Accept their Consiglio

In Donnalucata, you can find Sicilian home cooking in an enchanted seaside village

26-03-2013
Zen garden with snails on the beach, a dish create

Zen garden with snails on the beach, a dish created with Modica’s barbaini at Il Consiglio ("Advice") in Donnalucata (Ragusa), +39.0932.938062, the stage of a convincing cuisine mixing fish and meat, and the love’s nest of the Sicilian chef Antonio Cicero and Roberta Corradin, food writer from Piedmont and our early contributor

This is a seaside village where, with nonchalance, Arab reminiscence, Baroque exaggeration and Neoclassic sobriety are all mixed together, on a strip of sand (Pindaro would still describe it as “savage and fascinating”), with a sea that already seems African and a sunset which turns into “the colour of the wine” (Sciascia dixit). We’re in Sicily, of course. At Donnalucata, in that Ragusashire those who have crossed the Alps (or the Mediterranean Sea or Atlantic Ocean) in order to recover the rhythms, flavours and colours of the Grand Tour, enjoy so much.

In a labyrinth made of alleys (which make navigators go mad), in a minuscule square (which includes an elegant 19th century palace in the background) there’s the tiny salle à manger of Il Consiglio di Sicilia (the Sciascia-inspired quotation is intentionally wrong) whereRoberta Corradin and Antonio Cicerolive and reign. She’s “erratic”, he’s “precise as the mechanism of a very fine watch” (these are Roberta’s definitions). She’s a writer, globetrotter, wine and food expert. He’s a chef, a chef and once again a chef. She’s a Northerner from the continent, he’s an island-Southerner. Some may think they play a good match. They do indeed.

The brunch newspaper

The brunch newspaper

But theirs is also a big bet, since she wanted to open a restaurant in Samoa, at the end of her career, and he would have enjoyed staying in Ibla, instead of returning to the small family establishment. A cheeky destiny, however, made them meet, Cupid added his touch and here they are working together and charming the palate of customers, curious people, friends, gourmand of all nationalities. The Montalbano on television and Unesco of course helped more than a little in order for people to discover the golden point of the Baroque triangle (Donnalucata is located in its virtual barycentre) and the province of Ragusa, hit by a sudden incredible well-being, has very often been quoted in the Guide Rouge. 

Attention, however: the wind blowing at Il Consiglio is different and Roberta and Antonio’s restaurant is a little like their home: scarcely formal, homely, with lots of small objects, eco-chic furniture, a few antique pieces, all in the tones of white, with a few small touches of colour. The food is obviously homely and, truly, local. They make the bread themselves. The oil is pressed from the Tonde Iblee olives in their olive grove. The vegetables are picked directly from their vegetable garden. The cheese and ricotta are supplied by a next-door farmer. The meat is supplied by Massimiliano Castrocarnizzere in Chiaramonte Gulfi. The fish has just been brought by the fishing boats in Donnalucata. 

Antonio Cicero and Roberta Corradin

Antonio Cicero and Roberta Corradin

Everything is processed by Antonio’s skilful hands. He recuperates old family recipes, always in balance between the produce of the sea and of the land (like in the Roasted “artichoke-like” silver scabbard-fish, with a side-dish of tenerumi (the vine tendrils of Sicilian courgettes), aubergines, tomato and Ragusano cheese), that recalls the courses served during dinners in the Gattopardo palaces - are you ready for the Spaghetti in taratatà sauce, made with bottarga (fish eggs), pine seeds, raisins and orange zest, with the touch of the muddica atturrata, that is to say toasted in the oven? - with some exotic touches (a Nepalese pepper used to aromatise the prawn meatballs), and offering, instead of the unbearable sorbet, a sour and aromatic lemon gelo.

And on Sunday, let’s all go to the “Iblean brunch”: there are newspapers and  free wifi, and for the little ones paper tablecloths and pencils for colouring. And then there’s the chiaramontano sandwich, filled with silver scabbard-fish, onion, capers, with potato focaccia, served with the hot ricotta supplied by the farmer-friend. And on request, one can also have some truly American pancakes, but served with carob honey and cream of ricotta. 

Il Consiglio di Sicilia
via Casmene, 79 
Donnalucata (RG)
+39.0932.938062
Average price: 45 euros
Tasting menu: 50 euros, wines included
Open: at the weekend, during the winter; daily, but only for dinner, in the summer


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