First Look: Appetito Craft Pizza & Wine Bar

The pizza may not be ready yet, but the rest of the menu makes up for that.


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The $25 wine flight with salami and cheeses is available during Appetito’s happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. The restaurant opened on Nov. 1 in Waikīkī.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

With “craft pizza” in its name, you might be disappointed to find the very expensive pizza oven in Appetito Craft Pizza & Wine Bar in Waikīkī empty and unused.

 

Until you actually eat there.

 

Then you realize the 5,000-square-foot open-air restaurant, in the lobby of the ‘Ohana Waikīkī East Hotel, doesn’t really need the pizza. The rest of the food on the menu can stand on its own.

 

Appetito, which opened this month, is run by the restaurant management company WDI International. (It also manages Taormina Sicilian Cuisine, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, Gen Korean BBQ House and the soon-to-open dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan.) This new concept is billed as being a more casual, affordable alternative to Taormina.

 

SEE ALSO: First Look: Gen Korean BBQ House

 

Appetito’s menu features a variety of dishes, from fresh egg frittata ($9) for breakfast to a light matcha tiramisu with layers of azuki beans ($9) for dessert.

 

Deep-fried cauliflower is paired with a roasted paprika mayo.

 

While the kiawe-wood-fired oven isn’t up and running yet—and the restaurant is still tinkering with pizza recipes—the other lunch and dinner items more than make up for that. The clever ‘ahi poke bruschetta ($15) features cubed ‘ahi, avocado, cilantro and gochujang sauce on a toasted crostini. Deep-fried, Parmesan-crusted cauliflower florets ($9) satisfy the craving for something salty and fried but with far less guilt. And the deep-fried portobello mushrooms ($9), already the restaurant’s most popular appetizer, aren’t super crispy but keep their firmness and match well with the pesto aioli dipping sauce.

 

My favorite of the small plates is the crispy fried chicken ($14), seasoned with cayenne pepper and Grana Padano cheese and served with a smoked pecorino cream fondue.

 

The most popular dish so far is the fried Portobello mushrooms. The restaurant goes through about 15 pounds of mushrooms a week.

 

The deep-fried chicken comes with a side of smoked pecorino cream fondue.

 

The restaurant serves a handful of pasta dishes, including one that showcases strozzapreti, a kind of elongated cavatelli you don’t often see on menus here. This dish ($23) incorporates shrimp sautéed in garlic and tossed in a bright arugula sauce and topped with more arugula. It looks like pesto, but it has a fresher, more herbaceous flavor thanks to the subtly peppery arugula.

 

The grilled dishes include a shareable 26-ounce T-bone steak grilled with rosemary and garlic ($48), hanger steak tagliata with sautéed onions and roasted bell peppers ($25) and a herb-marinated skillet lemon chicken ($16) that’s juicy and comforting.

 

The strozzapreti dish uses locally grown arugula.

 

The simple skillet lemon chicken dish.

 

For dessert—all $9 each—choose from a light and airy matcha tiramisu with layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese and azuki beans; ginger crème brûlée; a decadent chocolate-Nutella cake tempered with vanilla gelato; or butterscotch buddino, a creamy (albeit sweet) butterscotch pudding with dark rum caramel sauce that tastes like a grown-up Werther’s.

 

The butterscotch buddino is sweet but delicious.

 

The restaurant also has a great happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, with specials on cocktails, octopus ceviche, calamari, fried portobello and crispy fried chicken.

 

The pizza won’t be available until next month at the earliest. But with topping combinations such as chicken and spicy green curry, salsiccia and kale, shrimp pesto, king crab shishito and Korean yakiniku, we’ll definitely be back.

 

‘Ohana Waikīkī East Hotel, 150 Ka‘iulani Ave., (808) 922-1150, appetitowaikiki.com

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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