Robust Flavors Rule at Romano’s

Ali Carte Columns

July 28, 2013

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Leah Friel

Since 2005, Romano’s Macaroni Grill has brightened Hawaii’s dining scene with its vibrant Italian dishes. From smoldering brick oven pizzas to piles of pasta, the family-style eatery boasts all the classics you could hope for, each of which is jazzed up with the restaurant’s special culinary touches.

The secret to these extra doses of amore, according to executive chef Nawai Kekoolani, is carefully selecting high-quality ingredients that will make every dish pop. “Being able to give really fresh flavors is important to us,” says the chef, who adds that great customer service is just as imperative to ensuring patrons enjoy their meal. “I always listen to what the guests want and we try to accommodate as much as possible.”

Some of the eatery’s most popular items brilliantly showcase Kekoolani’s keen attention to detail. Pasta di Mare ($22), for example, presents a gorgeous seafood medley of scallops, mussels and shrimp tossed with tagliolini (part of the fettuccine family of pasta) in a garlicky white wine, tomato and butter sauce.

“With seafood, you have to be really careful,” says Kekoolani. “You want to make sure it’s fresh and not overcooked. Especially scallops, you want to make sure they’re nice and moist.”

Alongside Pasta di Mare’s plump, succulent seafood, Roasted Chicken and Arugula Flatbread ($16) brings bursting flavors to the table. Crispy and thin flat-bread is loaded with herb chicken, roasted peppers and mozzarella, then fired up in the restaurant’s brick oven. Before it is served, a zesty burst of fresh, lemon-oil tossed baby arugula is piled on top of the dish along with fresh Parmesan shavings.

“You get a little peppery flavor, you get a little bit of that refreshing lemon — so it’s real robust flavors,” describes Kekoolani.

The flatbread wouldn’t be complete without Romano’s unique caramelized onion pesto made with arugula instead of traditional basil. This sweet-and-savory spread lends a richness to the dish, blends beautifully with the melted cheese and you won’t find it anywhere else.

Kekoolani also recommends devouring Eggplant Parmesan ($16). This vegetarian classic is prepared with capellini pomodoro, or angel hair pasta dressed with tomato sauce, as well as mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. The restaurant uses ever-flaky panko breadcrumbs to encrust its eggplant, giving the vegetable an extra crisp shell of goodness.

With Italian favorites that always have a little something extra, you can’t go wrong at Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Ala Moana Center Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
356-8300
Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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