Ciao Time!

June 5, 2012 | By Margie Jacinto

Get a true taste of Sicily at this Beach Walk gem.

Hardly anyone ever questions the authenticity of Japanese cuisine here in Hawai‘i—whether a hole-in-the-wall eatery or award-winning establishment, diners agree that Hawai‘i can hold its own amongst its Tokyo counterparts. But what happens when one goes beyond the Pacific, say to the waters of the Mediterranean? Is there a venue that can give Waikiki diners a genuine food experience from that side of the hemisphere? In a word: Yes.

Enter Taormina. Named after a quaint Sicilian village off the coast of Italy, the restaurant’s aesthetic is crisp, modern and welcoming. An elegant respite from the foot traffic and tour buses that usually come and go right outside its doors, the two-story venue on Lewers Street attracts a majority of Japanese tourists (perhaps due to its detailed bilingual bill of fare and other Japanese-visitor friendly details) as well as those looking for a more upscale dining option.

As for its menu, it doesn’t scream, “Island fare,” nor should it, since that is not its intent. Executive chef Hiro Mimura—who once called Italy home before planting his roots here in O‘ahu—prides himself on offering southern Sicilian dishes with finesse.

The dinner menu is brimming with sumptuous offerings—selections are divided into several categories, starting with antipasti (appetizers) such as sliced prosciutto with melon, arugula and fresh mozzarella, accompanied with marinated squid and octopus; all the way down to dessert. But in between starters and sweet endings lies a medley of mouthwatering entrées. Noteworthy plates include the pasta pomodoro—a light, yet satisfying dish comprised of spaghettini al dente sautéed with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, garlic and basil. Unlike fare found in other parts of Italy, Sicilian cuisine is partial to bright, clean flavors, and of course, the generous use of extra virgin olive oil. Recently, Mimura introduced his Bolognese Classico—a hearty take on the traditional tomato-based meat sauce, though his version is made with beef, prosciutto and Hudson Valley foie gras, served atop fresh fettuccini. One of the richer items available, the new addition is predicted to become a favorite.

Visitors can also drop by for a midday meal. During this time, a lunch menu is available along with the usual à la carte offerings. But if you want to get an ultimate sampling of what the restaurant has to offer, “A Taste of Taormina” is worth looking into. For $60, you can savor an appetizer, soup, a pasta selection and meat course, as well as dessert.

Oenophiles will also appreciate the extensive wine list. Carefully curated by master sommelier Roberto Viernes, wines are classified either by type or by region. One page of the menu is solely dedicated to Italian varietals, while the other contains Viernes’ handpicked favorites from Napa, Australia and more. Moreover, each wine was chosen to match the flavors found on the menu. But wine pairing or not, Taormina will certainly leave you with an authentic Sicilian dining experience by the time you finish that last sip of espresso.

Taormina Sicilian Cuisine
Waikiki Beach Walk
227 Lewers St.
[C:7 Waikiki Map]
(808) 926-5050

Photos courtesy: Taormina Sicilian Cuisine