Feeling at home in Rome with Italian restaurateur
By Helen Wu
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
Fabrizio Favale is a renaissance man. His talents as a furniture maker, interior designer, cook and restaurateur can be seen at the 13-year-old Mediterraneo Italian restaurant and at his newest venture, the wine bar Pane and Vino. Now he is at work on Web sites for the two restaurants.
Favale's two enterprises reflect his background in interior design and construction. These restaurants have a kind of charming ambiance rarely found in Honolulu. You could be eating at an Italian friend's house no red-and-white-checkered tablecloths at either place.
The food is typical of the straightforward, home-style cooking served during a family's Sunday meal in Rome, where Favale grew up and learned to cook by watching his mother prepare such dishes. Though his family owns a restaurant there, he said he regarded cooking as a hobby until he came to Hawai'i.
All pastas, ravioli and gnocchi are made in-house every night. All dishes are prepared to order fresh. As Favale explained, "For example, you order three puttanesca. We put three fry pans (on the stove) and we do three puttanesca." He uses no pre-made sauces.
|Fabrizio Favale, who grew up with family meals in Rome, owns the Mediterraneo restaurant on South King Street. He also recently opened a wine bar in Waikiki.
Photos by Gregory Yamamoto The Honolulu Advertiser
- 1279 S. King St.
- Small parking lot in back; metered street parking
- Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays
- Dinner 5:30-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
- Wine and beer
- $15 corkage fee per 750 ml bottle
You could easily drive down South King Street without noticing the neon sun glowing in the front window of Mediterraneo. Inside is a rustic trattoria setting where you are surrounded by colorful majolica ceramics and tiles and soft buttery tones, a perfect place to unwind over a glass of wine and a large plate of pasta easily shared by two.
Clams, mussels, calamari and fish practically swim in the insalata di mare ($14.50), a mixed-seafood-over-greens salad. Vegetali saltati ($9.75) has lightly sauteed, al dente vegetables with capers and kalamata olives that don't drown in cheese.
Sauces with character are memorable. A meaty carbonara ($14) didn't have the usual bits of bacon but rather chunks in addition to Italian sausage. Veal piccata ($18) was creamy and rich but zesty, too, with a splash of lemon that reverberated in the dish.
Tiramisu ($6) is a good choice for dessert, but you'll probably need to bring home part of your dinner to make room for it. Service causes you to feel like a regular even if you aren't.
|Mediterraneo has been around for 13 years, a trattoria serving Italian fare such as insalata di mare (seafood salad), veal piccata and tiramisu. Favale says all pastas and sauces are made fresh.
- 408 Lewers St.
- Free validated parking at Ohana Waikiki Malia Hotel across the street, metered street parking, municipal pay parking lot around the corner on Kuhio Avenue
- Breakfast and lunch 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
- Wine bar 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.
- Wine and beer; next month full liquor license
This little perch sits on the Kuhio side of Lewers Street. Look up to the second floor, right past Quiznos, and you'll spy umbrellas over a few cafÚ tables on the balcony. Go through the plastic-curtain doorway reminiscent of a walk-in cooler, and you'll be in for a surprise this is definitely no meat locker, but a possible meat market during busier nights of the week. Dark wood, a brushed galvanized-steel bar and wine barrels give it an Italian enoteca feel.
Pane and Vino is a remembrance of cafes before Starbucks. This one just happens to serve wines and some simple Italian food along with its espressos and cappuccinos. By day, the place dishes out plain breakfast and lunch fare. At night, it's a full-fledged wine bar featuring wines from around the world, but without the fancy Cruvinet wine dispensers and small plates that many associate with the trend.
Breakfast offers a small selection of pancakes ($5.25), Belgian waffles ($5.25), cinnamon french toast ($5.95) and some egg dishes in the $7 range. Lunch has a few salads ($6.95 to $8.95) and pressed panini sandwiches with different fillings ($7.25 to $7.95).
A limited menu at dinner is strictly standard Italian. Antipasti include bruschetta ($5.75) and caprese salad ($7.75). Bistecca ($20), grilled beefsteak accompanied by a side salad, is the best seller, but you can also get soufflÚ-like lasagna ($13) made with bechamel sauce.
Pane and Vino is not a gourmet experience, but it resembles the easygoing hangouts common in big cities. Less than two months old, the place is still experiencing growing pains. It didn't have a wine list when I visited, and service is sometimes slow, although it comes with a gracious smile.
Owner Favale said that next month the cafe will have a full liquor license, and he's ready to roll out some Italian cocktails.
Reach Helen Wu at email@example.com.