OMBRA Cucina Italiana is a pioneer of the Italian wine movement

Since opening in 2013, OMBRA Cucina Italia has been recognized as a top restaurant for fine Italian cuisine. Chef Michael Cirafesi and his wife, Lauren, who co-own the restaurant, continue to garner awards, serve their loyal base and attract new customers.

“Ron, our manager, does the front of the house. Lauren runs the business side,” the chef said. “We’ve been extremely busy — summer’s been here since the end of March.”

On the menu, diners will find dishes that highlight the bounty of the season. For example, Cirafesi said summer dishes will feature watermelon and local peaches.

“Right now, we’re serving veal with morels or with chanterelles because they’re in season,” he said. “Soft-shell crab season is not over — they are still in season in Georgia and that’s a hot item; we just got some in this morning.”

The chef said he’s noticed an increase in demand for gluten-free pasta, and he’s happy to accommodate these requests: “I tried a couple of different gluten-free pastas and the one I use is from Florence.”

The award-wining wine list focuses on esoteric Italian wines, and this is where his true passion lies. Cirafesi has been a pioneer in the movement to showcase Italian wines and selects each new addition.

“Many of our customers know fine wine — some can even tell you about the soil and the altitude,” he said. “Our wine list is up to 250 selections and we’ve got some heavy hitters upwards of $800 to $900 a bottle, including Dal Forno Romano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010, Masseto Toscana ‘Masseto’ 2013, Gaja San Lorenzo Barbaresco, Damilano Barolo Cannubi Riserva “1752” 2008 and Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino 2010.”

Wine — especially Italian wine — long has been a focus for Cirafesi. Over the past year, he said, OMBRA has increased its wine selection by 50 bottles with an eye on variety: Even though the restaurant focuses on Italian cuisine the wine list includes a few vintages from California. Cirafesi said he’s especially excited to bring new wines to the island.

“I have introduced Italian wines in this market that even the sales reps didn’t sell here, although they had them in their portfolio,” he said. “We have Italian wine makers come from Italy, and I’ll do five or six Italian wine dinners throughout the year. The last one was with Guido Damilano. We prepare the food from the same region where the wine is made.”

Diners seem to enjoy the dinners — after one recent wine event, Cirafesi said a guest from Veneto, Italy, gave him the ultimate compliment: “This is better than what my grandmother makes,” he whispered.

Don’t over-indulge on dinner and wine, however; guests will want to save room for one of OMBRA’s wildly popular desserts. Pana cotta, a classic molded dessert from northern Italy made of sweetened cream and flavorings, is a favorite and gives the chef another chance to serve seasonal fruit, which he adds to the top of the dish.

“We’ve turned into a semifreddo world,” he said. “Semifreddo is a cross between a mousse and a gelato. We’ve been making one with limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, which has even overtaken our entire dessert list, along with the chocolate soufflé and the tiramisu.”

Guests know their meal will always be as stellar as the last time they came to OMBRA because Cirafesi never takes a vacation.

“We already live at beach!” he said with a smile. 

OMBRA Cucina Italia
The Village at Wexford
1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite G2
Open for dinner 7 nights a week, reservations highly recommended