Perched on a hill by the Hyblaean Mountains, the village of Ragusa Ibla serves as southeastern Sicily’s culinary heart. Below, lush swaths of terraced farmland chiseled into the area’s steep limestone landscape gradually step down to the sea. Four thousand years ago, troglodytes settled into Ragusa’s caves, where some locals reluctantly resided until the 1950s (the grottoes were considered substandard living quarters). So in 2000, when Sicilian entrepreneurs decided to open the gourmet restaurant Locanda Don Serafino
, part of which extends into a cave, many Ragusans were skeptical. Today, this Michelin-star establishment ranks as one of Sicily’s top dining venues.
Locanda Don Serafino chef Vincenzo Candiano grew up on a nearby farm and champions local produce. He notes that his ingredients (think wild mustard greens and tenerumi
, the leaves and shoots of cucuzza
, an Italian squash) aren’t zero kilometer – they’re zero meter. His proteins’ carbon footprints are also minimal: He sources beef, for instance, from Modicana cows in the nearby village of Vizzini, and rabbit from Palazzolo Acreide, just 25 miles away. Visitors can join Candiano in his kitchen, making – and later dining on – seasonal dishes born from the sea and Ragusa’s pastoral hills. Whether you’re learning how he updates his grandmother’s tomato sauce with egg, basil, and a foam of caciocavallo
(stretched-curd cheese) or experimenting with his twists on Sicilian staples – such as his acclaimed black-ink spaghetti using sea urchin, cuttlefish, and cow’s milk ricotta (rather than the more typical sheep’s milk variety) – count on dishes and stories rich in local tradition.