Taking time out for Italian
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Cooking Italian food isn’t about reinventing the wheel. Rather, it’s about using high-quality ingredients and a light touch. Nothing is over-the-top fancy, and unencumbered ingredients shine.
Raised by a step-father from Florence, Zia’s Caffe owner Don Dymond understands Italian cuisine. It is in his casual bistro-style eatery where he recreates the flavors of his youth. The bistro’s aesthetics, complete with dark wood and marble-patterned walls, are inspired from his trips to Italy. “You can never spend too much time in Rome,” says Dymond.
Speaking of time, Italian culture is known for dolce far niente, which is the pleasant act of doing nothing, carefree relaxation and delicious idleness. However, some of us just don’t have that luxury, especially come lunchtime.
Luckily, Zia’s has a menu created for those in a hurry. It’s the restaurant’s express menu available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. When you order one of three options from this menu, your order goes immediately to the beginning of the line, so your food comes out pronto.
The bubbly golden brown cheese crowning Beef and Pork Lasagna ($11) is a telltale sign that forkfuls of satisfying comfort food await. Dig into layer upon layer of fresh pasta sheets made in nearby Waimanalo; a meaty mix of brown and simmered beef, pork and diced bacon; ricotta cheese with dried Italian seasonings; shredded mozzarella; and “red gravy,” a marinara sauce made from scratch from Italian San Lorenzo tomatoes, mirepoix, garlic and olive oil simmered for two hours then blended. After all, with lasagna it’s all about the layers.
Macadamia nuts blended with basil, olive oil, garlic and lemon take Zia’s pesto to the next level. Chef Jesse Kila came up with the idea once, when the restaurant ran out of walnuts. “Here, taste this,” he said, and the recipe was forever changed. The pesto “with a touch of sweetness,” says the chef, is featured front and center on linguine paired with a salad in another quick Pasta and Salad Combo ($11). Without the final garnish of Parmesan shavings, the emerald green combo is vegan. A romaine and mesclun mixed salad with cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, diced cucumbers and a balsamic vinaigrette bodes well for a light, veggie-filled lunch.
Not on the express menu, but still relatively speedy, is Caper-Dill Fish Sandwich ($10.50). Served on a fluffy focaccia bun that was baked at Agnes’ Bake Shop in Kailua, fresh caught fish cooked medium is topped with homemade caper dill tartar sauce, arugula, sliced local vine-ripened tomatoes and red onions. Fish like ahi, salmon, opah or ono usually make up the fresh catch. The sandwich is accompanied by chips or coleslaw, with diced granny smith apples mixed in.
If you do have time for a helping of dolce far niente, Zia’s hosts a full bar. Mimosas anyone?
45-620 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.