Ardiccioni La Lanterna

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Any beach town on the Tuscan coast will be swamped with seafood restaurants, and family friendly destinations like Follonica always have plenty of pizzerias, this restaurant plays both cards – somehow straddling all the stereotypes without succumbing to any.

It has a convenient corner location, but it’s off the main downtown pedestrian zone. Nevertheless it tends to fill up thanks to fair prices and an all encompassing menu that includes meat, fish and wood-fired pizza. Service is far from polished, and the decor cries for help, but they bring successful creativity to the cuisine which you don’t often encounter. While most of the menu features the “classics,” two of the signature dishes are anything but…and they are definitely worth trying: Fried Octopus with Pappa al Pomodoro and Grouper Ravioli with Pistachio Cream.

The first, an appetizer, takes the classic Tuscan bread and tomato stew (it tastes much better than it sounds) and tops it with crispy coated, thick meaty octopus. It shows how restaurants can successfully update the classics to feel fresh, without sacrificing flavor for creativity. The Pappa al Pomodoro packs a powerful tomato flavor and makes a nice background for the mild flavored meat. The second, is home made pasta plump with creamy seafood purée (no ricotta filling here!) The filling is flavorful enough that the ravioli are excellent all alone, but here they are topped with rings of calamari and rich ground pistachio sauce. The sauce can overwhelm the calamari, but it goes very well with the ravioli and it’s so good you’ll scoop up every last drop.

Less adventurous options can be equally good. Linguine con Astice (Linguine with Lobster) is delicious with tender home made pasta, tossed with lots of juicy tomatoes and a a half lobster on the side. Extraneous nuggets of lobster meat have been tossed with the sauce. Meanwhile Risotta alla Mariniere (Seafood Risotto) is served “white”, without tomato, and while good, it doesn’t offer the same distinction as the other dishes.

Service varies, late one winter night, the skilled waiter knew his wine service, but on a busy summer evening, service wears thin and you discover who is a seasonal hire and has yet to learn the ropes. The wine list is small, with a selection of inexpensive pan-Italian whites chosen to pair well with seafood.

In a packed summer beach town, in a completely unassuming restaurant, there is a chef who isn’t afraid to experiment and does wonderful things with seafood.

Signature Dishes: Polpo Fritto con Pappa al Pomodoro (Fried Octopus with Bread and Tomato Stew), Ravioli di Cernia con Crema di Pistachio (Grouper Ravioli with Pistachio Sauce)
Get It!: Polpo Fritto con Pappa al Pomodoro (Fried Octopus with Bread and Tomato Stew), Ravioli di Cernia con Crema di Pistachio (Grouper Ravioli with Pistachio Sauce)

Via Matteotti, 10, Follonica; tel: +39 0566 40578. Open daily.

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