New Look At Kauai Pasta Lihue

Russell Stokes is the owner of KP Lihue.

Russell Stokes
Owner-chef, Kauai Pasta Lihue

Please tell us about your business.

KP Lihue is an Italian restaurant I opened for kamaaina that offers a price point that encourages people to dine here regularly. I wanted to have a place where people can come and have something super simple like marinara or house pasta whenever you want, or have something really nice and more contemporary, or fine dining like our steak or fish entrée specials.

Where were you born and what high school did you graduate from?

I was born in Portland, Ore., and moved to Kauai when I was 8 years old. I graduated from Kapaa High School.

How did you learn to cook?

I grew up in an environment where everyone was always cooking and food was the central purpose for our Italian household to get together. I learned how to cook from my grandmother and my mother, and the foundation of everything I learned is from our family’s style of marinara sauce. I created a menu with the kind of food I used to eat growing up.

What is your professional background as a chef?

At 19, I started working at Roy’s on Kauai and that’s when I got really involved in cooking as a profession. I learned that it’s not just about a fast-paced environment, you can also be creative. The training there was unbelievable, and by the time I left I’d become the executive chef.

When did you open your restaurant?

About 12 years ago, after working at Roy’s, I opened Kauai Pasta in Kapaa. The menu kept evolving every year and expanding. I opened KP Lihue about two years later because the other restaurant was such a success. Though I am no longer affiliated with the Kapaa location, I look forward to continuing to grow KP Lihue.

Please tell us about your recent renovation.

I wanted to give the restaurant a more metropolitan, lounge feel. I wanted something to make patrons feel like they’re in the city. We also now have a full service wrap-around bar that offers everything including contemporary cocktails like Lihue Manhattan and Italian Sunrise.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business?

I love seeing people, young chefs and front of the house staff move forward and leave here much better and more experienced than they were when they started. I love seeing people move up and work their way toward becoming chefs, for example.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

Having a restaurant is challenging, there’s no doubt about it. I’m lucky to have really solid people helping me because the most challenging part is finding those key players.

What sets your business apart from other places?

We have such a broad spectrum of food — you can get whatever you want.

You can order takeout, you can come after work and get something simple and not spend too much money, or you can dress up and come here with a date and order something more elaborate. We also have a great staff and a friendly atmosphere.

What are some future plans for your restaurant?

Doing the same thing we’ve been doing, which is constantly trying to rebrand ourselves every year so that we aren’t just stagnating. So if you come here two years from now, it’s going to be a new experience with new specials and new drinks.
3-3142 Kuhio Hwy., Lihue