During a recent whirlwind business trip to Sicily I finally visited the unique city of Ragusa. Or, better – the two Ragusas. Yes, because there are two: Ragusa Ibla and Ragusa Superiore. The two cities have an unconventional history, fierce rivalry with each other and only one element in common, a devastating earthquake.
Built on a wide limestone hill, Ragusa was razed by a terrifying earthquake in 1693 which killed aproximately 5,000 inhabitants. Following the catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. A part of the population moved to a new settlement “Ragusa Superiore” (Upper Ragusa) leaving mostly noble families in the ancient city Ragusa Ibla. The two Ragusas remain separated to this day because of rivalry between Patron Saints and by the Valle dei Ponti, a deep ravine that’s crossed by four bridges.
Wishing to scout the local food scene before our sightseeing tours, we climbed on a little bus which crept through the alleys of Ibla, over the 18th-century Ponte dei Cappuccini and into a small square in Ragusa Superiore. We were headed to the one place everyone kept recommending: la Taverna del Lupo.
The elegant gentleman who held the door open for us, seated us and recited the menu with a smile is Peppe, the owner. A team of helpers in the kitchen and in the dining room aid him in making this a delicious experience.The menu changes daily, ingredients are fresh, seasonal and wholesome. The ambiance reflects the owner’s personality: lots of bookcases filled with assorted art and literature volumes; wood panelling and soft hues leave space on the walls for theater bills and elegant oil-painted landscapes. In the warmer months, tables are set outside in the shaded piazza. The overall experience is relaxed and welcoming, just like eating a meal at your best friend’s house.The menu is recited vocally by Peppe. There is an articulate choice of appetizers, pasta dishes, fish or meat-based entrees, vegetable side dishes and homemade desserts. After a delicious antipasto of fresh anchovies simply cooked in a pan with lemon with a drizzle of olive oil, and a perfectly sweet and savory caponata with minuscule octopus, Peppe suggested spaghetti alla Donnalucatese with anchovies and onions, dusted with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. My son, ever the pirate, chose savoury pasta con le cicale di mare (mantis shrimp). Portions are quite large, so if you’re planning to order more food, consider sharing a plate. Entrees change daily according to market availability and catch of the day. If you have room for dessert, go for the biancomangiare, a true Sicilian sweet meal ending. Prices are affordable, averaging 20 euro per person, wine excluded.
La Taverna del Lupo
Piazza Cappuccini 22
Tel. +39 3493032231
Photos © Eleonora Baldwin – Gina Tringali