Let’s Wine and Dine
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If going to restaurants were only about the food, both eateries and diners could survive on takeout orders alone. But the truth is that patrons visit restaurants for much more than a gourmet menu. They desire a true dining experience that comes with a relaxing atmosphere and an attentive waitstaff that will help them make the most of their meal. That is just the type of encounter diners find on a daily basis at Formaggio Wine Bar, and the latest news on the grapevine is that the establishment has a growing base of regulars to prove it.
“People we see here are more like family; because we have a lot of regulars, the service is very personal,” says owner Niraj Maskey.
It’s only been three years since Maskey assumed ownership of the longstanding oasis of European dining, which is situated on the bottom level of Market City Shopping Center, but his friendly rapport with loyal customers makes it seem as though he’s been doing this for decades. “How I see it, whenever customers come in, we talk a lot and it’s more like we’re meeting with friends,” he continues.
Both Maskey and head chef Guillermo Camacho believe a crucial part of maintaining their solid relationship with patrons is finding new ways to expand on Formaggio’s foundation of Italian and French cuisines and fine wines. They’ve done this over the past few years by adding more international dishes to the menu, but the evolution doesn’t stop there. Just recently, Maskey and Camacho revamped the establishment’s esteemed wine list by introducing around 15 labels to their selection of roughly 80 bottles.
“We have regulars who must have tried all the wines, so they want something new and something to keep them interested,” explains Maskey.
After listening to feedback from both customers and his fellow employees, the new additions cover a global array of Old and New-World vinos that pair beautifully with Formaggio’s signature fare. A maroon glass of newly introduced Rubus Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Calif., for instance, is a match made in heaven for the popular Kobe Burger Panini ($15.99). Seeing as red wines ideally complement the focaccia sandwich’s high-quality Wagyu (U.S. Kobe beef), Maskey says the Australian Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz is another good match.
As for the versatile Wild Mushroom Pizza ($14.75) — a rustic blend of oyster, button and shiitake mushrooms on a creamy base — something like a French Albert Bichot Pinot Noir or even a lighter Pinot Grigio from Italy pairs stunningly. And during summertime, what better way to cool down than with a chilled glass of sparkling Prosecco or New Zealand’s Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc to accompany a refreshing Caprese ($11.99)? Formaggio’s version of this Italian salad features robust tomatoes and fresh, soft and creamy mozzarella that melts in your mouth. The house-made pesto and aged balsamic dressing, made with olive oil and honey Dijon, are divine accompaniments to the dish.
Dining at Formaggio Wine Bar feels somewhat like enjoying a meal within a vintage European wine cellar, thanks to the romantic, dim lighting and faux cellar doors that flank the walls. Amid this setting, diners may enjoy a rejuvenated happy hour menu — another way in which the restaurant is keeping its offerings fresh for returning customers. From 5:30 to 7 p.m. nightly and again from 10 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, pauhana crowds sip on $5 glasses of wine and other drink specials, all of which accompany menu items priced at less than $10 — including the brand-new Mini Salami Pizza. The restaurant also hosts live music nightly, which helps to create its warm, inviting ambiance.
So go ahead, have another glass of that fancy grape juice and nibble away on Formaggio’s worldy fare. There’s enough wining and dining — as well as expert advice from the eatery’s experienced staff — to make you feel right at home at this wine bar.
Formaggio Wine Bar
Market City Shopping Center, lower level
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday, 5-11 p.m.