To understand Italian chef, Ciccio Sultano, you must first understand his earliest influence, Sicily – the ancient, Italian island of his birth. If Italy is a country passionate about its history, produce and cuisine, then Sicily is hailed, as the locals will tell you, as a ‘continent’ with its own history. Physically detached from the mainland and closer to Africa than Europe, its peoples – from the earliest Sicanians of the Iron Age, to the present-day Italians – have adapted over millennia to invasion and foreign domination. Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards have come and gone, leaving behind influences of their food, wine and customs that Sicilians have absorbed and melded to their own, creating a unique gastronomic treasure trove. Against this backdrop of uncompromising commitment to region, food and wine, the young Ciccio Sultano’s benchmark was set and at just thirteen years old, he took a part-time job at a local pasticceria (pastry shop), in the town of Vittoria. Naturally curious with a boundless enthusiasm to learn, the teenager caught the attention of the owners and his position evolved into a full seven-year apprenticeship. It was here, while he learned how to work with guests – local and tourist – wait tables, prepare dishes and make cocktails, he began reading gastronomy magazines and books in his free time. Following the careers of chefs Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel and Alain Ducasse, he spent endless hours studying recipes and teaching himself new techniques. Unsurprisingly, this tenacious spirit armed him with an ambition for something new, where he could put into play his newly acquired skills and he joined the team at a local spaghetteria. Almost immediately the restaurant became a huge success, with locals hailing the young Ciccio’s take on the menu’s dishes. Buoyed by his first flush of success, he realised he had found not only something he loved – in cooking, but also something he shared a natural affinity with – the abundance of his island’s exceptional produce. This was the point when he realised, he wanted one day to open his own restaurant and also that restaurant had to be in Sicily. However, he was enough of a realist to understand the rigours and demands of owning one and if he wanted to learn also from time spent away from Italy, now was the time to do it. A move overseas then followed, with a period in Germany honing his meat cookery, before joining the kitchens in New York of the famous restaurateur, author and television host, Lidia Bastianich.
Sicily though coursed through his veins and with time and distance, he realised that what he missed most about his birthplace, was not only the quality and availability of some of the finest produce he knew, but also the undeniable generosity of the Sicilian spirit. He returned to Sicily and his hometown of Ragusa and in 2000, realised his dream and opened his first restaurant, Duomo. Building on his own cultural heritage, he added the knowledge he had gained overseas and created menus that showcased classic Sicilian ingredients with an eloquence and subtlety in execution, that gained the restaurant immediate critical acclaim. In 2004 Duomo was awarded its first Michelin star, with a second following two years later. As Duomo eased into its position within the culinary landscape of Ragusa, Ciccio’s boundless enthusiasm once more came to the fore and he began to consider a second offering in the hillside town. Inspired by traditional, simple counters set up by small producers, selling everything from bread, cheese and salami to pastries and wine, the concept began to form. He opened I Banchi in 2015. Drawing together an imagined collection of these counters, with the daily staple of bread at its core, I Banchi is a contemporary take on a traditional trattoria. Open all day, the restaurant offers guests everything from breakfast, lunch, coffee, snacks through to more elegant dinners in the evenings. Ciccio’s latest concept in Ragusa is Cantieri Sultano. Opened in June 2019 and located next to Duomo, the space is a multi-functional extension of the restaurant: operating as an experimental and development kitchen for his chefs; a space to hold masterclasses and demonstrations; and also a comfortable and atmospheric location where guests of Duomo can linger pre or post dinner, with an aperitivo or digestivo. Recently too, Ciccio has opened for the first time outside his beloved Sicily. Located in The Ritz Carlton on Vienna’s iconic Ringstrasse, just walking distance from the famous Staatsoper, he has brought contemporary Sicilian cuisine and drinks to Austria’s historic capital city. Named after “pasta amara” – a bitter paste made from cocoa beans – Pastamara offers guests a true taste of Sicily from breakfast through to dinner.
