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Waikiki Eats: Taormina Sicilian Cuisine

When I first started The Tasty Island, I stated on my ‘About’ page that my favorite cuisine is Italian. And it really is ONE of my TOP FIVE. However, I updated that, where if I had to choose the best of the best, when it comes down to it, Japanese cuisine is no question my ichiban no ka oi favorite of all. Still, Italian cuisine ranks a strong runner-up first place on my list, where I want to start seeking out Honolulu’s best Italian restaurants of 2015 and beyond as a tasty (<—-nice word!) new project.

Enter Taorimina Sicilian Cuisine, located in the very modern and revitalized Makai-side corridor of Lewers Street in Waikiki, right across the likes of Ruths Chris, Yard House and many other hip eateries for your convenient Waikiki dining pleasure.

Following are photos I shot of many of the exquisite dishes they offer, as well my first time dining experience at Taormina last week Friday evening. I’ll add more commentary later. For now, as always, enjoy! Ciao bella. ;-)


Inizia: A shot of chilled split-pea soup (of the day), served with mini puff pastry sandwich Prosciutto di San Daniele, mozzarella buffala, Ho farms cherry tomatoes and arugula. Part one of the five-course ‘Trinacria Collection’ A taste of Taormina.


Antipasto: Seared Ahi chilled and marinated with Italian herbs, served with pickled hearts of palm and watermelon radish. Part two of the five-course ‘Trinacria Collection’ A taste of Taormina.


Gli Antipasti Misti – Your choice of 4 kinds of chilled appetizers: Traditional cheese of Puglia “Burrata” ・ Ho farm sweet tomato & mozzarella buffala “Caprese” ・Palermo style “Caponata” ・Prosciutto di San Daniele & Kahuku papaya ・Chicken liver paté “Fegatini” with white truffle oil ・Seared tuna with pickled hearts of palm ・Marinated Squid & Octopus ・Mushroom marine with semi dry tomato ・Salmon marine with salmon egg. $22


Gli Antipasti Misti: Ho farm sweet tomato & mozzarella buffala “Caprese”, Chicken liver paté “Fegatini” with white truffle oil, Seared tuna with pickled hearts of palm and Marinated Squid & Octopus


Gli Antipasti Misti: Ho farm sweet tomato & mozzarella buffala “Caprese” (x4). $22


Insalata del Bosco: Organic greens with grape tomatoes, pear compote, beets, torn prosciutto, feta cheese and walnuts. $14


Chilled Spaghettini Salad: Chilled spaghettini, ho farms tomatoes, local avocado with balsamic served on a bed of arugula and mixed greens. $19

Chilled Green Pea Soup: Green pea, potato, heavy cream, milk and butter puree served chilled with a drizzle of olive oil. $9


Spaghetti al pomodoro con burrata: Spaghetti tossed with fresh tomato sauce and basil topped with burrata cheese. $25


Tartuffo fresco: Fresh fettuccine carbonara tossed with Hamakua mixed mushrooms and pancetta topped with a poached egg and shaved seasonal truffles


Tartuffo fresco: Fresh fettuccine carbonara tossed with Hamakua mixed mushrooms and pancetta topped with a poached egg and shaved seasonal truffles


Tartuffo fresco: Fresh fettuccine carbonara tossed with Hamakua mixed mushrooms and pancetta topped with a poached egg and shaved seasonal truffles


Truffles (the Fungi, not the chocolate) $$$


Bolognese alla “Moderna”: Spaghetti sautéed in meat sauce with balsamic vinegar. $21

Bolognese alla “Classica”: Fresh tagliatelle pasta in meat sauce (beef, pork, chicken and foie grass) in a red wine sauce. $24


Taormina Souse Chef Naomi Ito and Executive Chef Hiroyuki Mimura


Risotto di funghi porcini con Foie Gras: Risotto sautéed with porcini and mix mushroom and parmesan cheese topped with sautéed foie gras and balsamic reduction. $32


