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Island-Chic Dining at Cielo: Restaurant Has New Look Along With Legendary Food, Service

Nov 23, 2020 05:00PM ● By GINA BIRCH

“There’s nothing else like it on Sanibel Island.” That’s how Cielo’s general manager, Marcus Preece, describes his restaurant’s new look, combined with its legendary food and service. 

Cielo closed for the summer of 2019, debuted the stunning new space Dec. 4, and a few months later closed again because of COVID-19. For diners who have yet to experience the remodel, it’s from floor to ceiling, front of the house to back. 

Preece describes the new look at “modern Floridian.” The dark browns are gone; greens, blues, white and natural light is in. “Il” has been dropped from the name; it’s simply “Cielo,” meaning “sky” in Italian. It is island chic; the energy fresh. The menu is worldly, its seasonings and influences span the globe. 

For starters, try a comforting bowl of butternut squash bisque or the signature Caprese salad. House-made slices of mozzarella are rolled with a layer of basil and sliced into disks resembling a pinwheel. Tomatoes come confit and in a nod to molecular gastronomy, balsamic reduction is turned into small pearls that explode with flavor. Executive chef Melissa Akin has connections to local farmers to source the best seasonal produce possible.

Seafood lovers rave about the U-10 scallops. They are crusted in fennel and served over bamboo rice with a dollop of sweet and salty pancetta jam. Meat dishes include filets, lamb and a pork shank, slow braised for hours. Its juices are combined with Chianti for a savory reduction. 

Wines are stored in a humidity-controlled and temperature-controlled wine wall, one of the most stunning new features at Cielo. Another is the new horseshoe-shaped bar; it sits in the former 249-square-foot patio with views of the lush foliage.

The bar at Cielo has always been a place to discover small-batch, unique spirits. Award-winning mixologist Greg Baldia turns these treasures into true craft cocktails—making his own bitters and syrups along with a craft ice program.

Much has changed; however, some things remain the same: The statue of Rutherford the frog still greets guests when they enter, and the beautiful, shiny grand piano still has a spot in the dining room. Its music elevates the ambiance to another level.

Perhaps the most important element that has been carried over is Cielo’s service. It’s professional, it’s on point and it’s also fun.

Gina Birch is a Southwest Florida media personality, a lover of food and wine who contributes regularly to TOTI Media


Cielo Restaurant
1244 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel