Cristiano Tomei, the starred cuisine inside the historic Pfanner palace in Lucca

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L’Imbuto Restaurant: the eighteenth-century residence of the Tuscan chef’s gastronomic universe

A few steps from the famous Piazza dell’Anfiteatro in Lucca, there is one of the most internationally recognized gourmet destinations, awarded with a Michelin star.  The L’imbuto restaurant is located in the lemon house of the historic Pfanner palace, one of the most fascinating eighteenth-century residences in the center of Lucca;  that Palazzo Pfanner famous, as well as for its gardens and its beauty, for being the film set of Mario Monicelli’s film starring Alberto Sordi, Il marquis del Grillo.
Today, however, it takes on new life thanks to chef Cristiano Tomei, one of the most whimsical, volcanic and brilliant personalities in the gastronomic universe.
Straightforward, direct and creative.  What he thinks comes from his mouth and also from his hands.  His dishes say it.  A constantly evolving menu between the seasonality of the products of its territory and the most disparate techniques in the kitchen.

How was your passion for cooking born?
“I don’t even remember when I made my first dish.  I believe I have always cooked in my life.  My mother cooked very well and my father, although not in the sector, was a lover of good food and good wine, so I was educated in this way.  Cooking is something that always follows me and I never abandon it “.

How did you act during the lockdown period?
“We were the first to create an interaction with customers by sending our dishes home.
The box funnel was born during the lockdown period but it was a success that we are continuing to pursue.  Customers loved being the protagonists of our dishes.  The food comes to be cooked at home and the customer is free to choose whether to change the dish or follow our instructions ”.

How do you see the future instead?
“I don’t make predictions, I can’t say what will happen.  We reopened immediately after permission was given by the Region and since then we have worked a lot.  I am convinced that in difficult times like this one must always be proactive and invest a lot in oneself “.

What are today’s customers like?
“I have the perception that there has been a significant change.  People tell me they prefer to go out for dinner less but do it with quality.  The experience they require is total when they sit at the table, they are more selective “.

In giving the customer the role it deserves, do you think there are different weights between dining room and kitchen?
“The kitchen doesn’t have to be self-celebrating, it has to convey real sensations to people.
Having a maître who talks too much at the plate table, I think is wrong.  We must also leave the imagination to the customer, a bit like the radio does when you listen to a game, you also imagine it.  On the kitchen side, the chef shouldn’t be in the center, he should share.  The kitchen should leave room for those who use it, follow a concept of freedom.  Freedom is participation.  In short, a restaurant is both the dining room and the kitchen, there are no percentages “.

Can you tell us the feelings of when the news of the Michelin star arrived?
“It was unexpected.  The restaurant only has tasting menus and moreover a surprise one, so I wasn’t expecting that at all.  I thought it was a joke.  Then we started the celebrations, all together “.

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