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Omaha Magazine

Bringing the Blue Zone to the Big O

Feb 21, 2024 02:26PM ● By Tamsen Butler
Chef Don Doty  of Cibo Vino chef profile march april 2024  Bringing the blue zone to the big o

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Once, while visiting the Mediterranean, Don Doty stopped into a restaurant that he described as, “3,000 years old.” The age combined with the menu made for a formative experience. “It was literally like walking into a cave with no more than eight tables in the whole place,” he remembered. With only two people running the restaurant (a wife cooking in the back and a husband running the front), the restaurant presented him with a fish dish that was, as he described, “out of this world.” 

Doty set out to recreate this seminal dining experience with Wendy Becker at Cibo Vino, a restaurant that opened in May 2023 on the corner of Jackson and 11th streets in the Old Market.
 
The restaurant’s name translates from Italian to “Food and Wine,” and it offers a culinary experience similar to what diners experience in Italy’s “blue zone,” a geographic location where residents typically enjoy healthy longevity because of the foods they eat and the activities they enjoy. Doty and Becker set out to create an Italian-inspired restaurant where patrons feel welcome to relax as they enjoy some delicious food and wine. 

For Doty, it was a matter of recreating some of his Italian travels, such as the time he rented a car and drove through the Italian Alps from Milan to Florence and then took a train from Florence to Rome. As he traveled throughout Tuscany, encountering wineries and castles along the way, he fell in love with Italian cuisine. Rome also proved to be a formative visit on the way he approaches cooking today.

“It’s not really too fussy or too many ingredients,” he remarked. “It’s just beautiful.”

What’s surprising about Doty is that he is entirely self-taught in the kitchen. His professional background is in procurement and trading. Although he spent time as a commodity broker in Chicago, his trip to Italy and the meal in the cave compelled him to give up his business career and start cooking.

“An opportunity came into my life where I was traveling quite a bit and just fell in love with food and culture and the whole feel,” he revealed. “I was able to take a step back and teach myself to cook. I read hundreds and hundreds of books and had a lot of trial and error in developing my style and what I wanted to do.”

Doty’s award-winning Bolognese makes it difficult to realize that he has no formal culinary training beyond what he taught himself. Before opening Cibo Vino with Becker, he owned Taste in Rockbrook Village and Foodies on 76th and Cass. He also spent time as the executive chef for Rotella’s Bakery.

For Cibo Vino, Doty set out to craft a menu that offers simple, high quality foods that are reminiscent of the travels that shaped him as a chef.

Like most “blue zones,” the vibe in Cibo Vino isn’t one of over-indulgence and guilt—rather, it’s about eating good food from quality ingredients. For those who would like to adhere to a Mediterranean diet, there are ample menu options, including the “Fennel Citrus Salmon” and the “Saffron Shrimp Risotto.”

Doty also recommends the small plates on the menu for those who would like to control their portion sizes. The grilled octopus is a favorite of regulars, and, of course, there’s the wine. Becker said she’s heard their wine list described as both unique and approachable. 

“We go from California to Italy. We have Chilean wine. We’re all over the place, but mostly Italian wines,” she said.

When it comes to dessert, Becker suggests the “Hazelnut Panna Cotta” as a solid option for people trying to eat healthy. After all, life is a celebration, and what’s a celebration without some dessert?

“My favorite thing to say about Don is I’ve never had a bad meal at his house or one of his restaurants; it’s all been fantastic,” Becker shared, adding that if she had to choose one dish on Cibo Vino’s menu to designate as her favorite, she would opt for the risotto. 

“It’s honestly the best thing ever,” she said. 

The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally, although the owners assert they don’t expect any “radical changes” in the near future. Both Becker and Chef Doty have children working at the restaurant, so they hope to make Cibo Vino a legacy eatery, allowing this little slice of blue zone to continue to thrive in the Old Market. 

For more information and to view Cibo Vino’s menu, visit cibovinoomaha.com.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Omaha Magazine. To subscribe, click here. 

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