Il Duomo Dei Sapori: The Cathedral of Flavor

A romantic, gustatory adventure at Il Duomo Dei Sapori

Chef Tony Maldonado’s new restaurant on Ponce feels like it has been there for years, running with smooth, well-polished confidence. This is not by accident. Chef Maldonado landed with a dozen years of experience under his belt, honed at the helm of his other establishment in Caracas. And it shows. Every detail of this wonderfully romantic addition to the Gables dining scene has been meticulously worked out, from unique, playful plates made by an Italian ceramicist to the pistachios imported from the Bronte region of Italy.

While Maldonado is himself Venezuelan, he may as well be from Italy, where he attended a culinary academy in Perugia and where he sources most of his food, even the San Marzano tomatoes from the volcanic Campania region of Italy (his other veggies come from local farms).

il duomo dei sapori

The restaurant itself is elegant and refined, with subtle track lighting overhead and a forest of table lamps that give a romantic glow to the room. Hanging overhead are opaque, fish-like mobiles that add just a touch of movement, accenting blond ceiling beams, a gray slate wall on one side, and a weave of thin wooden slats on the other that read as fabric. The overall effect is calming and comfortable, with controlled house music at the perfect pitch for conversation.

Chef Maldonado calls his cuisine “modern Italian with classic roots,” giving particular attention to organic, quality ingredients that allow him to create dishes both rich in flavor yet light and “easy to digest,” as he puts it.

il duomo dei sapori
Chef Tony Maldonado attended a culinary academy in Perugia, where he sources most of his food.

Our first round of appetizers proved the point. Il Duomo offers three small starter pizzas, but we ordered one off-menu (and you can do the same): a “white” pizza with fontina mozzarella cheese topped by fresh mortadella, crumbled pistachio, and a sweet pistachio reduction. The mortadella is fluffy, with a hint of crunch from the pistachios. Amazingly light, yet laced with taste, worth the trip by itself.

We also tried the Vitello Tonnato Classico Piedmontese, a piedmont classic that mixes sliced veal with Parmesan, arugula, Sicilian capers, and sun-dried tomatoes on a bed of tuna tonata paste. This is the star of the antipasti menu, a masterful combination of textures and flavors; there is something about the way the tuna paste meshes with the salty cheese and the juicy chew of the medium-rare veal that creates an exquisite sensation in the back of the jaw. Co-manager Kevin Lucena calls it an Italian surf and turf, but that hardly does it justice.

For appetizers, we tried the off-menu “white” pizza with fontina mozzarella cheese and fresh mortadella (left) and the Vitello Tonnato Classico Piedmontese (top right). For pasta, we recommend the gnocchi cooked in a creamy truffle sauce (bottom right).

From the primi piatti menu, we ordered the Rigatoni Salchicha, a hearty and traditional al dente pasta with a sausage ragu, and their Chicche De Patate Al Tarufo, mini potato gnocchi in a creamy truffle sauce. Because the gnocchi are made with only egg and potato — no flour — they literally melt in your mouth. Our favorite, however, was the lasagna verde aperta, an open-face lasagna that is built on each plate with layers of homemade green (spinach and basil) pasta, Bolognese sauce, and a pecorino cheese reduction, then finished in the oven with parmigiana and grana podano cheese on top.

We tried two meat dishes from the secondi piatti menu. The first was a showstopper: filet mignon in a pool of Bartolo wine demi-glace and sauteed porcini mushrooms. The filet was cooked in Il Duomo’s Josper oven, which gives it a deep, smoky flavor that is impossible to beat, enhanced by the mushroom wine sauce. Simply excellent. We also sampled the Cotolette Alla Milanese, which can be ordered with either pork or veal. We chose the former. The thinly sliced pork is breaded and pan-fried and then finished in their pizza oven to give it a crispy edge. It was like schnitzel gone to heaven.

The main course consisted of a filet mignon cooked in Bartolo wine demi-glace with sauteed porcini mushrooms (left) and the Cotolette Alla Milanese, thinly sliced breaded and pan-fried pork (right).

We finished the meal with a sampling of desserts, all top-notch, including a deconstructed cannoli, a cherry mascarpone, and our favorite, a creamy pistachio panna cotta. All were in line with Maldonado’s goal of creating light, rich flavors that are both nuanced and practiced, and like the restaurant itself, elegant and balanced.

“I’m passionate about eating well, and from there it begins,” says the chef. “Italian food is not about dishes with a lot of ingredients. The fewer the ingredients, the lighter it is. What the Italians know is how to combine different tastes.” 

il duomo dei sapori

Il Duomo Dei Sapori
2312 Ponce de Leon