Old Favorite: Cafe Sistina, Honolulu
"Why isn't this place packed?" asked the friend I met for dinner. "It's easy to find, has parking. On a Friday night years ago, you couldn't even get a seat. It was the heart of Honolulu's cafe society."
We were sitting in Sergio Mitroti's Café Sistina, which is even better looking than it was decades ago, given Mitroti's habit of seizing every available surface to reproduce a well-known Italian mural.
The place looked sharp, the service was professional, and the food was well worth eating.
Here's something I want to eat again: an eggplant, split in half, oven roasted and then topped with chopped tomato, basil, garlic and feta. A dish that manages to be light and yet substantial on the palate.
Here's something else I want to eat again: Mare Valenciana (below). This is a sort of Italian take on Spanish paella. No rice, instead black squid ink pasta. And it arrives covered with mussels, shrimp, fish, chicken and gets that wonderful flavor zap from chorizo.
Only the Spanish and the Portuguese seem to know that nothing makes seafood come alive like a little spicy sausage.
But it was the sauce here that pulled the whole thing together: Spanish paprika, saffron and lots and lots of white wine.
We had a few other things—mushrooms on polenta, veal Milanese with risotto—but the third thing I am sure I will have again was the bottle of Dolcetta d'Alba.
Dolcetta d'Alba is an Italian red with hardly the esteem given to wines made from nebbiolo, barbera and sangiovese.
But it's dark red, light on the palate, easy to drink, fabulous with pasta. And it was only $38 on the Sistina wine list, and that added to a pleasantly leisurely Italian dinner.
Cafe Sistina: Still good after all these years. First Interstate Building, 1314 S King St., (808) 596-0061