Lunch Worth Howling Over
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Dining alfresco at Il Lupino is a tranquil time to savor dolce far niente, named by Italians for the sweet act of doing nothing. Take a deep breath, listen to the chirping birds and watch the international mix of passersby strolling through Royal Hawaiian Center’s lush courtyard. During your lunch break, this sweet meditation will heighten your senses and leave you feeling restored.
Right in the heart of Waikiki, Il Lupino, which in Italian translates to “little wolf,” provides a haven to feast your senses on fresh, local ingredients and simple yet expertly handled flavors prepared in-house.
Awaken your appetite with the refreshing blend of flavors in the Insalata di Rucola ($11). A forkful of the heaping salad yields a tangy pop of lemon vinaigrette, the slight spice of arugula, a crunch of candied Marcona almonds, the sweetness of candied pear and, the final layer, a touch of salty Parmigiano Reggiano. The pear, caramelized yet al dente, holds the ultimate in “peariness” flavor, for lack of a better word. “It’s a fruity salad,” Il Lupino’s general manager Heela Mottus describes. “If you want a light lunch, then it would be perfect to have.”
If you are looking for an umami “bomb” — the stimulation of that borderline-addictive fifth taste usually sated with a steaming bowl of ramen — did you know umami is contained in Parmesan cheese? And when combined with ripe tomatoes (which also contain high levels of glutamic acid responsible for umami), well, no one will fault you for throwing back your head and howling, “Molto delizioso!” if you get caught up in an “umamoment.” The thin-crust Zucchini e Melanzane Pizza ($14), covered with fresh-made tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese and topped with an artful arrangement of oven-roasted zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers, will get you there. “It’s good to share,” says Mottus. “Or eat half and take half to go.”
Seekers of a plate of everything-is-right-with-the-world nirvana will find it in Tagliatelle Bolognese ($17). It’s a classic dish of comforting pasta and meat sauce. “It melts in your mouth,” says Mottus. Ground beef, pork and veal are slowly simmered in fresh tomato sauce then added to pasta made in-house. “You can feel it’s fresh pasta,” says Mottus. “I think it adds everything.” Despite its heartiness, the robust sauce isn’t overbearing. Layers of subtle smokiness and other complexities emerge from each bite. If you are with a group of fellow pasta nirvana seekers, order the family size option ($54), which will satisfy a group of four to five. Those with gluten intolerance rejoice: “You can also do the pasta, if you’d like, gluten free,” says Mottus.
The eatery also has other lunch options, such as panini, $10 lunch specials and vegetarian offerings. The first hour of parking is free with validation, and semi-private seating can be reserved for lunch meetings.
Il Lupino Trattoria and Wine Bar
Royal Hawaiian Center, Bldg. B, Level 1
2233 Kalakaua Ave.
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Happy Hour, Thursday-Sunday, 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.