Risotto di funghi porcini con Foie Gras: Risotto sautéed with porcini and mix mushroom and parmesan cheese topped with sautéed foie gras and balsamic reduction. $32


Crostacei: Fresh spaghetti pasta tossed with lightly spiced tomato cream sauce served with sauteed lobster. $33


Crostacei: Fresh spaghetti pasta tossed with lightly spiced tomato cream sauce served with sauteed lobster. $33

Fresh pasta nero “Frutti di mare”: Squid ink linguine sautéed with shrimps, clams, mussels, scallops, crab meat, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. $27


Fresh pasta nero “Frutti di mare”: Squid ink linguine sautéed with shrimps, clams, mussels, scallops, crab meat, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. $27

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Sarde e Finochetti 2015: Spaghettini with sautéed sardine, fennel. anchovy, olive, caper, tomato paste and bread crumbs topped with a sautéed sardine filet. $24


Taormina server Kaui and Pomai


Pesce del giorno: Catch of the day and vegetables grilled and topped with oregano dressing.


Pesce del giorno: Catch of the day (Monchong) and vegetables grilled and topped with oregano dressing.


Grilled Chicken with Brown Butter Sauce: Chicken breast and thigh grilled and topped with lemon butter, capers and garlic sauce served with grilled vegetables. $24


Veal cutlet alla Taormina: Veal cutlet with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce with baby arugla. $46


Filet di Manzo alla Griglia: Grilled prime beef tenderloin with balsamic reduction served with grilled vegetables. $39


Prime rib eye: Grilled prime aged rib eye with our original marinade served with vegetables and horseradish. $46


Prime rib eye: Grilled prime aged rib eye with our original marinade served with vegetables and horseradish. $46


Grilled Lamb Chops “Luca Pecorini”: Colorado lamb chops seasoned with mixed herb and spices served with grilled vegetables. $52


Actor James Franco’s clone, server Nick


Afogarto: Vanilla gelato with espresso coffee. $7


Cannoli Siciliano: Homemade Sicilian cannoli with ricotta cream, chocolate chip and caramel nuts al Marsala served with vanilla gelato. $9


Torta di chocolata al cardo: Flouer less warm chocolate cake with vanilla gelato and berries. $10


Tiramisu: Classic tiramisu. $9


Complimentary Birthday Tiramisu and Ice Cream Dessert

Following is my “spread”.


Dinner bread topped with melted Mozzarella and Pesto, served with the finest imported Italian Balsamic Vinegar and EVOO, accompanied with a glass of Super Cabernet- stags leap ‘artemis’ $25.00 (Best Cabernet by glass)

Bruschetta di mascarpone con gamberetti e capesante: Chopped prawns and scallops sautéed with white wine, mascarpone cheese and sundried tomatoes on crispy toast.


Bruschetta di mascarpone con gamberetti e capesante: Chopped prawns and scallops sautéed with white wine, mascarpone cheese and sundried tomatoes on crispy toast.


Bruschetta di mascarpone con gamberetti e capesante: Chopped prawns and scallops sautéed with white wine, mascarpone cheese and sundried tomatoes on crispy toast.


Bruschetta di mascarpone con gamberetti e capesante: Chopped prawns and scallops sautéed with white wine, mascarpone cheese and sundried tomatoes on crispy toast.


Bolognese alla “Moderna”: Spaghetti sautéed in meat sauce with balsamic vinegar.


Bolognese alla “Moderna”: Spaghetti sautéed in meat sauce with balsamic vinegar.


Bolognese alla “Moderna”: Spaghetti sautéed in meat sauce with balsamic vinegar.


Bolognese alla “Moderna”: Spaghetti sautéed in meat sauce with balsamic vinegar.


Bolognese alla “Moderna”: Spaghetti sautéed in meat sauce with balsamic vinegar.


