Sanibel’s Cielo dining room is modern, and comfortable, with its tropical-chic decor and a floor-to-ceiling wine wall; Photography by Scott McIntyre

Taste


Higher Plane

Changes big and small elevate Sanibel’s Cielo restaurant, where the sky’s the limit.

After being closed for six months, the “Il” had disappeared from the sign of the restaurant on Sanibel’s Periwinkle Way, when it reopened in December. I had also read that the former Il Cielo expected to gain 249 square feet of interior space and 12 seats from its extensive renovation. It seemed like a big price to pay—a total gutting and new everything—for extra chairs and losing “the” from its Italian name, which translates to “sky.” Then I walked in the door, and it all made sense. If Il Cielo had been a stylish showpiece, Cielo is a stunner. The restaurant first opened in 2011 to great fanfare and gained an appreciative following for its kitchen culture that reaches above the island’s reputation for traditional seafood and tourist-targeted settings. As evidence of its elevated cuisine, the restaurant has hosted three James Beard Foundation events in the past three years. The makeover takes the much-admired restaurant to another level, with a modernized design, refreshed menu and an expanded bar that exudes heightened character.  When I visited in early January, the couple dozen chairs around the U-shaped bar were filled with islanders happy to have back their favorite upscale haunt. Now improved, and with a flashy new list of fanciful cocktails. The restaurant team hired accomplis
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