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Step Up to the Plate

Fresco Italian Restaurant

By Lynsey Beth Futa Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
February 15, 2015

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A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS WEEK’S HOUSE SPECIAL: COSTOLETTE DI AGNELLO ALLA GRIGLIA ($44.95, AVAILABLE FROM MONDAY, FEB. 16)

Situated at Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Rainbow Bazaar, Fresco Italian Restaurant may be within walking distance for many tourists, but as scores of island locals are finding out, venturing to the Waikiki eatery is well worth the simple drive, too. There, Chef Rodhel Ibay satisfies with the fresh, local produce he uses to create fusion Italian cuisine that diners are sure to remember. The restaurant’s open dining area is showcased by natural light that pours in through wraparound windows, giving off a fresh, modern feel, and ensuring that fresco, the Italian word for fresh, does not only refer to the food. Amid this ethereal ambiance, tourists and locals alike can enjoy favorites such as Cacciucco Di Mare ($39.95), which boasts fresh island seafood in a spicy tomato broth. But the showstopper is sure to be the newly added Costolette Di Agnello Alla Griglia, a dish Chef Ibay has perfected over the years.

Chef Ibay holds off on adding cheese to the pesto, and instead opts to sprinkle Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheeses on top of the lamb as it is grilled to perfection, creating a cheesy crust and at the same time preserving the eminent flavors of the local greens.

To reduce gamey flavors, the lamb is marinated for at least 24 hours in a house-made pesto prepared with cilantro and mint that are locally grown at Ululoa Nursery in Mililani.

“We try to incorporate something local in each dish,” Chef Ibay adds, keeping to his “always fresh” policy at Fresco Italian Restaurant.

The lamb is so tender that you can cut it with a butter knife, and it is safe to say that this dish is for lamb-lovers and skeptics alike! Chef Ibay declares that he’s “made many people believers of lamb, even my mother!”

This pick-up-the-bone-good dish will be available Monday, Feb. 16, and is complemented with a kukui nut puree comprised of a creamy, buttery Yukon potato blend adorned with chopped kukui nut. The plate is finished off with a deep burgundy display of port wine reduction that accentuates the lamb.

Fresco Italian Restaurant

Hilton Hawaiian Village, Rainbow Bazaar
2005 Kaila Road, Waikiki
941-8868
Open daily
Lunch: 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Dinner: 5–9:30 p.m.
Note: Kamaaina discount presents 15 percent off a la carte menu. Self-parking is free up to four hours.