For the last night of the travel phase of our Sicilian Food Adventure (starting the next day we would have a house and do our own Sicilian cooking) we ate at Duomo Ristorante, the Michelin starred restaurant in Ragusa. As you would except the food was incredible, inventive but still retaining its Sicilian roots with the menu predominately fish based and accented with lemon and nuts. We chose the tasting menu with the wine pairing and were thoroughly pleased with both. The menu included a few amuse bouche (small tasting), two larger appetizer size plates, a soup, two small pasta plates, a main dish, pre-desert, desert and ended with a tray of small sweets. The wine pairings started with a prosecco, Tasca d’ Almerita from Palermo, dry and pleasant, with a new wine being served with each plate, starting with the second appetizer, and finishing with a desert wine, Maccari Moscato. All in all seven wines including the prosecco and the moscato. Way too many dishes and wines to describe them all, so I’ll just mention the highlights.
Our two favorite raw fish when we eat sushi are mackerel and sea urchin, coincidently that is just what they served for two of the amuse bouche, each served as a single bite on a spoon. The mackerel was accompanied by caper, wild strawberry, and cucumber, and not the least bit fishy. The sea urchin was a very simple and elegant preparation with a rich ricotta.
Our favorite of the night was the first small appetizer, a mushroom cappuccino presented in a small cup complete with white froth on top (egg white with traces of crunchy bits of sea salt) and garnished with just a touch of espresso. The best part was the orgasmic coddled oyster at the bottom of cup, delicate and yummy in the warm mushroom soup.
An interesting and surprising dish was the simple mullet soup served in a small bowl with thin slices of crostini on the bottom topped with a small fillet of mullet and an olive wafer – the dark color of the wafer in sharp contrast to the delicate pink of the mullet fillet. The broth was poured over the fish table side. An intensely lemony broth, which when eaten in combination with the other ingredients was perfectly balanced.
The main dish was pork presented two ways, a small medallion of tenderloin and a small fillet accompanied by a medallion of scalloped potatoes with almonds on top and a thin layer of pâté on the bottom. The pork was in a pungent chocolate sauce with two additional sauces garnishing the plate, a wonderfully orange-colored cantaloupe on top and a white cardamom sauce on the bottom, both intensely flavored and contrasting beautifully, both in flavor and color, with the chocolaty brown pork.
The pre-desert was a prickly pear sorbet, not my favorite, but interesting mostly because at first I thought it tasted more like a squash or some other vegetable. The dessert, however, was heavenly, a play on the traditional Sicilian cassata cake served with a rich and flavorful pistachio gelato. The ricotta cheese icing on the cake was light and creamy with the cake in the center moist from some kind of liquor.
All the wines, white and red, had a similar unique flavor of Sicily which as closely as we can identify is a minerally quality. The white were all on the dry side and not overly fruity, very different from each other and served in order of assertiveness. With each wine Don would taste the wine, contemplate what exactly what he was tasting, the sommelier waiting for his approval while Don lingered in deep concentration. Finally Don would nod his approval and I would get to taste the wine and we would then keep sipping, tasting, perhaps comparing it to the wine remaining from the pour before, never quite being able to identify what we were tasting or why these wines were so different. The first white after the prosecco, Il Cantante from the Mt. Etna, definitely had grassy notes and that minerally taste, but it was not a simple wine, with complex flavors which with our simple wine vocabulary were at a loss to describe. The third white, the Planeta Chardonay was so different from the first two whites. We were familiar with this wine from our dinner at La Pentolaccia in Erice, not at all oaky or very fruity, almost tasting more like a Sauvignon blanc than a Chardonnay, but again great complexity. As much contrast as there was between the whites there was even a great difference between the reds. The first, Mandragola by Paolo Cali, was a light red wine barely more assertive than a white wine with bright acidic flavors. The second, Cusumano Noa was inky black, a blend of Nero d’Avola, Cabernet and Merlot, not oaky with mellow tannins. A chewy wine with spicy flavors that complemented the pork in chocolate sauce beautifully. About this time a Billy Holiday song wafted through the restaurant completing the mood. One of those perfect moments.