Chee hu, it’s molto delizioso!
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From a distance this loco moco has the look of a regular moco, but up close, something is definitely different. Creamy carbonara enriched with eggs, cream and pan-fried guanciale (pancetta’s less salty cousin) coats a bed of silky orzo. On top rests a flattened veal and beef meat-ball lightened up with crumbs of homemade ciabatta. Kahuku-grown grape tomatoes add sweetness, while jalapeno and chile oil, dripped down the bowl, balance the richness of the cream sauce.
Yes, this is Fresco’s executive chef Rodhel Ibay’s bona fide Italian Style Loco Moco ($18.95 as part of the lunch special). Call it crazy, call it creative, call it delicious, this moco broke the mold and “broke da mout’.”
Of course at Fresco, which bills its cuisine as Italian fusion, classics also are well represented. And lunch specials that include either mixed ‘Nalo greens dressed with tangy lilikoi vinaigrette or a cup of hearty tomato-based minestrone with chunks of vegetables and thick-cut pancetta, a bread basket full of house-baked focaccia, ciabatta and sweet rolls, and sorbet for dessert are, needless to say, a “dolce” deal.
Choose wisely among the specials. (Or convince your fellow diners to share.)
Ripe Waimanalo tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella (from the bovine, not the city) are put in the spotlight in Neapolitan-style Pizza Margherita ($16.95), its dough hand made with powder-fine “00” Italian-imported flour. Ibay calls the tomato and cheese combination “a palate tickler.” There’s really no resisting the melted strings of snow-white mozzarella and softened thin-cut tomatoes that cling to each piece.
Pasta gets the deluxe treatment in Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Granchio ($21.95). Fresh island egg, cream, Parmigiano Reggiano, pancetta, apple wood-smoked bacon, guanciale and crab (aka “granchio”) are mixed with hot pasta, gently cooking the eggs without curdling them. As the Italians do, the decadent sauce is judiciously portioned so as to not overwhelm, and the sweet taste of crab carries through.
Perched on top of Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Rainbow Bazaar, Fresco offers customers upscale food in a casual setting. At lunchtime, the modern interior fills with natural light and sea breezes. Three private dining rooms that can host a variety of party sizes are available, and validation for up to four hours of free self parking also is offered.
What are you waiting for? Mangia! Mangia!
Fresco Italian Restaurant
Hilton Hawaiian Village
2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu
Daily, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (lunch); 5-9:30 p.m. (dinner); 5-7 p.m. and 9-10:30 p.m. (happy hour)