Fresh pasta nero “Frutti di mare”: Squid ink linguine sautéed with shrimps, clams, mussels, scallops, crab meat, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.


Fresh pasta nero “Frutti di mare”: Squid ink linguine sautéed with shrimps, clams, mussels, scallops, crab meat, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.

Fresh pasta nero “Frutti di mare”: Squid ink linguine sautéed with shrimps, clams, mussels, scallops, crab meat, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.


Peach Compote: Whole peach marinated in white wine, cinnamon, served chilled over homemade orange granita topped with vanilla anglaize and lemon zest. $12


Peach Compote, simmered over a day in white wine, cinnamon and sugar, served with orange “shave ice” and vanilla Gelato


Taormina Sicilian Cuisine Assistant Manager Kazu Kato and Pomai Souza ~ 9.04.15


Taormina Sicilian Cusine Executive Chef Hiroyuki Mimura and Pomai ~ 9.04.15


Taormina Sicilian Cuisine Supervisor Gina Mataele and Pomai Souza of The Tasty Island (huge mahalos, Gina!) ~ 9.04.15

Taormina Sicilian Cuisine
227 Lewers Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96815

(808) 926-5050
www.TaorminaRestaurant.com

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Related links:
Taormina Sicilian Cuisine – Yelp user reviews
Taormina Sicilian Cuisine – Trip Advisor user reviews

11 thoughts on “Waikiki Eats: Taormina Sicilian Cuisine

  • September 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm
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    Everything looks delicious. Between this post and the pizza one, I feel pretty lame reading it while eating my totinos frozen pizza and grape juice dinner. Like back in college!

    Why wear sunglasses in the evening?

    Reply
    • September 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm
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      h,

      Excellent question. Actually, I walk a lot around Waikiki (it’s my “backyard”), and arrived here around 7pm when the sun was just setting. I often have my glasses still on my head because of that. Otherwise, strictly baldness, baby. lol

      Reply
  • September 12, 2015 at 5:20 pm
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    Pomai,

    Back in Rhode Island, nestled in between Boston, MA’s “North End” little Italy and New Haven, CT’s “Wooster Street” Italian restaurants and Pizzerias district (when Frank Sinatra was in New York he would send his driver to Wooster St for his favorite pizza) to New York City’s “Little Italy” in Manhattan, we had “Federal Hill” Italian neighborhood. I had so many restaurants serving Italian cuisine I had it coming out my ears! Just about every restaurant in Rhode Island no matter what cuisine they specialized in has at least 1 Italian dish on the menu.

    You have not eaten Italian till you’ve sat down at an Italian family table for Sunday dinner. My best buddy is Italian and his family was old school. His father made his own wine and his mother made fantastic sausage. One Sunday his mother deboned a whole chicken and stuffed it with meats, cheese, spices and sausage so it looked like a real chicken and then roasted it to a golden brown. That Sunday she made about 12 courses for dinner but when she brought the roasted chicken out and started slicing across the whole chicken I was totally amazed to see perfect crisp chicken skin and meat encasing stuffing with no bones.

    Of course his father made sure your glass was always full of wine with each course and then he would bring out his special red, special white or special pink wine for you to try and then after dinner there were the special alcoholic mixed drinks to try! You eat till you fall down, then get up and eat some more same with the wines. Rustic home cooking, dam simple, fresh flavors and oh so good!!!

    Rhode Island is famous for its all-you-can-eat Family Style Chicken Dinner based on an Italian tradition only served in restaurants in the upper Blackstone Valley where I used to live. Depending on the restaurant when you sit down would be served a large basket of warm Italian bread or sticky cinnamon rolls and butter followed by large bowl of Italian chicken pasta vegetable soup; when bread and soup is empty a replacement would arrive till you indicated server to stop; next served would be a large bowl of salad with dressing also refilled till you indicated to server to stop; next served would be pasta in red gravy (spiced tomato sauce) sometimes accompanied depending on restaurant Italian sausage and meat balls which would be refilled till you tell server to stop; next served would be French fries or oven roasted potatoes and ¼ pieces of herbed slow roasted golden juicy chicken falling off the bone which would be refilled till you tell server to stop and finally some restaurants include an ice cream dessert. The average 2015 price for this gastronomical juggernauted is $12 adult and $9 child.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2015 at 4:00 pm
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    Pomai,
     
    You might want to think twice about going back to Taormina Sicilian Restaurant.
     
