Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 22, 2005

Formaggio a find of fine wine and food

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Dorothy Wheeler of St. Louis Heights and Ephrosine Daniggelis of Manoa were chatting there, too.

Rebecca Breyer | The Honolulu Advertiser


Where: Market City Shopping Center, lower level, 2919 Kapi'olani Blvd., 739-7719

When: 5 p.m.-midnight Mondays-Thursdays; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Age of crowd: twenty- to sixty-something

Dress: Most folks opted for dressy and casually dressy; a handful of others seemed dressed for post-Formaggio club-crawling

Our food order: You won't go wrong with beef bourguignon grand mere ($11.50), Formaggio fonduta ($10.95), Cubano roast pork panini ($9.50), artichoke and chicken sausage pizza ($11.25)

We'll try next time: Duck breast with cassoulet ($14.95), foie gras crostini ($14.95) and (on Mondays only) a several-patron-recommended osso bucco ($14.95).

Entertainment: Live light jazz, classical, SoCal rock, acoustic guitar; changes nightly; 7:30-11:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturdays

Dawn Ching and Ryan Yamada, both of 'Aiea, noshed at Formaggio on a Saturday evening.

Rebecca Breyer | The Honolulu Advertiser

Kristie Yuh of Kaimuki, Sherrie Niizuma of Kailua and Cheryl Casida of Nu'uanu were also enjoying the Formaggio wine and food.

Rebecca Breyer | The Honolulu Advertiser

Fancy yourself a connoisseur of after-hours drink and food, but haven't yet dropped by the cozy, wonderfully unpretentious Kaimuki wine bar Formaggio since it opened a couple of years ago? Give the staff at Ryan's and Sidestreet Inn a rest from your wily charms this week.

Formaggio is an entirely satisfying — and still largely undiscovered — after-hours hang for drinks, food and conversation. Add its enviably diverse twenty- to sixtysomething crowd, attentive service and nightly helpings of live entertainment into the mix, and I'm still amazed that our foursome easily found a table 'round 8 p.m. on a recent Saturday evening.

Judged solely by its nondescript facade — a so-darkly-tinted-the-place-looks-closed front door between Fujioka's Wine Merchants and a public storage business, straddling Market City Shopping Center's lower parking lot — Formaggio wouldn't seem to promise much. Once inside, however, you'll find an instantly welcoming environment, softly lit and tastefully furnished like a charming little oasis of Euro-bistro cool.

On our visit, Steely Dan and a similarly pleasant mix of piped-in Me and Greed Decade FM rock maintained a soft background soundtrack until guitarist Dallon Santos dug into live mellow acoustics at 9 p.m.

Our 8 p.m. arrival gave us time to beat a rush of mostly well-dressed patrons that began a half-hour later, eventually filling the room nicely. It was an intelligently chatty, mixed-age bunch that, no surprise, grew even chattier as the wine service continued.

A quartet of twentysomethings near our table lamented Christina Ricci's "lost" performance in "Prozac Nation" as if discussing Brando in "The Missouri Breaks." A trio of older females at another table hashed out after-hours Waikiki plans that included Feng Shui and Fusion.

How's that for after-hours connoisseurs?

Offering about two dozen interesting and eclectic selections rather than trying to impress with a lengthier list of choices, Formaggio's wine list seemed designed to please expert and neophyte palates alike. Co-owner Wes Zane and manager Jon Olivas keep Formaggio's wine list ever-interesting by changing out a half-dozen or so selections twice monthly.

Patrons are encouraged to offer their thoughts and suggestions on the list. And like any good wine bar, many of Formaggio's wines are available in full 6-ounce or smaller 2-ounce tasting portions.

A full bar offering an impressive array of imported beers and premium vodkas, gins, cognacs, liqueurs, scotches, bourbons and tequilas should satisfy anyone in your party who (heaven forbid) abhors vino. But be sure to arrive with an appetite.

Formaggio's surprisingly sizable menu of tasty, intriguingly designed pizzas, salads, panini and appetizers treads an absolutely satisfying middle ground between tapas- and entree-sized portions — not too small, not too large, but just right for either sharing or noshing solo. And reasonably priced, too.

Four very-winning dishes (see info at right), matched with a couple of glasses of wine each, easily sated our foursome. The most difficult decision of the evening, in fact, was winnowing our food order down to those four selections. Other menu items we desperately wanted to try were left for a return visit.