|Lucca is not known for garlicky pomodoro sauce, pesto or pizza. But if you're yearning for hearty, earthy food, rich with olive oil, served with farro or creamy polenta, accented by wild boar or rabbit and accompanied by inky Sangiovese-based wine, then look to Lucca. Situated a few hours north of Rome and just northwest of Florence, Lucca, in the hills of Tuscany, is a must-stop destination for food lovers traveling through Italy.|
The chefs of Lucca are in a virtual cooking wonderland, with access to superior fish like branzino (Italian sea bass) and trout from local rivers and the Tyrrhenian Sea; porcini mushrooms, chestnuts and wild pheasants from the mountains; and black kale, herbs and cheeses from the farmers.We can't figure out why anyone would want to leave this sunshine-filled and olive grove-dotted land of plenty. Yet Rossano Giannini, chef and owner of Lanterna Tuscan Bistro in Nyack,New York, did indeed leave Lucca, but like most magical places, Lucca has never left him.
Like many generations of his family, Giannini grew up in Lucca and learned about the region's food through homecooked meals.He studied the art of traditional Tuscan dishes in Montecatini Terme, just 30 minutes outside of Lucca, and then returned to Lucca to cook at La Mora, a restaurant serving traditional Tuscan farmhouse cuisine. Yearning for adventure, Giannini soon left Italy and cooked Italian food in Egypt and in Asia. These experiences forced him to discover new ways to prepare traditional Italian dishes, since many of the ingredients that he grew up with were unavailable in the Middle and Far East.
But Giannini's dreams of owning a restaurant didn't come true until he discovered the sleepy bedroom community of Nyack, located just one hour north of New York City. It was in Nyack where Giannini decided to set up Lanterna Tuscan Bistro, where authentic Tuscan food would be prepared and served.
"I live the food of Tuscany, " says Giannini. "I use fresh ingredients delivered daily to the restaurant. This is the only way to truly reflect the cuisine of Lucca and Tuscany."
Besides his handmade pastas and slow-cooked sauces, Giannini serves patrons traditional Tuscan dishes like the famous bean soup ribollita, as well as dishes of his own creation, like his petto di pollo alla lucchese, chicken breasts cooked with roasted potatoes and a balsamic reduction.He also makes a wonderful zuppa lucchese, a take on the classic zuppa inglese, which is a layered custard dessert made from liqueur-soaked ladyfingers, custard and fresh berries.
In addition to introducing the Nyack community to authentic Lucchese dishes, many of Giannini's customers are displaced Tuscans who visit Lanterna Tuscan Bistro for a taste of home. Giannini's goal is to transport the ancient traditions of Tuscan cuisine to his restaurant. If he can do this, he says, "I can't go wrong."