    I thought you dish of Bolognese alla “Classica”: Fresh tagliatelle pasta in meat sauce (beef, pork, chicken and foie grass) in a red wine sauce looked very strange and not right for what they were advertising.
     
    First off Bolognese sauce is called “Ragu” in Bolognese and normally made from the cut of beef in the neck portion of the chuck. Bolognese sauce should be cooked not less than 3 hours. Some people use 1 part ground pork, preferably from the neck or Boston butt, to 2 parts beef. Sicilian Bolognese sauce is more delicate than the familiar bolognese sauce where 3 parts of ground veal to 1 part pork is used. Bolognese sauce is a hearty sauce and requires pasta that is wider than fettuccine such as Tagliatelle Pasta.
     
    Definition of Tagliatelle Pasta from wikipedia.org: Tagliatelle (Italian pronunciation: [taʎʎaˈtɛlle]) and tagliolini (from the Italian tagliare, meaning “to cut”) is a traditional type of pasta from Emilia-Romagna and Marche, regions of Italy. Individual pieces of tagliatelle are long, flat ribbons that are similar in shape to fettuccine and are typically about 6.5 mm to 10 mm (0.25 to 0.375 inch) wide. Tagliatelle can be served with a variety of sauces, though the classic is a meat sauce or Bolognese sauce. Tagliolini is another variety of tagliatelle that is long and cylindrical in shape, not long and flat.
     
     From your photo of Bolognese alla “Classica” Fresh tagliatelle pasta in meat sauce (beef, pork, chicken and foie grass) in a red wine sauce at $24 it sure looks like you didn’t get what was advertised on the menu plus no Italian in Bolognese would ever serve Bolognese sauce over spaghetti because the sauce is too thick.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2015 at 8:06 pm
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    Ken,

    Hmm. Interesting. I’ll bring up your concern about the Bolognese dish to Chef Mimura. I thought it had all the complexity the dish should have, however I must admit, the Frutti Di Mare was my fave of the two main courses. AMAZING.

    Of course there’s no comparison to eating home cooking with an Italian family in all the (as always awesome!) elaborate ways you describe. Yet FWIW, all things considered, these guys at Taormina have deep love for it and do Italian cuisine proud. Highly recommended.

    Reply
  • September 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm
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    I don’t know Pomai,
     
    Of all my years of eating Italian cuisine in RI, MA, CT and NY, I’ve never seen where a restaurant advertises one thing on the menu and gives you something else. There are over 100 types of pasta and each one is used with a specific sauce plus depending on the sauce you use either factory made dried pasta or fresh made egg pasta for the texture and ability to soak up the sauce.
     
    I’ve also never seen bruschetta just poured on the plate over the bread like chipped beef on toast; “Bruschetta di mascarpone con gamberetti e capesante”. According to world recognized Italian recipe cookbook author Marcella Hazan of Venice, Italy in her latest book; “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” which is on the best seller list and reference guide for novice cooks to professional chefs she states; “Directly from the Latin verb and into the modern vernacular of Rome come the verb bruscare, which means to toast (as in a slice of bread), or roast (as with coffee beans); hence bruschetta, whose most important component, aside from the grilled bread itself, is olive oil.
     
