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Inside Feature

A Fresh Take on Fusion

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
October 12, 2014

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While fusion cuisine is nothing new to Hawaii’s culinary scene, Fresco Italian Restaurant has taken the concept to the next level by incorporating fresh, local flavors with traditional Italian dishes.

Perched atop Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Rainbow Bazaar, Fresco features an airy, open dining space complete with views of the resort’s lagoon and vibrant outdoor landscaping. Diners will appreciate the contemporary decor, as large windows allow cool breezes to pass through the restaurant, which includes a full bar and relaxing lounge area.

Fresco’s menu offers traditional Italian recipes infused with fresh, local ingredients that spring forth with every bite. Executive chef Rodhel Ibay adds a fresh, local touch to the menu by including locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible — a practice that enhances taste and adds vibrant color to each plated masterpiece.

“The dishes are colorful and fresh. The presentation is unique and they taste great,” says owner Brian Hee. “The basics, such as the pasta being cooked al dente, as well as the traditional elements of Italian cuisine are there. We have a fresh take with Fresco.”

Prosciutto, Melone E Mango ($15.95) provides a fresh start to one’s meal, as the “Parma Prosciutto” cured ham is accompanied by cantaloupe melon and island mango slices alongside a bed of baby arugula, and dressed with a balsamic glaze. Carpaccio Di Tonno ($16.95) also serves as a stellar starter, featuring fresh ahi carpaccio topped with a “salsa verde” composed of grilled vegetables and sea asparagus salad, feta cheese and roasted kukui nuts.

A succulent 14-ounce cut of char-grilled ribeye steak takes center stage in Bistecca Alla Griglia ($39.95). The tender, perfectly seasoned steak is accompanied by wild mushroom and tomato chili, baby arugula salad and garlic chips.

“The ribeye is very tender. It’s a simple dish — you don’t want to add too much sauce or seasoning, otherwise you overpower the steak,” Hee explains.

Those craving pasta are encouraged to try one of Fresco’s many unique dishes, including Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Granchio ($24.95). The attractive and flavorful dish presents perfectly cooked spaghetti, island fresh eggs, pancetta, crab meat, black pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Seafood enthusiasts are treated to a vast assortment of favorites with Cacciucco Di Mare ($39.95), a hearty seafood soup containing jumbo shrimp, Manila clams, Maine lobster, mussels and scallops all in a spicy tomato broth served with garlic bread.

“Diners can really taste the freshness of the seafood. The way Chef prepares it, nothing is overcooked; if you overcook seafood, it becomes dry and tough,” Hee says. “Everything is tender and delicious. I really like it.”

Fresco also offers a popular happy hour from 5 to 7 and 9 to 11 p.m. daily. Cocktails on the special menu, including Fresco Mai Tai, are priced at $7 each, while specially priced beers ($4) are available as well. Happy hour also features delicious appetizers at $8 each, including Truffle Parmesan Garlic Fries, Bruschetta — with Kamuela tomatoes, Hamakua mushrooms, Parmigiano cheese, avocado, Gorgonzola and macadamia nuts — and Calamari Fritti, fried calamari served with zesty pepper-oncinis and creamy gremolata.

For wine connoisseurs, Fresco’s wine cellar is stocked with more than 100 varieties of vino from around the world. During happy hour, diners may choose from selections including Dr. Loosen Riesling via Mosel, Germany, or La Carraia Chianti from Umbria, Italy, for $6 per glass or $25 per bottle.

In addition to Fresco’s spacious dining room, there are three semi-private dining areas that are perfect for business outings, weddings or family get-togethers.

Patrons are treated to complimentary validated parking (four hours), and Friday nights, Fresco offers views of the resort’s weekly fireworks display.

“The recipes we have and the freshness of the ingredients really set us apart from other restaurants,” Hee says. “We incorporate locally grown products and combine them with Island Pacific and Asian flavors, while still basing everything on authentic Italian recipes.”

Fresco Italian Restaurant

Hilton Hawaiian Village, Rainbow Bazaar
2005 Kalia Road
941-8868
Open daily, lunch served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner available 5-9:30 p.m.
Happy hour specials available 5-7 p.m. and 9-11 p.m.
frescohawaii.com