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Cielo reopens after renovations with fresh look, taste

By Staff | Dec 10, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Cielo recently reopened with a lighter and brighter open dining room in edgy tropical décor.

The renamed Cielo opened on Sanibel last week with more than just a few structural changes.

Earlier this year, the 150-seat restaurant received approval for a permit to remodel its interior and exterior building in order to increase its indoor seats by 12 and its floor area by 249 square feet. It also enclosed an existing deck and outdoor dining area near the front entrance to relocate the bar there.

With the renovations complete, Cielo held a soft opening last week, then opened to the public.

“It needed a facelift, big time,” Manager Chuck Grover said, adding that the initial discussion had focused on minor updates. “We were thinking of repainting, and repainting turned into wow.”

He explained that the project opened up the dining room and relocated the bar toward the front entrance, plus the restaurant hired two new mixologists. They also installed partition doors at a rear section of the dining room to enable them to host private events, another first for the restaurant.

TIFFANY REPECKI Display of wines along one dining room wall.

A new kitchen was installed, along with ventilation, electric, a sound system and more.

The bathrooms also were redone, featuring hand-folded towels and hand-picked soaps.

Once covered in browns and beiges, the new dcor at the restaurant pops.

“Literally everything was brown or beige,” Grover said, explaining that he worked on the design and feel with Judy McCormack. “We went from an old art deco look to we call this edgy tropical.”

A black-and-white palm print on the seating is mixed with green, purple and blue.

TIFFANY REPECKI The new horseshoe-shaped bar located off the front entrance features two new mixologists.

“Brighter cleaner look,” he said, noting that the white walls and new flooring adds to it.

The walls are highlighted with authentic oil paintings.

“We didn’t want any prints or anything quirky in here,” Grover said.

“And Rutherford the frog is still here to greet guests,” he added.

For the new upfront bar, the restaurant ditched the long rectangle, opting for a horseshoe.

TIFFANY REPECKI The front entrance to Cielo on Sanibel.

“People can talk across the bar now,” Grover said.

The mixologists have hand-crafted a menu of drinks and after-dinner thoughts, including Savanah’s Desire with honey and rose liqueur, gin, rhubarb, pink tincture and rose petals and the Zip Zop Zoom.

“It will continue foaming while it’s on your table,” he said of the Zip Zop. “It’s kind of fun.”

“The drinks are really really extraordinary,” Grover added.

As for the menu, most of it remains the same customers still will find their favorite calamari dish. However, Executive Chef Melissa Akin spent the summer upgrading what each dish is made of.

TIFFANY REPECKI A back section of the dining room can be partitioned off for private events.

“Everything is as organic as we can find it,” he said.

Grover explained that Akin met with local farmers and purveyors to secure the fresh ingredients.

“Our salad blend was custom-made for us,” he said. “All of our pastries are made here.”

The bar menu now features a Wagyu beef burger, a missing item customers had sought.

Grover noted that while Cielo is Italian for “sky,” the restaurant serves up a variety of cuisines.

“I like to say it’s all the food under the sky,” he said, citing the Antarctic salmon with black-eyed peas, corn, fava bean Succotash, baby fennel and pearl onions and the house-made pappardelle with wild mushrooms, artichokes, English peas and sundried tomato broth as just two of the dishes worth trying.

“It’s cuisine from all over the world,” Grover said.

The public is welcome to stop by.

“It’s evolved into this. It took awhile to fine tune it,” he said. “Come see what we’ve done.”

Cielo is open seven days a week, with happy hour from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Dinner is served from 4:30 to 9 p.m., with Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Live piano starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.

For more information or reservations, call 239-472-5555 or visit cielo-sanibel.com. People also can check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Cielo is at 1244 Periwinkle Way.