A Traditional Italian Dish for All

Columns Ethnic Faves

February 20, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

When customers ask Paesano Ristorante Italiano owner Billy Rattanasamay which part of Italy he is from, he often replies with a chuckle, “I am from the mountain side.”

  • The Eggplant alla Parmigiana dish at Paesano Ristorante Italiano is a skilled combination of breaded eggplant, melted mozzeralla cheese and marinara sauce.
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Actually, Rattanasamay is from Laos, but you’d never know that by the way he cooks the most authentic Italian dishes. At the fore-front is Paesano’s Eggplant alla Parmigiana, which dates back to the 14th century along Italy’s southern regions, and can be mastered by those who have no ties to the region, but have received the proper training in fine Italian cuisine. In Rattanasamay’s case, he credits his own version of this classic — a skillful blend and layering of breaded eggplant, melted mozzeralla cheese and spiced marinara sauce — to his mentor and local restaurateur George “Cass” Castagnola. Rattanasamay first met Castagnola when the former was a waiter and the latter was visiting Hawaii from New Jersey some 30 years ago.

There are many secrets to Paesano’s Eggplant alla Parmigiana, but Rattanasamay could only disclose a few. One difference is Paesano’s use of freshly made, in-house bread crumbs. “We do not shortcut anything. Our freshly made bread crumbs, seasoned by our own cooks, makes this dish traditional,” says Rattanasamay.

Quality of products is what Castagnola instilled in Rattanasamay from the start. It is, he added, what separates a decent dish from a sensational one. That may be the reason Rattanasamay imports tomatoes for the marinara sauce from one of Italy’s most historic companies.

“We get all our tomatoes from San Marzano Tomatoes. You cannot go cheap when it comes to your tomatoes and sauce. It is what enriches the dish and blends with the eggplant,” explains Rattanasamay. “Quality of your products is like wine: Sure, you may be able to enjoy something cheaper, but you can taste the difference in the quality. It is the same with tomatoes.”

The Eggplant alla Parmigiana is usually served with a choice of pasta, but it also is offered with substitute sides of either freshly cooked vegetables or seasoned-roasted potatoes.

The Eggplant alla Parmigiana is served both for lunch and dinner. Lunch price is $13.90, and dinner prices are $15.90 for the small portion and $18.90 for the regular portion.

Paesano Ristorante Italiano

  • Where
    • Waimalu Plaza Shopping Center
    • 98-1277 Kaahumanu Street
    • Aiea, HI 96701
    • Manoa Marketplace
    • 2752 Woodlawn Drive
    • Honolulu, HI 96822
  • Call
    • (808) 485-8883 (Aiea)
    • (808) 988-5923 (Manoa)

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