Italian Cuisine With A Local Touch
Kaua’i Pasta serves Italian-style meals and quality local food in keiki-friendly dining rooms.
“We are casual, borderline fine-dining,” says Kapa’a location co-owner Jon Heller. “We have white-linen tablecloths, but you can dress any way you want.”
The hardwood floors and original art are the design of Heller’s daughter, Karolyn Stokes. She and her husband, executive chef Russell Stokes, own and operate two locations in Lihue and Kapa’a.
Here, we’re focusing on the Kapa’a eatery.
“Each room has a different ambiance. You can sit wherever you want and order from any menu,” says Heller of the two dining rooms, KP Lounge and six menus.
The lunch menu features half-size portions of soup, salads, pastas and hot Italian sandwiches called panini. Every day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can choose two items for $9.95.
“We have couples who split a house pasta and a house salad, and they’re happy – and we’re happy too,” Heller says. The main menu features homemade marinara, alfredo, macadamia nut pesto and a meat sauce made with Kaua’i beef.
“Local food is my inspiration,” says executive chef Jeffrey Aguinaldo, who was born and raised in Koloa. “I like clean, simple flavors and rich, meaty comfort foods.”
Posted on Kaua’i Pasta’s Facebook page are nightly specials such as Kaua’i prawns poached in bacon fat with local Meyer lemon bÃ©arnaise sauce and North Shore oyster mushroom ravioli, which are paired with wines such as Nicole Chanrion Côte-de-Brouilly.
Aguinaldo’s roots inspire dishes such as A’akukui Ranch beef tenderloin served with adobo peppercorn-marrow sauce. “I’m Filipino, so I like adobo and stewed meat – that’s comfort food to me.”
Pizza master Ryan Trenton stretches out homemade dough when the order comes in. The Prosciutto di Parma and arugula pizzetta ($14.95, dinner only) has a thin crust that holds crispy prosciutto and Parmesan cheese with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and truffle oil.
Tucked in the back of the restaurant is the trendy KP Lounge.
“This is the new place to be in Kapa’a,” says bartender Joe Botchie. “It’s super swanky. It’s got a really good feel to it, and we have amazing bartenders!”
R&B pumps through the speakers while customers enjoy happy hour. Colorful earth tones add strokes of amber, orange and red to dark chocolate walls; a brown leather couch is tucked behind the granite-topped bar. A soccer game is on the big screen with the volume turned down.
“I love our edamame; we make it fresh to order,” says Botchie of the Edamame with Soy and Shichimi ($3). “I call ’em hot wings because they’re spicy and you can just pop ’em in your mouth.”
The Truffle Parmesan Fries ($6) have a crispy, bubbled skin with creamy insides. With a good shake of Parmesan, a sprinkle of fresh parsley and a drizzle of truffle oil, they are addicting. It’s fun alternating among the four homemade dipping sauces: Italian tomato coulis, roasted red pepper rÃ©moulade, creamy alfredo and cool ranch.
“We do a different gourmet burger every night after 9 p.m.,” says Botchie of the freshly ground, house-made hamburgers. “Last night was honey chipotle with garlic aioli, arugula and tomato on grilled ciabatta bread, served with truffle fries,” he adds, noting that the kitchen stays open until 11 p.m. “It’s not on the menu, though. You have to ask for it.”
“At 9:30 it’s standing room only,” says Heller of the lounge’s theme nights where music and movies play late into the evening. “We have an ’80s night, jazz night, kung fu theater night, rum and reggae night and an underground hip-hop night.”
Botchie is behind the bar making his signature Rum and Coke Float.
“It’s a milkshake with ground Oreos, Coke, ice cream and loaded with rum.” The milkshake takes me back to childhood yet reminds me that I’m all grown up.
Whether you want a post-beach lunch, a wholesome family dinner, fine dining for two or a party into the night, Kaua’i Pasta is a popular option for any occasion.
“KP Lounge is the perfect place to pull over and have a drink and a pupu when you’re stuck in Kapa’a traffic,” says Heller.
I think the KP Lounge is the perfect place to go when I’m feeling super swanky.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Happy hour every day, 3-5 p.m.
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight
Friday -Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.