‘The Little Wolf’ of Italian Fare
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Wolfgang Zwiener is living proof that a love for food has no boundaries. In 1960, the dashing young lad moved to New York City from his hometown of Bremen, Germany, unsure of what the future would hold. The only certainty was that he would connect with his aunt and uncle, and perhaps take over their elevator business. Soon after Zwiener’s arrival in the city, he knew that his uncle’s business wasn’t his calling — he had other endeavors in mind, like the restaurant industry. For 40 years, Zwiener worked at Peter Luger’s, the No. 1-rated steak house in New York City. During his time there, Zwiener moved up the ranks and earned his spot as headwaiter. After four decades of loyal service, retirement was on the horizon for Zwiener — or so he thought. His son Peter had other aspirations for his father. Peter proposed that Zwiener, knowledgeable in the realm of food and beverage, open his own restaurant. Zwiener optimistically obliged, and Wolfgang’s Steak House was born.
Adamant about not wanting his restaurant to be a copy cat of Peter Luger’s, Zwiener still decided to stick with what he knew best — steak — serving slabs of porterhouse sizzling with butter, loin lamb chops and thick-cut Canadian bacon, to name a few. In 2004, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at 4 Park Avenue made its debut. Fast forward to the present, and Zwiener now is an iconic legend internationally known for his dry-aged, tender USDA Prime Grade Black Angus Beef with its trademark caramelized crust.
Secure with the state of his restaurant, was it finally time for Zwiener to retire? No. In fact, another budding establishment would grace Waikiki. Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar came into fruition in December 2010 in Royal Hawaiian Center. Here guests are transported to Italy, whether dining indoors or in the garden terrace. Translated, Il Lupino means “the little wolf,” Zwiener’s childhood nickname while growing up in Italy. The restaurant exudes a casual, chic essence glorified by a salumeria, full bar and wine cellar. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Il Lupino’s menus have something to please everyone’s palate.
Start off the day with a breakfast of champions — Buttermilk Pancakes, which are highly recommended by Zwiener.
“The pancakes are my favorite and will tide you over for a while,” he says. They are specially made by our chef, and are always “made to order.” Hot off the griddle, the decadent pancakes are soft, fluffy and delicious, topped with a hint of powdered sugar, macadamia nuts, a medley of fresh berries, banana and whipped cream. “I don’t like my pancakes too sweet. I don’t want the syrup to overpower or mask the genuine flavor of the pancakes. But these are so good as is, you don’t even need syrup,” affirms Zwiener.
Truffled Eggs ($18), Salmon Benedict ($17) and Loco Moco with Marsala Gravy ($15) are other hearty options. Those begging for simple and light will find Il Lupino’s Half Papaya and Fresh Berries ($12) and Acai Bowl ($10) refreshing. Acai berries, with no added sugar, are blended with ice into a velvety smooth puree that’s not watered down. Organic honey is drizzled atop the dish for natural sweetness, which marries with the tartness of the acai. A medley of freshly sliced bananas, strawberries and blueberries add to the aesthetic appeal and nutritional value of the dish. Of course, what’s an acai bowl without granola? Wheat-free granola bits bring a much anticipated crunch factor. Then, quench your thirst with a morning cocktail, be it Lilikoi Mimosa ($10), Guava Mimosa ($10) or Il Lupino’s Bloody Mary ($12, add $3 for shrimp).
“I really enjoy breakfast here. It’s an eye opener for me and I wake up,” Zwiener says with a laugh.
As for lunch, Zwiener opts for a classic Italian thin-crust Prosciutto Pizza ($18) with local red tomatoes, arugula, Reggiano and mozzarella cheeses, Parma prosciutto and a splash of white truffle oil.
“I tend to eat very light for lunch, and I like to have a glass of white wine with my meal,” he reveals, noting his preference for sauvignon blanc. Il Lupino’s wine cellar houses around 300 varieties of wine that add a finishing touch to every meal.
Zwiener recently celebrated Thanksgiving in the Islands, making room in his schedule for a little rest and relaxation with wife Elena, before gearing to open Wolgang’s Steakhouse establishments in the Philippines, Korea and Summerville, N.J., early next year.
Excited to see what 2015 has to offer, Zwiener is not one to skip the holidays. Il Lupino is open Christmas Day from noon to 10 p.m. offering a festive menu of Christmas specials. Then come New Year’s Eve, the Waikiki eatery hosts The Godfather Bash from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Guests should come in their best “gangster chic” attire for a chance to win “best mafia costume.” Ring in the new year under the stars, and party the night away to dance music by DJ Rayne, wine and dine with bottle service and relish a delicious buffet. Also, make lasting memories in the photo booth. Tickets cost $30, buffet included ($10 more at the door) and $45 ($10 more at the door) for VIP service, which includes access to the buffet, one cocktail and champagne toast. Call 922-3400 or visit the restaurant to make reservations.
At 75 years young, Zwiener appreciates a snazzy New Year’s soiree centered on traditional Italian fare.
“Our chef Diego Pacuruco does a very good job, and I’m very happy with him. We don’t cut corners when it comes to our commitment to fresh food and the overall experience for our guests.”
Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar
Royal Hawaiian Center
2233 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 110, Honolulu
(Breakfast) Monday-Thursday, 6-11 a.m. and 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.