Sit Back, Relax with Pau Hana BitesCover Story Features
August 7, 2016
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: TONY GRILLO
At Zia’s Caffe in Kaneohe, some things never change, like the warmth that radiates from a comforting menu of Italian-inspired dishes served up in a hospitable environment. What the eatery does switch up, however, is an evolving mix of flavors for regulars to enjoy, including a freshly debuted pau hana menu.
According to executive chef Jesse Kila, Zia’s was ready to offer something new to its happy hour patrons, so just last month the kitchen team introduced a pau hana menu that would be simple, sharable and irresistible. From 3 to 6 p.m. daily, customers can munch on scrumptious pupus ranging in price from $4 to $10.
The menu brings a variety of choices to the table, whether just snacking on Garlic Fries or going all out with an array of flatbread pizza appetizers. Diners already have made some of their favorites known, such as widely adored Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Toast Points ($8) and Parmesan Chicken Wings with Roasted Garlic Aioli ($9).
Kila notes that when brainstorming the new offerings, he turned to classic menu items for inspiration. Caprese Bites ($6), for instance, delights with mini skewers consisting of mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and basil, all drizzled in olive oil and balsamic glaze. “It’s a simple twist on a Caprese salad, but a little easier to eat and easier to share,” he explains. Prosciutto Wrapped Melon with Honey Balsamic Glaze ($7) is another fun spin on a traditional appetizer, highlighting cantaloupe or honeydew depending on availability.
Pau hana usually caters to professionals who want to unwind after a long day at work, and that certainly is the case at Zia’s, but it also welcomes many parents and children who come in for a bite to eat after school. Keiki-approved nibbles on the menu include Mozzarella Cheese Sticks with Marinara ($9) and French Fries ($4).
There is another delicious reason for families and friends to come in during pau hana hours at Zia’s. As Kila explains, “Between 3 and 6 p.m., the entire menu is $2 off everything, so if you don’t want an appetizer and you want to come in for an early dinner, that’s another great option.”
A hefty menu of soups, salads, pizzas, pastas and hearty entrees continues to satisfy residents from both the Windward side and across Oahu, who have come to rely on quality and consistency at the longstanding mom-and-pop shop.
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 1998 in Kailua before expanding to Kaneohe three years later. While Dymond sold the Kailua branch in 2013, his Kaneohe caffe continues to be an invaluable destination for locals. Today Zia’s is run by Dymond’s son, Lindsey, who also oversees Kalapawai Market and Kalapawai Café in Kailua.
“We’re a small, local, family business and we’re very family-oriented,” confirms Kila.
Zia’s pau hana menu may be new, but its standard array of classics has been favored for years on end. Some of the most popular Italian-inspired dishes are Chicken Parmesan (pictured here), Lamb Ragu, Panzanella (Bread Salad) and Zia’s Chopped Salad.
Meet the Chef
The man behind the family-friendly Italian cuisine at Zia’s is Kailua-born-and-raised Jesse Kila. While he was part of the eatery’s opening team 15 years ago, Kila left to pursue other opportunities before returning to lead the kitchen crew at Zia’s more than four years ago.
Embracing the family feel of the cozy Italian bistro, Kila says working at Zia’s is much more than a job, as it reinforces his sense of home within the Windward community he grew up in. “I’ve been fortunate to find good work close to home, and a place to raise my kids. That’s where I was raised and that’s what I wanted to give to them,” he says.
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.