The southeast of Sicily is perhaps the richest and most fascinating part of Sicily, especially from a gastronomic point of view. This is the land of Ragusano Dop, the only Sicilian cheese that takes its name from the city from which it originates, as well as the Colli Iblei DOP extra virgin olive oil. You can find both at Casa del Formaggio di Di Pasquale in Ragusa. Among the best known DOPs is also the Modica chocolate, available at the Antica Dolceria as well as at the Museo del Cioccolato di Modica. Among the DOC wines, Cerasuolo di Vittoria is worth mentioning, the first Sicilian wine with an embodied, fruity, cherry-coloured flavour. This is an area with an excellent price-quality ratio, not to mention the extraordinary street food, in which Sicily as a whole excels in.
The best-known destination is certainly Ragusa Ibla, an enchanting city characterised by narrow alleys and beautiful views. In the heart of the historic center, inside Palazzo La Rocca, is the renowned Ristorante Duomo, by Ciccio Sultano, a chef of great experience whose cuisine is deeply rooted in his land. The tasting menu is a ride between the present and the past, amongst timeless flavours of poor and baroque cuisine, mixed with great skill. Il Duomo is certainly an expensive and demanding restaurant, but Ciccio has also opened another little gem, I Banchi, for those with a budget but still wish to delve into high quality gastronomy. To try are the spaghetti with bottarga, citrus fruits and parsley sauce. At the Banchi you can also purchase a selection of excellent products. A few street numbers away is the Baroque-style BFrame, a B&B with a welcoming terrace and Ai Lumi, a family-run restaurant where Vincenzo personally buys fresh fish at the market. On the menu however there’s a fair share of meat such as the paccheri with ragù.
In the parallel street, a few steps away is the Camùri restaurant (that is, with love) where chef Federico Rizzo offers two tasting menus inspired by two characters from Sicilian history (Persephone and Colapesce) as well as traditional dishes from the à la carte menu. The name of the restaurant indicates the philosophy of putting love in everything you do.
In the gardens of Ibla, the Cenobio Restaurant is located inside the former Capuchin Convent. Here you can taste mediterranean style cuisine with local ingredients. “Quello che passa il convento” is a 5-course tasting menu that brings to the table the best traditional products of Ragusa, such as the exquisite leg of lamb with chopped carob, carrot, cuturro crumble and a savoury custard. Passing through Via del Mercato, in a 19th century building, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the small boutique hotel Locanda Don Serafino. Not far away, the homonymous gourmet restaurant, another gastronomic pride of the city. The location is beautiful and unusual, with a varied menu and an extensive wine list with about 2000 labels.
In Corso Italia, the Casa del Formaggio di Dipasquale hides a small treasure: pecorino cheese, cured meats, oil. Today it is Carmelo Dipasquale who continues the tradition of cheese refiners, using ancient natural caves.
For those with a sweet tooth you must head to Dolcé. For years Emanuele Massari, the soul of the pastry shop, has been preparing desserts for every occasion. Noteworthy is also Dolci d’autore, once a simple artisan laboratory and today a cafeteria with both sweet and savoury proposals led by pastry chef Roberto Lacognata who takes pride in the presentation of his deserts. In Viale Sicilia, on the other hand, the Caffè Sicilia prepares its desserts, bringing traditional recipes in a contemporary guise.
Along the coast, in Marina di Ragusa is Vota Vota, opened a few years ago by chefs Peppe Causarano and Antonio Colombo, after their first restaurant in Sampieri. Expect brilliant fish-based cuisine and for the full culinary journey try one of the two tasting menus.
In less than 30 minutes you’ll reach Modica, a late Baroque town perched on a hill. Not far from the Cathedral, in a secluded street is the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest chocolate shop in Sicily and among the most ancient of Italy. In 1992 Franco Ruta, fifth generation of this small family business, decided to recover traditional sweets such as Mpanatigghi, which combines chocolate and meat, Nucatoli biscuits with dried fruit and honey, perhaps of Arab origin and what is known today as the “Chocolate of Modica”. Today Pierpaolo Ruta, Franco’s son, continues the family business with an innovative approach. Try the cold chocolate (traditional version of the hot chocolate) and the ‘bean to bar’ chocolate bars made directly with cocoa beans.
With regards to cuisine, Il Cappero Bistrot and Taverna Migliore are worth the mention. The former for high quality, traditional dishes and the latter for a cuisine that breaks down the origins and reassembles them. Peppe Barone, chef and restaurateur, has made a significant contribution in making Modica famous for its excellent food and wine. For 35 years he was at the helm of the Fattoria delle Torri restaurant in Modica, where today you can find his daughters Carla and Francesca, in the dining room and kitchen respectively. The aperitif is unforgettable, order a glass of wine with goat’s cheese accompanied by cuturro wafers and organic pear mostarda.
Behind the Madonna delle Grazie sanctuary is the trattoria il Girasole, with a view of the historic center. On the menu is a variety of traditional Sicilian recipes including the must-order desserts cannoli and granita. And speaking of granita, make sure to stop by at Antonio Adamo’s ice cream shop Caffè Adamo. He learned his trade from working alongside his father in the laboratory. Now, alongside the classic flavours, it offers intriguing combinations such as ricotta and caper or Etna hazelnut.
Towards the sea, between Modica and Scicli, you’ll encounter Gli Aromi, a unique company of its kind, where you can stroll among the cultivation of aromatic herbs or stop for a refreshing cocktail.
A charming and comfortable place to stay overnight is undoubtedly Casa Talìa, renovated with taste and a wonderful view over the ancient city and, for a complete immersion in the Val di Noto countryside, Rifugio Lanzagallo is only twenty minutes away from Modica centre.