Sultano’s spring

The chef from Duomo in Ragusa Ibla presents the new dishes in the 2017 menu and tells us about the latest evolution in his cooking

03-05-2017

Ciccio Sultano, chef at restaurant Duomo, two Michelin stars

Photogallery

Ray wings “alla stimpirata”
Crispy Gelato Sandwich with Sicilian truffle from Palazzolo Acreide
Blue tailed fish lasagne with wild fennel and saffron
Alleva Bio Beef in falsomagro

«We’re afraid of novelty because our roots are deep». Ciccio Sultano, a point of reference in Sicilian fine dining and one of the most acclaimed chefs in the national scene banishes all doubts; unless a man has a crumbly temperament, there’s no alternative: «For someone like me, who enjoys how the body changes, who’s not easily satisfied, improving is essential. It is part of the rules and of life».

Spring erupts at restaurant Duomo in Ragusa Ibla: new contaminations and new ideas, but always with the same technique and passion that have led to two Michelin stars in 2004-2006. «My cooking has changed over time: I believe today it is more evolved, more elegant, clear in its goals and sure of its means; I often repeat to my collaborator that we have to register and fine tune our dishes, work by subtraction, yet making sure that guests won’t consider this subtraction as deprivation».

Sultano 2.0 had already given an idea of his desire to renew, over one year ago with his Aia Gaia project and the opening of I Banchi, a modern and laid back restaurant, an “easy” version of the nobler two-starred brother only a few hundred metres away from which it differs thanks to a local-based cuisine directed by chef Giuseppe Cannistrà (and “certified” by Sultano himself), with traditional dishes but in a current shape, with the highest attention and care to high quality and fresh ingredients.

Indeed, territorial identity is at the heart of Sultano’s philosophy: «Despite the gourmet trends that have emerged over the past few years, I’ve continued to prefer what Sicily has to offer, without limits and preconceptions. As restaurateurs on the Island, we are the keepers of Sicilian taste and we must present our world by enhancing agricultural resources, history, inventive». And respecting ingredients: «Technique must be at the service of raw materials. It mustn’t overpower them. Squid must taste of squid, otherwise it’s pointless».

The new ideas at Duomo start from the staff available to General Manager Gabriella CiceroGiuseppe Di Franca, dining room director, and Roman Valentina Cinti, head sommelier, have joined veteran Claudio Marrale, while in the pastry workshop Cristina Roccon from Veneto, previously at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian is now working with Marco Corallo, historic right arm of Sultano. There are also new concepts, in partnership with Genovese Velier, “Cucina alcolica” and “1cl”, variations on the theme and fun gourmet games focused on pairings with food and cocktails, herb teas or just a centilitre of excellent spirits.

Of course the most important novelties in the restaurant are those in the 2017 Menu. They’re many and big, starting from the three layers of the delicious Finto tartufo [Fake truffle] choux pastry covered in squid ink and real truffle, stuffed with a soft truffle cream, placed on a steak tartare which is placed in turn on a flower made with two sauces, one with citrus herbs, the other with zabaglione aromatised with Marsala; this is followed by the visionary Ostrica di campo, a Utah Beach oyster covered with a grouper tartare, pistachio sauce, edible flowers and sorrel: nice to look at, it stands out thanks to the balance between marine and aromatic earthy notes revived by the freshness of the sorrel and the roundness of the pistachio.

Great intensity in the three dimensions of BBQ artichoke and Red Prawn, poached egg, mayonnaise with olive oil and soy and coral sauce: a minimalistic presentation for a complex and well-built dish based on the bitter-sweet contrast of the ingredients. The history of Sicilian gastronomic art becomes an elegant contemporary break with Palermitan mullet with tomato, powdered basil and crispy foie gras wafer: “beccafico” mullet, candied tomatoes, powdered basil, the crispy head of the mullet, filled with coriander cream, sauce of mullet liver, fat liver wafer: surf and turf crispiness and the powerful expression of a liver sauce that, by itself, is already worth the trip, no matter where from.

The Blue tailed fish lasagne with wild fennel and saffron sauce is almost childishly good, two tiny pockets of pasta, half Mallorca flour and half durum wheat flour, stuffed with pieces of fish in a delicious sauce, with lemon zest, a light mirepoix of olives and capers, Sicilian saffron sauce and wild fennel. Sublime and straightforward.

The Ray wings “alla stimpirata” are an explicit homage to the evergreen Iblean culinary mos maiorum: the flavour of the breaded fish is good, but the real trampoline is given by the sweet and sour flavour of the olives and capers, sautéed in oil, mint and honey with a dash of vinegar at the end. The amberjack in Dentice al pascolo primaverile e sugo di mare is simple and juicy, the perfect mix of surf and turf, in which the high quality of the raw materials dominates: excellent amberjack, superb carrots, explosive broad beans. Worth noting down forever, the historic cameo of Palazzo La Rocca: Crispy sandwich of Sicilian truffle Gelato from Palazzolo Acreide, a thrilling mix of sapidity, aromas and character. And another classic, colourful, opulent, meaty Ravioli with ricotta and marjoram with goat and wild herbs. Meat, again, with Alleva Bio Beef in falsomagro from breeder Giuseppe Grasso.

Finto tartufo: one of the many new dishes in the 2017 menu of Duomo. The other dishes in the gallery

Finto tartufo: one of the many new dishes in the 2017 menu of Duomo. The other dishes in the gallery

The end arrives with the Tomato sorbet, lemon sponge cake, citron and crystallised basil, a very fresh and neat pre-dessert, and the Pistachio couscous with milk cream, lavender sorbet and flower water.

Ciccio Sultano is more and more a magister contaminationis and his dishes give a portrait of Sicily as the result of a millennial knowledge, of diversity and richness, splendour and contradictions; his art, always on the move between earth and sea, «between monumental past and a present that must be conquered», enhances the senses and stimulates the mind through a style which, always halfway between ancestral culture and high contemporary risk, by renewing itself confirms it is unique and impossible to imitate in terms of creativity and awareness, always characterised by the elegance of an exclusive polka dot jacket, with noble fabric and artistic making instead of the classic grey suit and white shirt. 

Meanwhile, an important year is coming. «In 2020 we’ll celebrate two anniversaries – announces the chef – My 50th birthday and Duomo’s 20th: next year we’ll renovate the restaurant and our kitchen, until then, will be even more crystalline, essential, even more lively and elegant». If it’s true, as Nietzsche wrote, that “Deep thoughts belong to youth, clear thoughts to adulthood”, indeed these are the golden days of Chef Ciccio in Ragusa, deep and clear as his footstep, volcanic and unstoppable as his ideas, Sultano is always on the throne of Italian signature cuisine.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Photogallery

Ray wings “alla stimpirata”
Crispy Gelato Sandwich with Sicilian truffle from Palazzolo Acreide
Blue tailed fish lasagne with wild fennel and saffron
Alleva Bio Beef in falsomagro
Oyster
Ricotta and marjoram ravioli with goat with wild herbs
Palermitan mullet with tomato, powdered basil and crispy foie gras wafer