I first became aware of chef Cristiano Tomei in February 2014 when I attended an exhibition ‘Lucca Extra’ that was all about Lucca’s famous oil. For me the highlight of the two-day exhibition held in the stunning Villa Bottini was the hugely entertaining cooking demonstration by two great chefs, Alessandro Borghese and Cristiano Tomei.  

Their great camaraderie and friendship was matched by their enthusiasm, innovative talent and skill in the kitchen where the audience were able to taste the results. Alessandro is a well-known chef on Italian TV and has worked in London, Paris, San Francisco and many cities in Italy.  Cristiano has concentrated on his restaurant L’Imbuto (literally meaning ‘the funnel’) set up cleverly in the entrance to the Lucca Centre of Contemporary Art.

With the necessary hard work and dedication to his art, Cristiano has gained the prestigious Michelin Star rating, the only restaurant in the centre of Lucca to have achieved such distinction. L’Imbuto offers a set tasting menu with three different price ranges and choices that wonderfully display the extent and quality of his authentic cuisine. He describes it as artiginato derived from his boyhood years living with his extended family tra la collina ed il mare – between the hills and the sea.

A look at the restaurant’s website www.limbuto.it will give you a good idea of the recipes and our experience was a gastronomic delight. Cristiano is very hands-on, aware of his diners and the food is taken seriously. When he wrongly thought Jan was using her knife, and not the spoon, to taste the ravioli he quickly but kindly advised her to stop. He explained the ravioli needed to be eaten whole because the filling was a delicious liquid that had to be released and tasted in the mouth. This was a small moment that emphasized the passion, conviviality and friendliness of a restaurant and a chef ‘at the top of his game’!