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Zia’s burst of culinary creativity

Columns Foodie Fare

September 14, 2014

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Rachel Breit

When creating its Italian cuisine, Zia’s Caffe in Kaneohe adds a little local flair.

“It’s Italian food, but we use fresh, local ingredients,” explains chef Jesse Kila. Much of its produce — including its tomatoes and greens, for example — hail from local farms. The tomatoes come from Hamakua Farms, while the basil is from Waimanalo Country Farms, and other greens come from Aloun Farms.

Plus, Kila brings his own creativity to the kitchen. Being able to play around with food is one thing Kila loves most about his job. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 16, when he started out as a dishwasher. Even in those early days, he was always trying to lend a hand to the cooks. Soon, he worked his way to cooking for a number of well-known restaurants on the Windward side.

With a dedication to using local vegetables and a love for being creative with his food, Kila often changes up the menu based on what produce is available.

The Gnocchi Primavera ($16.50), for one, recently has been revamped.

“We’ve changed the vegetables and we’ve changed the sauce,” he explains.

At least through the fall and winter, you can now enjoy the Gnocchi Primavera with house-made marinara, kale, mushrooms, golden beets and asparagus, as well as roasted red pepper on top.

Another new menu item is Zia’s Skyscraper Pizza ($14.50). It’s piled high with bacon, roast beef, salami, mozzarella, fresh arugula, Hamakua tomatoes and black olive pesto, all placed on top of a 10-inch ultra-thin pizza crust.

New dishes are always exciting, but what keeps some Zia’s customers coming back again and again are classics like the Grilled 10 ounce USDA Choice Rib-Eye ($25.50). The dish also is served with house-roasted red potatoes and the chef’s vegetable mix, which he changes periodically. The pictured batch features mushrooms, broccoli, yellow squash and red peppers.

“I hand-cut it myself,” Kila says. “As far as meat goes, that brand of steak is up there in terms of the grade of meat.”

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Zia’s Caffe

45-620 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
235-ZIAS (9427)
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

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