Make Yourself at Home

Cover Story Features

September 6, 2015

Story By: Ali Resich |

Every community needs a feel-good family restaurant to call its neighborhood haunt, and for Oahu’s Windward residents, Zia’s Caffe lives up to that role with plenty of heart and soul.

The eatery has been part of Kaneohe’s dining scape for nearly 15 years, but its roots go back even further than that. Late founder and respected community member Don Dymond opened the first Zia’s location in Kailua in 1998 before expanding to Kaneohe three years later — debuting the second restaurant adjacent to the same building in which he introduced a racquetball club in the ’70s (where VCA Kaneohe Animal Hospital stands today).

While Dymond sold the Kailua branch in 2013, his Kaneohe caffe continues to be an invaluable destination for nearby residents, business owners and their families.

“We’re a neighborhood restaurant, and we provide a service to that part of the community,” explains current owner Lindsey Dymond, who is grateful to be carrying out his father’s legacy by continuing to operate the family business — which also includes Kalapawai Market and Kalapawai Café in Kailua.

“We want to serve people food that makes them feel comfortable, warm and at home.”

Zia’s does just that by handcrafting a menu of Italian-inspired comfort foods cooked to perfection by executive chef Jesse Kila. It doesn’t get any better than going in for a heaping portion of classics like Chicken Parmesan ($16), slathered with marinara and mozzarella goodness.

Over the last few years, the already popular cuisine at Zia’s only has gotten better, thanks to the kitchen team’s efforts to improve the menu by honing in on its most popular house specialties and enhancing their quality with fresh ingredients.

“We’ve trimmed our menu down to about a third of what it was five years ago, and what that allowed us to do is serve only real food — meaning the vegetables aren’t frozen, the fish comes in every day, we make our sauces,” explains Lindsey. “We wanted to take the things that we were really good at, simplify and turn them into real food.”

Chef Jesse, who started as a dishwasher in high school and has worked his way up through many establishments to the top of the kitchen, follows through on Zia’s commitment to offer real food —starting with the fresh red sauce he makes every day.

“Chef Jesse has been doing a wonderful job perpetuating that, and he really stands by it and takes great pride in his work,” says Lindsey.

For his Three Cheese and Spinach Ravioli ($14), the chef takes locally produced Rocky Road pasta sheets and turns them into handmade Italian dumplings filled with a custom mix of ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella. And if that’s not mouthwatering enough, vegetarian-favorite Molokai Sweet Potato Ravioli ($15) is downright drool-worthy with the chef’s addition of cinnamon and nutmeg, tomato, asparagus, macadamia nuts and Pecorino swirling in sage brown butter sauce.

Helping to ensure Zia’s operations run smoothly, service manager Sheela Junk is available to help customers meet their needs, including taking advantage of Zia’s catering options or planning large gatherings at the restaurant for 15 to 20 people.

To beat this heat, Junk recommends trying new and refreshing Orzo and Chicken Salad ($14.75), tossed with spinach, feta, tomato, red onion, chopped pepper, macadamia nuts and lemon vinaigrette. For a small fee, patrons may upgrade to shrimp or fish.

Zia’s loyal patrons and newcomers alike will be happy to know this eatery isn’t going anywhere. “We look forward to being a neighborhood restaurant to Kaneohe for a very long time, and we thank (customers) for their business and their support through the ups and downs and ebbs and flows of life.”

Zia’s Caffe

45-620 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Kaneohe, HI 96744

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best