Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Fresco Italian Restaurant

Restaurant Insider

June 23, 2019

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Anne Lee with Italian Style Loco Moco and executive chef Rodhel Ibay presents Spaghetti Alla Pescatora.

ANNE LEE executive chef RODHEL IBAY

Fresco Italian Restaurant is celebrating its seventh anniversary this month and the occasion brings a delicious revamp to its unique “Hawaii fusion Italian” offerings. Executive chef Rodhel Ibay invites diners to the restaurant to “buon appetito,” or “enjoy your meal.”

“June 28, 2012 was our opening day, seven years ago, and I have been with Fresco since the beginning,” shares Ibay. “I have created a new lunch menu and we are going to offer some new pizzas, paninis and an Italian loco moco. Additionally, there will be new components to some of our pasta dishes and meatballs.”

There is much more to look forward to at Fresco as the chef also divulges that lasagna will be added to the lunch menu as it has been a real hit among customers.

Italian Style Loco Moco ($17.95)

For an authentic Italian experience with a splash of local flair, Fresco is the place to stop in for a yummy meal. Ibay promises only the freshest ingredients for customers to enjoy, supporting a farm-to-table concept of incorporating locally sourced ingredients — also explaining that fresco in Italian means “fresh,” and the eatery plans to stay true to its name.

Ibay expands on the restaurant as well as the tasteful experiences customers can look forward to:

AL: Can you explain the concept of Fresco?

RI: A lot of products that we use in our menu items, are locally sourced ingredients, that is a must for us. There is a special farmer that we are working with and they produce this unique mushroom that we use on our risotto. He is growing Italian Oyster Mushrooms for us here locally.

Spaghetti Ala Pescatora ($28.95)

As far as Hawaii Fusion, I incorporate a little bit of Hawaii into the Italian dishes, such as in our popular Italian Style Loco Moco ($17.95 a la carte; current lunch special is $21.95 as it comes with house soup or salad and dessert; available only on lunch menu). In it we use orzo, garlic peppers and Ho Farms tomatoes, beef patty with veal, and instead of gravy, we use carbonara sauce and infuse Hawaiian chili pepper with olive oil to cut down the heaviness of the sauce, my version of gravy. Lastly, it is topped with Ka Lei Eggs.

AL: What does your wine program entail?

RI: Our managers work with Patrick Okubo from Young’s as well as Roberto Viernes from Southern, both are well-known sommeliers. They look at our menu and select wines that would be best with each dish. We have won the Wine Spectator Award 2016, 2017, 2018 for our wine list.

We sell a lot of Tenuda San Guido Sassicaia and Cakebread Cellars wines. Tenuda San Guido Sassicaia is sold by the bottle and is a well-known vineyard in Italy, and many of our customers are familiar with this fine wine. Cakebread Cellars is a vineyard based out of California, it’s very light and creamy.

AL: What are some of your most popular dishes?

RI: In addition to our loco moco, the Kauai Shrimp Arancini ($16.95) is also loved among customers. It is a fried shrimp croquette, with sweet chili aioli, pickled red onions and Valencia orange supreme — it is only available during dinner.

Additionally, Spaghetti Alla Pescatore ($28.95, available only during dinner) always has the catch of the day in the dish, so your fish in this dish will vary.

It also mixes a variety of seafood — shrimp, calamari, clams, New Zealand mussels and calamari tossed in a white wine garlic butter sauce.

AL: Is there happy hour?

RI: We offer a three-course Sunset Special; happy hour cocktails ($7) and appetizers/tapas ($5-$8); select beer at $4; and house red and white at $6 per glass.

Kauai Shrimp Arancini

Kauai Shrimp Arancini ($16.95)


• 1 pound Kauai shrimp, shell off
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 small shallot, peeled
• White pepper and salt to taste
• 1 egg white
• 2 cups panko


1. Mix all together in food processor and let rest.
2. Use a small ice cream scooper to scoop out the mixture.
3. Roll mixture into a ball with panko.
4. Deep fry with oil at 350 F.

Sauce ingredients

• 1 egg yolk
• A pinch of garlic
• 1 tablespoon calamansi juice


1. Mix with olive oil until it binds, then add a touch of sweet chili sauce.
2. Served with pickled orange supreme and red onions.

Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best