Taormina Brings Great Taste to Italian Starters

Columns Pupu Picks

November 4, 2012

Story By: Steve Murray | Photos by: Leah Friel

Taormina has a problem unique in the restaurant business: It is, at times, forced to turn away customers. So popular is this Sicilian restaurant that its 85 seats fill up quickly, causing hopeful diners to put off their enjoyment of fresh Italian food for another day. What’s a diner to do? Enjoy the happy hour pupus, recommends general manager Conan Paik-Rosa.

The new menu, which began last month, offers seven appetizers, four homemade desserts, six types of gelato, wine, cocktails and sparkling water, all at $5 and under. Food this good shouldn’t be so cheap — but it is, thankfully.

Perhaps no pupu item shows off the light, fresh fare at Taormina better than Insalata del Bosco ($5).

Each component is a complement to the other.

The tomato, pear compote and beets provide a natural sweetness that is the perfect counter to the slightly salty and tangy feta cheese. The prosciutto is smoky and buttery in texture, walnuts provide a textural change, while the light honey dressing ties it all together.

Sicilian cuisine is all about fresh seafood and the proper presentation of simple flavors. Insalata Caprese and Salmon Marinade are two such representative dishes. A caprese is as simple as tomato, mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil and perhaps a nice vinaigrette. To make an outstanding caprese, you need fresh ingredients and a light handling of the ingredients. Taormina uses fresh mozzarella, Kamuela tomatoes and a light pesto/olive oil drizzle that is served on a bed of local arugula. The result is an outstanding appetizer — sweet, creamy and popping with subtle flavor.

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about Salmon Marinade is the aroma. The delicate pieces of dill mix with the fresh capers to fill your nostrils with a delightful aroma as you get a close-up view of the thinly sliced marinated King Salmon. Served with mushrooms and a garlic aioli, the dish is outstandingly fresh, flavorful, light, and, best of all, inexpensive.

Photographer Leah Friel and I finished with Creme Caramel and a side of Vanilla Gelato topped with strawberry sauce. What a combo. The food, not us. Creme Caramel is incredibly light, and smeared through the gelato and strawberry. The flan-style dessert is immensely flavorful and a perfect palate cleanser should you decide to stick around and try other happy hour items.


227 Lewers St., Waikiki
Happy Hour daily, 2-5 p.m.
Regular dining hours:
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96815

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