Pledging My Love for Pasta

Columns Ono, You Know

March 31, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

When planning a vacation destination, Italy always tops my list. Why? It’s simple: Italia is immaculate in every sense of the word, from its amazing history and architecture to its majestic scenery, pristine beaches, passionate people, beautiful language, and out-of-this-world culinary masterpieces. Indeed, Italia is molto bella!

And don’t even get me started on the pasta! First and foremost, I’m addicted to pasta. Call me carb crazy — because I am. Everyone knows that Italy is the pasta capital of the world. Pasta reigns here, and for good reason. Pasta is Italy’s pride and joy, and some of the best you’ll ever find on the planet.

Yet, when I can’t be whisked away to Italy (a girl can dream, right?), being the pasta fool that I am, I’ll devour any plate of pasta that is placed before me. And boy, was I craving oodles of noodles this week!

So, in pursuit of the perfect pasta, my appetite and I were ready to tackle some of the best Ono, You Know pasta entrees right here at home. Be it rich and creamy, or meaty and savory, pasta is the definite, sure fire way to my heart! It was love at first bite!

Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar

  • The editor enjoys a beautiful day at Il Lupino with her favorite Tagliatelle ai Tartufi ($18).
  • Il Lupino's Tagliatelle ai Tartufi ($18)
  • Chef Lawrence Nakamoto with Il Lupino's Tagliatelle ai Tartufi
Image of

It’s evident that Italians are masters at transforming simple, everyday ingredients into dishes that are quick, healthy and undoubtedly delicious. And here at Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar at Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki, globally revered executive chef Nicola Sayada prepares a plethora of dishes all made from scratch, thus bringing about a culinary landscape revolution that ultimately turns Italian classics on their heads, while utilizing essential elements found in Italian cuisine.

With five-star ambitions at affordable prices, this sleek and modern eatery sits in a relaxing, sophisticated environment, featuring indoor and alfresco bar and dining, an open kitchen and a salumeria. And as the first to bring the Italian tradition of salumeria to Hawaii, Il Lupino offers prosciutto, salami, and other cured meats and Italian cheeses carved fresh at the diner’s request.

The menu here is diverse, offering antipasti, soups, salads, brick oven-baked thin crust pizza, pasta, and chicken, beef, fish and pork entrees, to name a few. Sayada also effortlessly creates haunting-ly beautiful renditions of traditional and delectable pasta, be it Penne all’Arrabbiata, which for $16 features penne with spicy tomato and garlic sauce served with basil and pecorino, or Linguine alle Vongole ($19), offering seafood lovers linguine with fresh clams served in your choice of garlic (bianco) or tomato (rosso) sauce. And while all are remarkably delicious, my premier pick of the bunch has to be Il Lupino’s Tagliatelle ai Tartufi ($18).

This edible work of art features al dente Tagliatelle imported from Italy doused in a citrus cream sauce made with shallots and a dash of white wine and lemon zest. It’s then garnished with fresh asparagus spears, a special black truffle puree and a hint of white truffle oil. What I love most about this pasta dish is that it gives off a rich, creamy flavor that is intense, but not overpowering in the least. Perfect for springtime, Tagliatelle ai Tartufi is a must-try and I guarantee that it’ll leave you craving more.

A mecca of all things Italia awaits diners at Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar where fine dining meets casual ambiance.

Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar
Royal Hawaiian Center, Bldg. B, Level 1
2233 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 110
View the Map

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

  • Macaroni Grill's Pasta Carbonara ($16)
  • Macaroni Grill's Carmela's Chicken Rigatoni ($16)
  • Executive chef Michael Longworth with Romano's Macaroni Grill's Pasta Carbonara ($16).
Image of

Home of some of the best Tuscan-inspired Italian cuisine, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, located at Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace, is a family favorite that captivates diners with its exciting atmosphere and friendly, energetic staff.

Executive chef Michael Longworth, who has 30-plus years of culinary experience, has helped pave the way for Macaroni Grill’s delectable creations since he came on board in 2005 when the restaurant first opened.

Gigantic portions are signature here, so be sure to come hungry. With so much to choose from, including lasagna, pizza and flatbread, or fresh pasta, selecting an entree can be a grueling task for an indecisive diner like myself. Yet, the fact that I simply adore pasta makes narrowing down my choices all the easier.

Carmela’s Chicken Rigatoni ($16) is a classic, according to Longworth, who says it’s been on the menu since the very beginning.

“We can never take Carmela’s Chicken off the menu, or I think we’ll be in trouble. This dish features pieces of roasted chicken, fresh rigatoni imported from Italy, sweet caramelized onions and mushrooms, and it’s topped with a marsala cream sauce,” he explains.

And for a twist on your typical pasta dish, opt for Pasta Carbonara ($16).

Dinner is served, as this heavenly dish lures in your appetite with morsels of pancetta, sprinkles of parmesan and a poached egg atop a bed of fresh spaghetti alla chitarra.

“At first people are a little hesitant about this dish, but for the most part it’s been well received,” Longworth says. “When you cut into the egg, it just oozes into the pasta and it makes it very delicious. Once people try it, they love it.”

Experience everything that is Macaroni Grill — quality Italian ingredients, honor system wine and enthralling opera singers who serenade you at your very table — it’s a time-honored tradition that can’t be rivaled.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Ala Moana Center — Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 4240
View the Map

Zippy’s Restaurants

  • Zippy's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce ($7.15 fast food counter, $8.15 restaurant). Nathalie Walker photo
  • Zippy's Spaghetti with Chili ($7.15 fast food counter, $8.15 restaurant). Nathalie Walker photo
Image of

Last, but not least, a tribute to pasta wouldn’t be complete without taking the time to highlight one of my top-ranked comfort foods — Zippy’s famous spaghetti! As far as local dining goes, it’s clear that Zippy’s is legendary. Zippy’s Restaurants has been an iconic landmark in Hawaii since 1966 when founders Charlie and Francis Higa opened the doors to the first eatery in McCully. Since then, Zippy’s has become a part of Hawaii’s ohana with 24 locations on Oahu and one in Kahului, Maui.

“The Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is one of the top-selling items here,” says Jay Crisologo, creative specialist for Zippy’s Restaurants.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is priced at $7.15 (fast food counter) and $8.15 (restaurant), and is served with an irresistible slice of garlic bread. Really, nothing is quite as satisfying to the tummy when it’s simple classics that you’re in pursuit of — just like mom used to make.

Another spaghetti variety that Zippy’s offers its pasta-loving patrons is Spaghetti with Chili ($7.15 fast food counter, $8.15 restaurant). Served with a side of garlic bread, Spaghetti with Chili is just another way to enjoy one of Zippy’s signature items.

“Zippy’s chili is served in many ways, and a lot of people like to eat it over spaghetti,” Crisologo explains. “What hasn’t changed much about our chili is the recipe — it’s generally stayed the same since 1966.”

Prices are slightly higher at Ala Moana, Pearlridge and Kahului locations, but Hawaii’s foodies are crazy about Zippy’s. When hunger strikes … I know where my next stop will be!

Zippy’s Restaurants
1725 S. King St.
View the Map

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best