A new year means new and improved dishes

Ali Carte Columns

December 28, 2014

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Bodie Collins

For many of us, each new year symbolizes the chance to start anew in one form or another. On a recent visit to Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Ali Carte discovered that the same mentality holds true within the restaurant industry, as the eatery is preparing to turn over a new leaf in 2015, complete with a slew of brand new menu items set to be unleashed Jan. 5.

The fresh strand of eats comes as a natural progression for the Ala Moana Center dining spot, which has been mesmerizing diners with its to-die-for Italian cuisine since it opened nine years ago. The eatery is known for a solid foundation of customer favorites that are here to stay — enticing bites such as Pasta Di Mare ($22), combining scallops, shrimp and mussels on a bed of fettuccine, blanketed with a sassy, garlic-filled white wine pomodoro sauce. Even so, executive chef Nawai Kekoolani embraces changing up the menu, recognizing that an evolving selection of items is key to bringing new waves of satisfaction to diners.

“Change is always good; change is growth,” he says. “We continue to try to improve for our guests. We want to provide a better dining experience.”

Macaroni Grill’s exhilarating additions to the menu will showcase a number of dinner delights, including Butternut Asiago Tortellaci ($17). This ethereal dish consists of cloud-like pieces of cheese-stuffed pasta, divinely accentuated with a smooth and creamy Asiago truffle sauce and perfectly soft pieces of butternut squash. For fabulous layers of flavor, crispy prosciutto, Parmesan and a lovely sprinkling of pumpkin seeds top this absolute must of a dish.

“You’re going to have a little bit of the sweet, the nutty, the creaminess, the salty from the prosciutto — so it is going to be a well-balanced dish,” describes Kekoolani.

Rosemary-accented Veal Valdostana ($27) also will be showcased as a revamped dinner offering, coming together with mozzarella, roasted potatoes, grape tomatoes, Calabrian peppers and seasonal vegetables in a rich marsala wine sauce. “It’s hard to go wrong with veal. For me, I love veal, so it’s nice to see a full veal chop.

“This is a good dish for someone that is hungry — it has a little bit of everything,” says the chef.

In unveiling these new menu items, Kekoolani emphasizes the importance of assuring that the quality of each dish stays optimal for diners, every time. “When guests come back, they want something consistent, so we try to change (the menu) no more than once a year. It takes time for my team to learn it and execute it efficiently for the guests,” explains Kekoolani.

Patrons will have plenty of time to fall in love with — and come back for — all of the new offerings, which also include revitalized pupus such as Baked Prosciutto and Mozzarella ($9), lunch items such as an Italian Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12), and an unbelievably value-packed lunch special, Pranzo Combo Special ($13), featuring a choice of fresh greens, Caesar salad or soup to accompany one pasta selection.

Just as the team at Romano’s Macaroni Grill has been doing for years, Kekoolani says, “We continue to push that envelope to the next level.”

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Ala Moana Center, Hookipa Terrace
Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best