by Ian McNulty
The new downtown restaurant cibugnù is slated to officially open June 26, which should give us all a little time to get accustomed to its unorthodox name. But even before the this new restaurant serves its first meal it has already nabbed some early culinary recognition.
Earlier this spring, chef Octavio Ycaza signed up the soon-to-open restaurant to participate in the New Orleans Food & Wine Experience (NOWFE) and enter a dish in the running for the event’s Fleur di Lis Culinary Awards. Ycaza submitted ravioli filled with a corn and mascarpone cream and topped with a garlicky sauce and garnished with blueberries. It landed a silver medal in the culinary competition, as judged by a panel of local food writers and editors.
The dish is representative of the style Ycaza is aiming for with cibugnù, which he describes as a more progressive rendition of Sicilian cuisine. Don’t look for fettuccine Alfredo or Caesar salads but rather dishes like sausage-stuffed squid with chickpea polenta, braciola rolled with speck, gorgonzola and roasted garlic cream and pizzas from the wood-fired oven with grilled ramps and shrimp. The chef says his focus is on house-made staples (pasta, breads, sausage, etc.) and also creative, sometimes playful presentations.
Even the name is house-made, in a way: cibugnù is a customized contraction of the Italian words for food (cibo) and dream (sogno), which Ycaza says they run through a Sicilian accent. It’s pronounced “ch-boo-noo.”
The new restaurant took over the space recently vacated by Leonardo Trattoria, a more conventional Sicilian restaurant that first opened in 2007. While the general configuration is the same, Ycaza says the interior of cibugnù was designed to engage customers with some aspects of the kitchen. Pasta and salumi making stations are visible from the dining room, he says, so cooks can tell curious customers what they’re preparing. Like Leonardo, the dining room will still have a bank of TV screens, which, as per a press release, will show “a ‘behind-the-scenes’ style video recorded with the kitchen staff at cibugnù, as well as other Italian and/or food related films.”
The drinks list includes barrel-aged Campari cocktails and other Italian-inspired libations.
cibugnù will serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday initially, with lunch hours to follow.
709 St. Charles Ave., (504) 558-8990
An earlier version of this post identified a bartender who is no longer involved with cibugnu.