Sometimes you find a great restaurant in the most unlikely place. Such is the Osteria di Meati it a tiny hamlet just outside of Lucca. The village of Meati is so small as to be almost non-existent; It’s on a tiny, obscure road that you would likely be driving only because you had gotten lost; and the restaurant itself is totally unassuming, looking rather like a neighborhood bar. Only the large number of cars parked outside hint at the treats waiting within.
Inside is a rather ordinary bar with a few tables; a reservation will get you a table in simple, but pleasant, dining room in the rear—crowded with happy, well dressed, hungry locals. And why not? The food is fantastic, and unbelievably cheap! About half the short menu consists of daily or weekly specials, all composed of fresh seasonal ingredients and house-made pastas.
It’s difficult to make a plate of tuscan beans with slices of lard sound as good as it is, but this is a must have antipasto. The Tuscan crostini with chicken livers is among the best versions I’ve had of this Tuscan classic. Grilled vegetables are also very nicely done. The risottos and pastas are consistently excellent, particularly the daily specials, which might feature wild game, wild mushrooms or fresh herbs. The segundo tend to feature rabbit, duck, eel or tripe as specials, though there is always roast chicken or sliced steak. The meat dishes are perfectly prepared and seasoned, evidencing an un-fussy, yet sophisticated hand in the kitchen. The rabbit and duck were both delicious, and Cinghiale, a classic Tuscan stew of wild boar and olives that is too often lackluster, was perfection. Desserts are pleasant and the house wine decent.
I’m not sure who is in the kitchen, turning out this fantastic food, but the owner and his teenaged son run the dining room, with a friendly welcome and great enthusiasm.
And Unbelievably—four courses, house wine, coffee will set you back little more than €20 ($20) per person. If you can find it, I enthusiastically reccomend a meal—or several—at the Osteria di Meati.—Clay Doyle
Antica Osteria di Meati
Meati is about 3 kilometers west of Lucca
Follow the signs to Meati from the old road SS12
Telephone (39) 0583-510-373
Originally posted November 2002. I revisited the Osteria di Meati several times in October of 2006 and found it better than ever. Sunday lunch on the lawn with big bistecca Friorentino is a special treat.—Clay