Taormina Sicilian

Thicker than spaghetti, bucatini pasta holds up well to a rich sauce made with fresh sardines. The dish is from Taormina Sicilian Cuisine.

Photo by Monte Costa

I was in no particular hurry to get to Taormina, which opened on Lewers Street last fall. The buzz was negative. This was supposed to be a Sicilian restaurant, and one acquaintance of mine—only two or three generations removed from Sicily—pronounced it terrible. The reviews were respectful, but dull. They made Taormina sound like a place where you might go for rigatoni arrabiata or spaghetti Bolognese. Oh, wow, driving into Waikiki for red sauce.

There’s no substitute for firsthand experience. I corralled a friend who spends a lot of time in Italy and booked a table.

This restaurant is nearly brilliant.

It’s not what most people expect. It’s not Assaggio, serving up solid American-Italian cuisine from Vietnamese chefs. It’s a Japanese-Italian restaurant, but hardly Angelo Pietro, with its natto and bacon spaghetti for $8.50. Taormina is a dead-on, serious, white-tablecloth, expensive Italian restaurant—with some compelling cross-cultural ideas...

ARCHIVED:  Read John Heckathorn's entire review in our "Lewers and Kalakaua," May 2008 issue.