Gabriella Cicero was born in Sicily and grew up in Ragusa Province in the south-east of the island. Specialising in humanities at school, she graduated in languages, studying English and German. At the age of 18, she moved to Vienna, Austria, to support her studies working in a gelato shop – city ice cream parlours, open during the summer months. This was to be her first taste of the hospitality industry. When she returned to Sicily in 2009, she joined her older brother, Chef Antonio Cicero in his restaurant, Il Consiglio di Sicilia, in the seaside town of Donnalucata, working front of house. It was here Gabriella first met Ciccio, who had a home nearby and was dining at the restaurant. Impressed by her command of languages, Ciccio offered Gabriella a position at Duomo to help him during the winter months. She accepted and with her innate sense for the demands of the restaurant world, she quickly became an integral part of the business. Over the years, as she rose through the ranks to General Manager at Duomo, Gabriella and Ciccio developed a relationship, not just as business partners with a shared ambition for the future, but also as life partners, supporting each other along the way, honouring their tradition and roots. Gabriella now acts as Director of Operations for the Ciccio Sultano Group, overseeing the management of Duomo, I Banchi and other projects such as their farm L’Aia Gaia.
Duomo is the home to the award-winning cuisine of Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano. A true craftsman, his cuisine is an elegant and continually evolving portrait of Sicily, referencing the island’s unique regions and produce and the myriad of invading cultures that, throughout history, have come to define it. The intrica e balance of his dishes is celebrated by an award-winning wine list that proudly boasts over 50 percent Sicilian labels, that help to seamlessly root the cuisine to the winemaking history of the island. Duomo is situated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Val di Noto, in southern hillside town of Ragusa, two minutes walk from its famous Baroque cathedral. The comfortable interiors are a series of interconnecting rooms, flooded with natural light during the day and based on an elegant pallet with well-spaced tables and leather upholstery in shades of creams and mid blues.
Service is relaxed, approachable and attentive, creating a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Restaurant Ciccio Sultano Duomo Ibla, via Capitano Bocchieri, 31, 97100 Ragusa, Sicily, Italy
+39 0932 651265
Owners: Ciccio Sultano & Gabriella Cicero
Cuisine: Modern Sicilian
Executive Chef: Ciccio Sultano
Head Chef: Marco Corallo
Pastry Chef: Francesco Milicia
General / Operations Manager: Gabriella Cicero
Restaurant Manager: Giuseppe Di Franca
Director of Wine: Antonio Currò
Opening Times: Hours: 12:30-15:00 / 19:30-22:00
Closure: Sunday, lunch on Monday
Annual closure: December 24-25, January 7 – February 28
From December 26-January 6 extended opening 7 days a week. Also open every day in August
Pricing: From 60 euro per person
I Banchi is a contemporary take on a traditional trattoria. Open all day, the restaurant offers guests everything from breakfast, lunch, coffee, snacks through to more elegant dinners in the evenings. Ciccio Sultano describes the offering at I Banchi as “considered cuisine”. A kitchen that browses the book of tradition, translating each recipe into a modern language, lightening the preparation, adding new ingredients and rationalising the composition of the dishes. This kitchen evolves and refines the taste of those looking for an informal and family style place.
I Banchi Via Orfanotrofio, 39, 97100, Ragusa, Sicily, Italy
+39 0932 655000
Owners: Ciccio Sultano & Gabriella Cicero
Cuisine: Modern Sicilian Trattoria
Head Chef: Pepe Cannistrà
General Manager: Riccardo Andreoli
Director of Wine: Antonio Currò
Covers: 90 inside + 50 outside (seasonally/weather permitting)
Opening Times: 8:30- 23:00
Annual closure: December 24-25, January 7–28
Open every day from December 26-January 6; open every day in August
Pricing: From 14 euro
ACCOLADES & AWARDS
Duomo: Michelin – 2* (Since 2006)
Gambero Rosso – 3 forks, 2 cocottes
Espresso Guide – 2018 – 4 hats
Identita Golose – ‘Relatore’
Identita Golose – Artisan of Taste Award 2019 – Ciccio Sultano
Opinionated about Dining – No. 96 – 2018, No. 99 – 2019 in Top European Restaurants
The Italian Chefs Federation – Ambassador of Taste – 2019
Dissapore – 93/100 – 2018 – Highest in Sicily
Italia a Tavola – Gabriella Cicero – 3rd place Character of the Year
Member of Les Grandes Tables Du Monde
World of Wine – 3* 2018
Wine Spectator – ‘Best of’ Award and 2 / 3 glasses
The World of Fine Wines – Top 100 wine lists in the world