Egg-cellently fresh pasta
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In a day and age when the convenience of pre-packaged foods and short cuts in the kitchen dominate our food culture, stumbling upon an age-old cooking technique, such as making pasta from scratch, is a moment to savor. I learned this lesson a few years back while attending college on the East Coast. One year, during Easter weekend, I went home with my close friend Rachel and had the honor of helping her family prepare an authentic Italian feast.
Hands down, the best part was learning how to make orecchiette — small round pieces of pasta — from her nonna (grandma), known affectionately as G-Money, whose parents were from Puglia, Italy, the same region orecchiette comes from. G-Money has been making pasta by hand since she was old enough to help her mother in the kitchen, and while Rachel and I struggled to match her skillful handling of the dough, we did manage to create the soft texture fresh pasta is known for. With pure love entering each handcrafted morsel, it was one of the best meals I had ever tasted.
I was ecstatic to feel the same sense of comfort envelop me on a recent visit to Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar, Waikiki’s sanctuary of Italian fare. I took one glorious bite of Tagliatelle Bolognese ($17 individual portion, $54 family style) and instantly knew there was something special about this dish. Cook Debbie Hong confirmed my impression, explaining that the eatery recently started serving its very own egg noodles.
“We use egg yolks inside of the (pasta) dough, so it gives it a very rich flavor,” describes Hong. “You can tell that the noodle really does add to the dish in the way that it tastes and even the way you eat it.”
She’s right about that. Every last bit of the tomato-based Bolognese sauce, overflowing with hearty pieces of beef, veal and pork, was accentuated by long, thick and heart-nourishing strands of fresh tagliatelle.
Hong says making pasta from scratch lends versatility to Il Lupino’s offerings, allowing the eatery to experiment with different shapes and sizes and present unprocessed spaghetti, linguini, tagliatelle, pappardelle and ravioli every day.
With fresh, golden ribbons as evidence of Il Lupino’s dedication to quality, I had to explore what the rest of the menu has to offer. While the restaurant holds a trove of traditional Italian recipes, it also throws some eclectic creations into the mix, all of which exhibit the same thoughtful preparation as the pasta selections.
Loco Moco ($14) finds its place on the menu as an island staple, but it’s not without the addition of some Italian flair. An impressive patty consisting of veal, pork and beef is seasoned with parsley and chili flakes, then blanketed with sumptuous gravy featuring shiitake mushrooms and Marsala, an Italian wine. The revamped classic is served with rice and an egg.
Il Lupino Burger ($10) also showcases the trattoria’s creativity, as a robust Black Angus hamburger is accompanied by roasted pepper aioli and house-made french fries tossed in truffle oil. The dish wouldn’t be complete without a touch of Italy, and for this, diners may add Prosciutto ham and creamy Cambozola cheese ($3 each), both of which elevate the burger with bold flavors.
From Il Lupino’s traditional dishes to its cutting-edge combinations of ingredients, one thing is certain: There are no short cuts in this cucina.
Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar
Royal Hawaiian Center, Bldg. B, Level 1
2233 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Thursday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
Note: Starting in June, Il Lupino will begin serving breakfast from 6 a.m.