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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Getting fresh with Zia’s

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
February 22, 2015

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Italian cuisine accomplishes something that most other types of food could only attempt to replicate. It’s marked by very simple recipes — often containing just a handful of ingredients — that manage to deliver incredibly rich and layered flavors. The trick to all this lies in bringing these recipes to life with quality that comes from freshness of ingredients and homemade techniques.

Zia’s Caffe in Kaneohe captures this essence in its own Italian-inspired fare, bringing a handcrafted touch and dynamite fixings to its menu. As chef Jesse Kila puts it, the restaurant’s cuisine is “made fresh, and that’s it. I try to make everything as much as possible from scratch.”

Three Cheese and Spinach Ravioli ($14) perfectly conveys this approach, as the vegetarian dish combines ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and spinach delicately tucked into freshly made ravioli pockets. Kila crafts the ravioli in-house by using locally sourced pasta sheets, and this extra step makes a world of difference in the final fresh flavor of the dish.

Three Cheese and Spinach Ravioli is finished with Zia’s rustic tomato sauce, prepared from scratch with a fresh mire-poix (onion, carrot and celery combination) and garlic, and a sprinkling of grated Pecorino and parsley. The brand new addition to the menu has already garnered a positive response in the form of “a lot of empty plates.” Kila adds that he’s “already made over 300 of those ravioli in a week.”

Italian goodness shines in Panzanella Salad ($14.50) as well, which has become a best seller during Zia’s lunch and dinner service. Panzanella translates to “bread salad” in Italian, and the Tuscan dish features dandy morsels of soft, lightly crisp croutons, which go through the eatery’s pizza oven to get their slightly toasted consistency. The refreshing mixture of romaine hearts, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, avocado and chicken is tossed in a red wine vinaigrette and topped with micro greens.

Luckily for patrons, Zia’s brings the same dedication to quality and technique to its brunch menu, available Saturdays and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Among the most popular midday feasting items is Smoked Salmon and Spinach Benedict ($13), served with homey roasted potatoes. This lively rendition of the breakfast classic features Norwegian smoked salmon, poached egg and tender, lightly sauteed spinach. What takes it to the next level, though, is house-made hollandaise, freshly prepared each weekend.

As they say in Italy, Buon Appetito!

Zia’s Caffe

45-620 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
235-9427
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.