Smile and Say ‘Cheese!’ in Italian

Columns Veg'n Out

January 26, 2014

Story By: Andy Beth Miller | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

At the end of a long work day — or work week for that matter — nothing is more delightful than a glass of wine and a great meal. Enter Formaggio Wine Bar, an eatery generating quite the buzz (and not just from the feel-good grape juice) among locals looking for casual fine dining, and a glass — or bottle — of good cheer.

The restaurant’s website boasts of “Vegetarian entrees good enough to convert any meat lover!” To test this claim, I enlist the most difficult diner I can think of in my Rolodex … a ruff n’ rowdy, red meat eatin’ Southern boy, who often will be my last-minute meal buddy. Let’s just call him “Bubba” for the fun of it, shall we?

Upon arrival, we are both impressed by the extensive wine list, as well as the myriad of meatless options available. Skeptical, but always a good sport, Bubba goes out on a limb and orders up a Formaggio’s favorite, Grilled Vegetable Napoleon ($13.99), although I could see him wistfully eyeing the prime rib at the table next door all the while. Yet, once his beauty of a dish arrived — a triple-layered masterpiece comprised of a first layer of zucchini and eggplant, a second of porto-bello mushrooms with truffle oil, and a third of roasted bell peppers, caramelized onions and melted goat cheese — each separated by a slight and perfectly proportioned slice of housemade crostini — he wasted no time in thanking the dining deities for this “stacked” signorina.

“The Napoleon is one of our best-sellers,” says owner Niraj Maskey. “Because of our convenient location, we have a lot of business people who come in after work — or bring clients — and they particularly enjoy this meal.”

My own “hot little dish” arrived at the same time, giving Bubba’s beauty a run for its money. Well, it was technically “cool” — classic — and perfect in every way. Caprese Salad ($11.99) features fresh slabs of mouthwatering mozzarella alongside juicy moons of vine-ripened tomatoes, all adorned with Formaggio’s housemade sweet basil pesto and aged balsamic vinegar creations — boy, was it fresh! I’d say Bubba and I were both pleased, and there were two matches made in heaven on this outing. (I can practically see our success story ads running on TV — “Mmm”match.com perhaps?) Either way, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I can safely say that at Formaggio — falling in love is a sure bet.

“Our main goal is for everyone who comes to dine to truly love the meals, enjoy the atmosphere and feel comfortable here — to make it their regular place,” explains Maskey. “We have many customers who come at least once a week they love it so much.”

Enjoying our dessert — savoring every sweet morsel — we congratulate ourselves on getting lucky (at least in discovering this gastronomical gem,) and toast this day farewell.

Contact Andy Beth Miller at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Formaggio Wine Bar

Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd, Suite 106, Honolulu
739-7719
Monday–Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-midnight
Friday–Saturday, 5:30 p.m-1 a.m.
Sunday, 5-11 p.m.

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