Love Is In The FareCover Story
February 11, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, romance is in the air, as beguiling as the scent of pikake. For lovers seeking to celebrate amore, there’s no better place than Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar, the charmingly authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Waikiki.
Located at Royal Hawaiian Center, Il Lupino — “Little Wolf” in Italian — gets its name from the childhood nickname of its founder, restaurateur Wolfgang Zwiener. He opened his first steak house in Manhattan 14 years ago, after a spectacular four-decade career as head waiter at the venerable Peter Luger Steak House. There are now 19 Wolfgang’s Steak-house locations in the U.S. and Asia.
In 2009, Zwiener launched Il Lupino, the authentic Italian eatery he’d dreamed of owning since his European childhood. The striking Waikiki restaurant boasts a gorgeous open kitchen led by executive chefs Adam Kekahuna and Diego Pacuruco; a salumeria (Italian deli) with artisanal cured meats and cheeses; plenty of fresh-air seating — and a seemingly endless wine list that has earned awards from Wine Spectator for the past two years.
“Italian food was made to share on a big table with family, friends, wine, and lots of lively conversation and laughter,” says general manager Heela Mottus. “That’s what we hope people experience at Il Lupino. We really want to welcome kamaaina who live, work and play in Waikiki.”
Many of the restaurant’s pasta dishes are available in family portions, she adds, which economically serve up to four guests. “Our food is made with the highest-quality ingredients, and our prices are similar to eating outside of Waikiki,” says Mottus.
Featured dishes from Il Lupino’s regular menu include some crowd favorites, starting with Tartare di Tonno ($9). Bursting with bright flavors, this appetizer features the freshest ahi tuna, avocado, arugula, and garlic crostini, with a ginger vinaigrette. Linguine Pescatore ($36), with Manila clams, Penn Cove mussels, calamari, scallops, shrimp and langoustine, is a pescetarian delight. Continuing with frutti di mare: Grilled Octopus ($11) features heirloom cherry tomatoes, roasted potatoes, local mixed greens, pesto and red pepper aioli.
Those who love turf as much as surf will appreciate the 14-ounce Prime Ribeye ($59), dressed with rosemary and olive oil and accompanied by truffle mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. “We order our beef from the same purveyor as our ‘big brother’ restaurant upstairs,” says Mottus, referring to Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, located on the shopping center’s third floor. “You know you’re getting the best quality beef for tender, perfectly marbled steak. Our steaks are getting as popular as our pastas!”
A variety of happy hour drink and pupu specials are available, and Il Lupino’s weekend brunch, on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. till 2:30 p.m., is becoming the talk of the town. Validated parking at Royal Hawaiian Center is free for the first hour, and $2 per hour for the next three hours. “Enjoy a leisurely, delicious meal with us, and take a stroll in Waikiki!” says Mottus, invitingly.
Wine pairings feature prominently in Il Lupino’s upcoming Valentine’s Day dinner.
“We’re celebrating Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 and 15,” says general manager Heela Mottus. “Not everyone is off on the actual day, but they shouldn’t be left out because of that!”
Offered from 4 to 10:30 p.m., the special menu begins with a selection of a dozen and a half Champagnes, roses and sparkling wines for those who wish to start the evening with a toast to amore. The menu continues with romance-inspiring dishes for each of the three courses, and carefully selected wine pairing suggestions to perfectly complement every bite. Oysters are paired with Champagne brut from Maison Collet; local pink snapper with a Piemontese Vietti Arneis; strawberries and chocolate ganache with Ruinart brut rose Champagne.
The restaurant will be specially decorated for the occasion, and there’ll even be a Valentine’s Day Selfie Station for couples who wish to commemorate the evening!
Reservations are essential.