Bongiorno, Ono readers! Being that my father is full Italian, I am proud to say that my love and affinity for authentic Italian cuisine is alive and well! Whether it be al dente pasta, gnocchi, ravioli or lasagna — I’m a fan of it all. Now, nothing beats the Italian food found in Italy, but I am very happy to say that this week, while in the mood for lasagna, I found some Italian/Euro-Asian eateries around town that come remarkably close.
So, instead of traveling thousands of miles to Italia to lavish in layers of “Ono, You Know” lasagna, I took my taste buds to my favorite hot spots closer to home to marvel in this zesty dish— even a unique lasagna-like dish that stands in a league all its own.
Ready to take on this hearty meal? I’m sure you are, because it’s absolutely eccellente! Mangia, mangia, bella!
Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Classic Italian cuisine is what Romano’s Macaroni Grill is all about. Having opened its doors in November 2005 at Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace, this family favorite brings a taste of Italy right to our island home — all thanks to its talented chefs and kitchen staff, headed by executive chef Michael Longworth.
Gigantic portions are common here, so don’t be surprised if you’re headed home with a doggy bag or two. Romano’s Macaroni Grill specializes in plates of pasta, among other tasty treats, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m crazy about perfecto pasta. However, on this particular visit I just so happened to be wearing the wrong ensemble — white! Knowing that I’d probably splash tomato sauce on myself, I opted for lasagna instead of spaghetti — and a smart choice that was! Not only did I manage to keep my top marinara sauce-free, but Romano’s lasagna is decadently delicious!
Properly named Lasagna al Forno ($16.59), Longworth skillfully creates this easy to eat, mess-free dish, baked with authentic Bolognese meat sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheese, then topped with tomato sauce and fresh basil.
“Our Bolognese sauce is very good,” says Longworth, who has 30 years of experience in the culinary world. “It’s a very rich sauce with Chianti wine that we reduce down so that it has that nice hianti flavor, and it also has extra meat and veal — oh it’s delicious!”
Now if that doesn’t make your mouth water, how about the fact that all the pasta is freshly homemade to please your palate.
“The Lasagna al Forno is one of our most popular dishes,” Longworth states. “We’ve had a great response from the customers, and lasagna is a great dish for the whole family. We host a lot of parties at our restaurant, so you can see why it’s highly requested.”
And if that in itself isn’t enough for your hungry appetite, Romano’s Mama’s Trio is the best bet for lasagna lovers who also crave a little something extra.
Priced at $18.59, be ready to put away a full order of Lasagna al Forno, along with Chicken Parmigiana with Capellini Pomodoro and Roasted Chicken Cannelloni. Delizioso!
Ala Moana Center — Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 4240
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Kit n Kitchen
Here at Kit n Kitchen on University Avenue, it’s no surprise that owners Kit and May Yiu feel most at home in … well, you guessed it … the kitchen! Perfecting the art of Euro-Asian cuisine is what this husband and wife do best.
With a menu that offers just about everything under the Tuscan sun, it may take a while to decide on an entree. Although, if you’re dining Italian-style there’s no need to rush, as a typical meal in Italy can last two to three hours, at least! Indeed, the purest of joys involve good food, drink and conversation.
Now putting his twist on the traditional lasagna, Kit presented me with the outof-this-world Baked Rigatoni ($11.95). Baked like your traditional lasagna with savory meats and cheeses, the Yius incorporate al dente rigatoni instead of flat lasagna noodles.
“This dish is made from a recipe that we created on our own, but we kept to the same concept of lasagna,” Kit says.
Available for lunch and dinner, Baked Rigatoni will dance its way into your stomach, as its classic meat sauce and smooth yet chewy rigatoni with a touch of cream sauce claims the spotlight. Expect nothing more than cheesy, oozy goodness. With just one bite you instantly savor all the zesty flavors of Italy.
Finally, save room for Kit’s famous Garlic Pillow Toast to help soak up every last drop of sauce. With something this good, you’ll leave your plate squeaky clean.
1010 University Ave. Varsity Center
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Paesano Ristorante Italiano
Set foot inside Paesano Ristorante Italiano, tucked away in Manoa Marketplace and Waimalu Plaza Shopping Center, and the crowd of hungry diners tells it all — this cozy Italian eatery offers top-notch bella (beautiful) cuisine. Owners Billy Rattansamay and wife Nila have worked to make Paesano the place to be to celebrate all the momentous occasions in your life, and I’m proud to say this renowned establishment has always been a part of my life as well.
Longing for lasagna, I knew that executive chef Gerry Quach’s remarkable cuisine wouldn’t let me down. Quach and his reliable team make pans and pans of this fabulous Italian favorite in order to feed its patrons by the mouthful.
“We serve Lasagna with Meat Sauce ($16.90 lunch, $19.90 dinner) and Vegetarian Lasagna ($14.90 lunch, $16.90 dinner), and it’s a top choice on our menu,” says Paesano Manoa assistant manager Ka Ming Lam.
If you’re a lasagna lover, imagine layer upon layer of pasta, cheese and meat, more specifically fresh ricotta cheese and mozzarella. Delicious! Vegetarians also will love a lasagna made especially for them, featuring a symphony of fresh veggies, including eggplant, onions, broccoli, carrots, spinach, portabella mushrooms and zucchini.
There’s no doubting the fact that there’s something for every appetite at Paesano!
Waimalu Plaza Shopping Center, 98-1277 Kaahumanu St.
Manoa Marketplace, 2752 Woodlawn Drive
485.8883 or 988.5923
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