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Pleasing the Palate with Italian Favorites

By Michelle Lee Photos By Tony Grillo
July 6, 2014

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Dating back to the times of ancient Rome, Palatino was one of civilization’s most prosperous cities, a place where the rich and powerful lived in brazen luxury. So, when Waikiki’s Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar put out an Italian-inspired burger fit for royalty, its name came easily.

Dubbed the “Palatino” Burger ($12 during July only), the burger consists of a half-pound prime beef patty topped with prosciutto and soft-ripened Cambozola cheese, served alongside truffle fries.

“The combination of the prosciutto and cheese works very well together, without overpowering any one part of the dish,” says executive chef James Donahue.

Conveniently located at Royal Hawaiian Center, Il Lupino relies on high-quality ingredients to achieve authentic, gourmet-inspired Italian fare. “Whenever possible, we try to source our greens and produce locally,” explains Donahue.

As a prime example, one of the eatery’s most popular dishes, Insalata Gamberoni ($20) utilizes local mixed greens, as well as locally grown mango to elevate the salad’s flavors with freshly grilled jumbo shrimp, avocado, red onions and goat cheese.

Seafood enthusiasts will love Salmone al Crudo ($26), a generous serving of New Zealand King Salmon served with homemade relish comprised of tomatoes, capers, Nicoise olives and Maui onions. “Texture is one of the dish’s most appealing assets, because the salmon is crispy on the outside while remaining very tender on the inside,” explains Donahue.

“Since its debut, Il Lupino has welcomed much advancement in order to refine the quality of its menu.

“One year ago, we were importing all of our pasta from a manufacturer in Italy, which was fine, but we knew we could do even better.”

It wasn’t long before the restaurant permanently hired two chefs to prepare fresh pasta every morning for its signature dishes, such as the highly-requested Spaghetti alla Carbonara ($17).

“Making our own pasta gives us more control and freedom to perfect the flavor and texture, and the pasta cooks much faster,” explains Donahue.

As the sister restaurant of Waikiki’s famed Wolfgang’s Steak-house, Il Lupino is no novice when it comes to exceptional fare.

“We focus less on the frills and more on what makes the dish (its stocks, sauces and seasonings),” says the chef. “I always tell my cooks that if the meal’s foundation is strong, everything else will follow.”

Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar

Royal Hawaiian Center
2233 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 110, Honolulu
922-3400
Open for breakfast Monday–Thursday, 6-11 a.m., Friday–Sunday, 6 a.m.-noon; lunch daily, noon-5 p.m.; happy hour daily, 4-6:30 p.m.; dinner Sunday–Thursday 5-10:30 p.m. and Friday–Saturday 5-11:30 p.m.