The incredible beauty of Ragusa Ibla strikes you from the moment you start wandering in the labyrinth of small streets with houses in baroque style. One feels transported back in time and tends to forget that we are in the twenty-first century. Very near to the Piazza Del Duomo, the central square of the village, which got its name from the Duomo Di Ragusa, Ciccio Sultano serves the most amazing dishes in his restaurant Duomo. The Sicilian chef is in love with the products that grow on the soil of his home country and turns them in succulent creations using contemporary cooking techniques. Sultano states that he always aims at conceiving dishes with a brain and a heart. We are convinced his food definitely remains in the heart of his guests.
Location & Interior
Sultano decided to open Duomo in Ibla Ragusa. He lives in Victoria, which is about twenty kilometers from the restaurant, but he was convinced that it made more sense to open a restaurant in the capital of the province. The magisterial building near the Duomo of Ibla was owned by an architect who enjoyed eating good food and for that reason had decided to open a restaurant. Quite fast he learned that this business was not where his future lied, and he decided to offer the building for rent. This was the perfect opportunity for Ciccio. He first rented the restaurant but soon he felt the urge to rebuild it in the manner he wanted it to look. That required big investments, which made no sense in a building that was owned by someone else. In 2016 the chef took the decision to buy the restaurant and in the years that followed the whole building was completely refurbished.
Once you step inside the restaurant, you have the feeling that you enter somebody’s home. The atmosphere is cozy but still very luxury and classy. Just behind the door, the chef himself is waiting to welcome every guest personally. The professional service team guides you to your table and you cannot avoid noticing that a lot of attention was paid to the way the lighting is organized. Also the music is adapted to the atmosphere in the restaurant. In some of the rooms, the walls are painted in dark green, in others they are beige or dark red. To complete the almost opulent atmosphere, there are nice paintings and art works.
The Chef & the team
At the age of five, Ciccio Sultano was spending a lot of time with his grandmothers. The mother of his mom, had very bad eyesight but that did not stop her from creating amazing homecooked food. Food that clearly made an everlasting impression on the young Sultano. The chef still remembers the taste of her pasta, her meatballs or the pork dishes that she cooked. His grandmother on father’s side was a business woman. Sicily being a very matriarchal society at that time, both ladies have had an immense influence on the education of the chef.
Ciccio wanted to study but the family could not afford that. At a very young age, he started working in a nearby farm. That was the first time he got really exposed to the products of the region. When he turned thirteen, he got the opportunity to start working in Pasticceria Suite di Vittoria. The young Sultano changed stations every six months. He worked in the bar making cocktails, prepared pasta, made ice cream,… In the seven years that he stayed there, he did not only learn how to cook, but he started to understand how a restaurant should be run. He would still work in a pasta restaurant and a wedding venue in the area before moving abroad. His first experience outside of the Italian borders was gained in a restaurant in Germany. He had no experience in working with meat and was convinced Germany was the right place to change that.
After the German adventure, he moved to the United States and joined the team of Chef Lidia Bastianich in New York. That restaurant was one of the best of the States at that time. In 2000 Sultano moved back to Ragusa and shortly after he decided to open Duomo. Four years after the opening, the restaurant was awarded a first Michelin star. Two years later, the second one followed. In the kitchen of Duomo, Ciccio is supported by three main chefs, which are all Sicilian. The four chefs de partie are two Spanish people and two Italian people. The service team is managed by Riccardo Andreoli who is from Verona. The sommelier is Michela Vitale, who is from Palermo. When Ciccio is not behind the stove of Duomo he can be found in iBanchi, W Hotel Rome or the Ritz Carlton in Vienna where he also has restaurants.
The food of Ciccio Sultano is based on the stories of Sicily. He starts from traditional Sicilian dishes and uses modern cooking techniques to turn them in contemporary fine dining. The chef is on a mission to showcase what the country has to offer and is doing that in a sophisticated and succulent way. Some dishes are playful but they all have substance and the balance is always perfect. Sicilian cuisine is influenced by the Arabians, the Greek, the Spanish, the Hungarian and the Austrian and these influences can also in a subtle way be discovered in the food of Duomo.
Some examples of dishes that we tried during our visit :
- Scampi and veal sweetbread
- Risone pasta with fish and chayote soup
- Sicilian black pork, pumpkin and hazelnuts
- Goat milk, hazelnuts and white truffle
The chef is drawing inspiration from local cuisine. After eating a popular dish in a small restaurant or in a friend’s house, he starts rebuilding that dish in his head. Once he has an idea, he brainstorms with the team and then they start refining the recipe by tasting. Sultano wants to also educate the taste pallet of his guests and does that by using products they would not eat at home.
In Duomo, it is possible to eat à la carte, but most guests enjoy one of the menu’s the restaurant is offering.
Example tasting menu:
The chef is in love with the products from the region and that can be seen in the dishes he creates. More than eighty percent of what comes on the plate is from the area where the restaurant is situated. The chef also insists on creating a personal relationship with the farmers he collaborates with. He personally goes to pick the products he wants to cook with. That guarantees him that he always gets the best quality.
Many of the suppliers are working with the restaurant for over twenty years. The favorite products of the chef are bitter vegetables and everything that has a citric taste. Apart from that, he also loves anchovies, sardines and mackerel, products which as a consequence can be often found on the menu.
Service & Wine
The service team works under the professional guidance of maître Riccardo Andreoli. Together with his team he is delivering a top-notch service where no request remains unfulfilled. In everything you feel that they strive to perfection. The atmosphere is intimate and voices are toned down. The philosophy of the chef is that his customers live in houses that have the standard of five-star hotels. To make them feel comfortable and at home in Duomo, only the best is good enough. And that can be seen in the way the service team is taking care of the guests. The word ‘no’ does not exist in Duomo. When a guest asks for Coca Cola, they send a member of the service team to a local supermarket in town to buy it.
The wine list consists mainly of Sicilian wines and has more than six hundred labels. Sommelier Michela Vitale is an expert in Sicilian wines and succeeds in perfectly pairing them with the dishes of Sultano.
The chef’s goal in life is to offer guests of Duomo a piece of Sicily and a piece of himself. These are maybe the two most important reasons why a visit to Duomo cannot be missed out on your bucket list. You will never fail to remember the beautiful sights of Ibla Ragusa, but even less will you be able to forget the succulent creations of Chef Sultano. Both the kind and humble chef and his amazing food will conquer a place in your heart forever. The warmth and professionalism of the service team only adds to that. All these elements together make a visit to Duomo an unforgettable experience.