Eat, Drink & Be Merry
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Forget everything you thought you knew about wine, bars and European cuisine because Formaggio Wine Bar changes all that. The restaurant’s cozy and intimate vibe is respected by many, and holds the reputation as a prime spot for winers and diners in pursuit of a chic but low-key eatery that’s perfect for ladies’ night out or a romantic dinner for two.
Situated on the lower level of Market City Shopping Center, Formaggio Wine Bar is owned and operated by Nepal native Niraj Maskey. Maskey took over the restaurant in 2012, when its previous owners decided to sell it.
“I was a regular of Formaggio in Honolulu, and when the opportunity came to head the restaurant, I couldnt pass it up,” he says.
Along with his wife, Lulu, Maskey has redirected the establishment while keeping true to its initial concept. The tapa-style menu remains, as does the predominant selection of French and Italian eats. Head chef Guillermo Camacho is a culinary wizard, serving up exquisite dishes that are robust in flavor and aesthetically pleasing.
Grilled Vegetable Napoleon ($13.99) features layers of edible bliss, each filled with luscious portobello mushroom, grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers and caramelized onions enhanced with truffle oil and pesto sauce, as well as a dab of goat cheese.
Patrons also are devoted to Boneless Short Ribs in Red Wine ($15.99). Camacho delivers once again, as morsels of meat are slow-cooked until tender and juicy, then bathed in a dense cabernet Bordelaise sauce.
“A glass of merlot or cabernet complements the short ribs beautifully,” Maskey says. And for those who enjoy sauvignon blanc, Caprese and Pizza Primavera do added justice.
Priced at $11.99, Caprese is authentically Italian, featuring hefty slices of vine-ripened tomatoes topped with slabs of mozzarella and a pinch of basil drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil.
Pizza Primavera ($13.99) offers slices of heaven, indeed. First of all, imagine the perfect pie crust coated in goat cheese goodness. Secondly, it’s generously adorned with a colorful symphony of portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers and onions.
“We’re very pleased with our menu, but Guillermo and I like to add some Asian influence to our dishes,” Maskey says. “One day, I decided to feature Nepalese Chicken Curry as a special. Ever since then, people asked for it, and it made its way onto the menu. Being from Nepal, I wanted to share a bit of my culture with our customers.”
Nepalese Chicken Curry ($14.99) presents a rich and creamy tomato-base sauce with coconut milk, ginger, garlic and other spices served with basmati rice. Expect a subtle kick of heat — Maskey says the curry is medium-spiced — and the tenderness of the chicken is on point.
“A Riesling would pair very nicely with the curry, adding a component of sweetness,” Maskey states.
Being a restaurant/wine bar, the hard-hitting question is: Just how vast is Formaggio’s wine selection? A rough estimate is around 80 (wine) varieties by the glass — and growing. Maskey says the restaurant has a wonderful relationship with its vendors, which include Young’s Market and Paradise Beverage.
Vino connoisseurs are fans of Formaggio’s happy hour offered daily from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and again from 10 to 11 p.m. During these times, patrons may select from five wines at $5 a glass, in addition to an extensive list of tapas: Mixed Green Salad ($4.99), Margherita Pizza ($8.95), Mini Wild Mushroom Pizza ($5.50), Turkey Pesto Panini ($5.95), Steak Tacos ($9.95) and Chicken Curry Bowl ($7.50).
Partake in rustically inspired food and drink while soaking in the sounds of live acoustic melodies, classic rock and more, provided by some of the island’s best musicians.
“We like where we’re going, and the plan is to add more pasta dishes in the near future,” says Maskey.
At Formaggio Wine Bar the focus is on luscious wines and avant-garde fare. Once and for all, your palate is exposed to everything it ever desired.
Formaggio Wine Bar
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 106
Monday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-midnight
Friday-Saturday, 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday, 5-11 p.m.