Even with rain rolling off the roof, customers continue to linger at the entrance of Zia’s Caffe, and Now Plating can’t blame them, for the aromas wafting from the kitchen are enough to lure diners into the restaurant in the midst of a lightning storm.
Owner Lindsey Dymond would not wish for any other location for his restaurant — which happens to be the second establishment following the original Kailua location that opened back in 1998 — as he cheerfully points out, “Who doesn’t love a little rain?”
Zia’s Caffe in Kaneohe continues to serve up classic dishes that you would expect from an Italian food joint, while executive chef Jesse Kila brings innovative seasonal dishes that never disappoint. The first highlighted item on Kila’s summer menu is a revamped Gnocchi Primavera ($16.50), which showcases a combination of roasted golden beets, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, zucchini and spinach. The veggies cover a nice helping of gnocchi that has been tossed in sun-dried tomato pesto. “Since it’s summertime, I wanted to keep the veggies bright, colorful and seasonal,” explains Kila.
Pau Hana Sliders ($11)
Eggplant Involtini ($11)
Gnocchi Primavera ($16.50)
Orzo & Chicken Salad ($14.75)
Exploring the summer menu further, Chef Kila brings out Chicken & Orzo Salad ($14.75). The dish is packed with fresh ingredients, but still remains healthy and light. A mixture of orzo pasta, red onion, tomatoes and spinach are topped with feta cheese and roasted macadamia nuts. A lemon vinaigrette delicately flavors the salad, which comes with grilled chicken or — for a small extra charge — fish or shrimp.
On the Pau Hana menu, diners may delight in items such as Pau Hana Sliders ($11) and Eggplant Involtini ($11). Pau Hana Sliders include three plump fixings of barbecue pulled pork or meatball. All ingredients are made in-house — made with bread from Agnes Portuguese Bake Shop in Kailua — and may be mixed-and-matched as desired.
Eggplant Involtini, also featured on the regular menu, was requested by Dymond specifically, and has been a hit ever since its inception. Layers of thinly sliced eggplant, chopped spinach, ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella are baked in the restaurant’s famous red sauce and then topped with more mozzarella, of course. The bubbling masterpiece comes with a side of crostini and yes, it’s another vegetarian option. Dymond proudly advocates, “It’s simple, yet still hearty comfort food.”
After further chit-chat with the owner, Now Plating learns that the building Zia’s currently is in used to be an old Pizza Hut, an eatery Dymond used to frequent as a kid. Come to find out, his father owned the racquet-ball club next-door, which now is Kaneohe Animal Hospital. The nostalgic connection to this location has prompted Dymond to keep Zia’s a family-friendly place, focusing on quality and value, with a promise to continually bring tasty food, made with exceptional care, to its customers.