried. We had a leisurely dinner, (more than usual), and that too is fine. We will return and do recommend it; I think this was just a fluke. There were other restaurants to choose from, but this one was by far the most popular. Cincin

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