Find the Best Wine Deals in Honolulu at Rigo Spanish Italian Restaurant
Discover wines by the glass and by the bottle at this new restaurant.
Photos: Martha Cheng
I’ve been pushing all my pau hana to Rigo (three times in the past two weeks), which the Japan-based restaurant group Huge opened in May. Because what I love about Rigo are the great wine deals. A wine importer told me that Rigo should be charging way more for its wines. But instead, it offers interesting wines by the glass for less than $10 and bottles for less than $30. You’ll find a soft and light red made with cannonau grapes (also called grenache) from Sardinia ($7.50 a glass) and a fresh and crisp verdejo from Spain ($6.50 a glass). Among the 24 bottles for $28.50 each are the Medici Ermete Lambrusco Reggiano Secco (a dry, fizzy Italian red) and the Burgo Viejo Rioja Crianza (an easy Spanish red). There’s also an extensive wine list with bottles from $32 and up.
I don’t know anywhere else on the island you can find such compelling wines at that price—and in such a captivating dining room. What was once Genki Sushi is reimagined as midcentury modern meets French bistro, with tall floor-to-ceiling windows, chartreuse leather banquettes along the wall, a Don Draperesque lounge in the back and handsome bar in the front—where I usually find myself because it’s hard to get dinner reservations in the dining room less than a week in advance. (There’s also a private dining room in a former bank vault, which Huge uncovered when it chipped away at the plastered over walls.) It is refined enough to feel special, and yet casual enough that you can wear a baseball cap, order a Neapolitan pizza, bottle of wine and bucket ice for your wine glass (#solodininggoals).
In Tokyo, you’ll find expert Neapolitan pizza and French pastries that rival the best French bakeries in the world. So when the Japanese want to imitate a cuisine, they are capable of nailing it.
Rigo, however, is not that kind of restaurant. Its Spanish tortilla ($9), more of an American omelet, is not what you’d find in Madrid, nor its cacio e pepe ($15), with walnuts and fried prosciutto, what you’d get in Rome. And though the menu includes a papaya gazpacho (recommend) and Caesar salad with black sesame tuile (don’t recommend) it tilts slightly more traditional Spanish and Italian than Angelo Pietro. My favorites are the seafood paella ($23) with plenty of clams, shrimp and squid, and none of it overcooked, and the arrabiata ($15), with al dente pasta tossed in a bright tomato sauce made mysterious with chunks of smoked mozzarella. The pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven from Naples, but the dough lacks the loft I love from Neapolitan-style pizzas. They are, however, at $12 to $16, a good deal.
Stellar desserts include the tiramisu and crema catalana ($7 each), the latter like a crème brûlée, and both sensually creamy.
Rigo’s menu, though a hybrid of influences from Italy, Spain, Hawai‘i and Japan (still trying to convince myself to try the chilled pasta with Hokkaido scallops, bok choy and soy sauce), manages to convey what I love most about Spanish tabernas and Italian trattorias—a place to linger over food alongside highly drinkable and affordable wines.
885 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 735-9760, rigohawaii.com