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Adventures in Italian dining at Assaggio


Penne Arrabbiata

Who doesn’t love Italian food? And while pizza has become a ubiquitous American staple, Italian restaurants in general have become more sophisticated and creative. Not too long ago a simple dish of spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna was most folk’s idea of Italian food. Today we know that there is much more to Italian cuisine and restaurants have risen to satisfy the demands of clients’ increasingly sophisticated palates.

Here on O’ahu, Assaggio Ristorante Italiano has been serving up Italian specialties to locals and visitors for nearly twenty years. Now with five locations across the island, the restaurant continues to offer authentic Italian-American cuisine with great service at affordable prices.

One glance at the menu confirms that this is a serious Italian restaurant. The antipasti selection includes favorites such as beef Carpaccio, clams casino, prosciutto and melon and eggplant rollatini. A house specialty is the Caesar salad, prepared table side by your server, using the traditional fresh egg and anchovies. For lighter fare, try the Caprese salad with sliced buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil, or the home-made minestrone soup.

Assaggio is a pasta lover’s paradise. Linguine, fettucine or rigatoni can be ordered with sauces ranging from a simple marinara to a sophisticated Carbonara with bacon and ham, pan-fried in olive oil with garlic, onions, egg and Parmesan cheese. Seafood enthusiasts can enjoy their linguine and clams with either a white wine or tomato sauce. House specialty pastas include linguine with broccoli and olive oil and the linguine Puttanesca, pan fried in olive oil, with garlic, anchovies, capers, chili flakes and Italian parsley in a light spicy tomato sauce.

Chicken, veal and seafood entrees come with choice of pasta, potatoes or vegetable. Preparations include alla Milanese- lightly breaded and pan fried in olive oil, alla Marsala- with mushrooms and a Marsala wine butter sauce, alla Piccatta- pan fried with garlic, lemon and capers, and all Frencese- with egg batter, lemon and a white wine butter sauce. The Osso Bucco alla Romana is a braised veal shank with onions and garlic in a lightly seasoned tomato sauce. Vegetarians are not forgotten and can enjoy dishes like the cheese ravioli and eggplant all Parmigiana.

All the pastas and entrees can be ordered as a small portion or large portion. Unless you are a very hearty eater, the small portion is normally more than sufficient. Plus, this will allow room for dessert. Assaggio serves a very impressive house-made cannoli, with a surprisingly light and crispy shell.

Wine is available by bottle and the glass, including two types of Chianti. There is also a full bar.

With five locations across O’ahu, including Ala Moana, Hawaii Kai, Kailua, Mililani and Kapolei, good Italian food is only minutes away at Assaggio.

For more info: Assaggio Ristorante Italiano, (808) 942-3446 (Ala Moana location)