    On those brisk days that bridge the passage from fall to winter, and signal the release of the year’s freshly pressed olive oil, toasting bread over a smoky fire and soaking it with spicy, laser-green newly minted oil is a practice probably as old as Rome itself. From Rome bruschetta spread through the rest of central Italy—Umbria, Tuscany, Abruzzi—and acquired other ingredients: invariably now, garlic and here and there, tomatoes.”
     
    All of my Italian cookbooks and photos on the Internet show the toppings tastefully and decoratively placed and cooked on the toasted bread which is finished with olive oil.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2015 at 9:03 am
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    Ken,

    Well, Chef Hiroyuki Mimura certainly has the training and accolades under his belt that deserves respect in any Italian kitchen, regardless of his Japanese heritage. Of which to note, many Italian cuisine aficionados themselves will say they’ve had some of the best Italian dishes from Italian restaurants in Japan.

    According to Chef Hiro’s Bio, he got his start in management at Trattoria Marumo in Tokyo, then moved to Florence, Italy where he worked in various fine dining restaurants as a Sous Chef. In 2004, Chef Hiro competed in the La Rotta del Vino Food Contest in Italy where he placed 4th in appetizer and 1st in the entree category. Chef Hiro is also fluent in Italian.

    Taormina’s Yelp reviews are pretty respectable as well, averaging 4 stars out of over 260 reviews, with quite a few mainland (including East coast folks) who raved about them (as good as SoCal folks raving about a Mexican restaurant here).

    I’m telling you, just give Taormina a try before passing judgement over the written menu alone. Regardless of your idea of authenticity, their dishes, along with the ambiance and service are all OUTSTANDING.

    PB h!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2015 at 2:18 pm
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    Pomai,
    Big mahalos for the detailed explanation of our restaurant and Chef Hiro’s resume snap shot. Chef Hiro gives all the credit to his mentor Chef named Luca Pecorini from Florence. We at Taormina Sicilian Cuisine also named our Colorodo Lamb Chops in honor of Master Chef Luca Pecorini.
    Just to clarify that the pic you have posted and described as “Classica” bolognese is actually our “Moderna” bolognese which is a modern style take that chef learned in Northern Italy. (Also our hands down MOST popular pasta for the 8 years we have been open) Without boring you with to much details, our “Moderna” takes over three hours to create. It pairs best TO CHEF HIRO’S taste with dry spaghetti pasta for many reasons including the texture of this pasta done aldente. As you mention it definitely needs to be tried before judged!!
    We do however also serve the “Classica” bolognese posted in our “Pasta Fresca” (fresh pasta) section of the menu. This dish includes pork (as mentioned in the above statement) as well as beef, chicken and a hint of foie grás for flavor. This pasta dish is best served with fresh fettuccine which is slightly wider than tagliatelle (not to be to detailed however Chef Hiro states that between regions pasta names and sizes slightly differs from one to another). Again this dish is created on the taste and experiences of Chef Hiro. This dish is newly added for about one year now and has also proven to be a success with our guests as well.

    All items on our wonderful menu are 100% created by Executive Chef Hiro which he uses his experience from Italy to create. It takes him a great deal of time and trials before we give any dish the honor of being on our Grand Menu. We offer many items as specials for periods of 1-3 months to get feed back which we respect and definitely take into consideration. Some items never make it to the Grand Menu.

    In our restaurant we appreciate and respect all guests opinions and as you mentioed we encourage all to come in, get comfortable and enjoy our menu and service which I strive to make the best experience possible for our all.

    Also as a side note we DO have regular yearly visitors from Taormina Italy who make it a point to visit us on their vacation which Chef and I take as one of THE best compliments to our establishment.

    Reply
    • September 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm
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      Well, Conan. You talked me into giving you a try. You are a five minute walk from my condo.

      Reply
  • September 18, 2015 at 9:23 am
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    Hi Pomai! We’re headed to Honolulu for a week in November. Taormina looks delicious! I’m deciding between that and Arancino at the Kahala. Have you been there? Would love to see a review!

     

     

    Reply

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