Explore the Dining Scene on Kaua‘i With These 3 New Restaurants

These recently opened restaurants offer gourmet bento boxes, wood-fired pizzas and sizzling steak barbecue.

The beginning of 2017 means it’s time for new adventures! If it’s been a while since you’ve explored the dining scene on Kaua‘i, three recently opened restaurants are worth a visit—whether you’re in the mood for sushi or barbecue or wood-fired pizza.



Japanese grandma's sushi
Photos: Daniel Lane & Pono Photo LLC

​Keiko Napier was born in Hong Kong and raised in California, where her father, a Japan-trained master chef, owned a Japanese restaurant. Napier moved to Kaua‘i last year, renovated the 1926 USO Club building in Hanapepe and opened Japanese Grandma's Café in August. The cozy dining area features four small tables, and, behind a counter, master sushi chef Shinji Ueki prepares rolls and sashimi with fresh fish from Tsukiji Market in Japan.


We like the bento bowls, which include steamed rice, miso soup and a green salad studded with carrots and beets ($11 to $22). Uncover the bowl, and three bite-size preparations of chef’s choice may include steamed asparagus spears with wasabi cream, kale salad with rich sesame dressing and sunomono, crisp cucumber and wakame seaweed in a light dressing. Entrée choices for the sets include crisp mixed tempura, filet mignon or organic chicken with a light house-made teriyaki sauce.


Japanese grandma's bento


If you want, you can bring your own sake, order your meal to go and eat outside in the café’s spacious garden that overlooks Pu‘ulani Mountain.


3871 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe, (808) 634-0101, japanesegrandma.com



Tom Iannucci was born in New York and raised on that city’s iconic pizza. While traveling the world as a U.S. Marine, he missed his beloved pie. His wife, D’Lissa, who was born and raised in Kekaha, encouraged him to train in Italy and tolerated a wood-fired oven in her driveway until the couple opened Pietro’s this past September.


Iannucci has gotten certification from the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association—which makes Pietro’s the only certified pizzeria in Hawai‘i, according to the VPNA website. He makes dough every morning with Italian flour, hand tosses the crust and serves pizza two ways. At lunch, order New-York-style pizza from a takeout window and eat outdoors on the covered lānai. For dinner, order Neapolitan pizza and eat inside the restaurant ($3 and up for a slice, $20 to $27 for a large pizza).


Stained-wood slats and corrugated metal line the walls. In the corner, a hand-made Italian wood-burning oven cooks pizza in 90 seconds. Crusts are thin and chewy, and topped with delicacies that include bresaola (cured beef), crushed Italian tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano, extra-virgin Italian olive oil, arugula and a drizzle of balsamic syrup.


There’s a small but excellent wine list and Italian beer on tap. Cordials that include limoncello pair nicely with Nutella pizza or zeppole, nuggets of pizza dough that are fried and topped with powdered sugar.


3501 Rice St., Līhu‘e, (808) 245-2266



Paniolo barbecue

If you want to find Paniolo Santa Maria Style BBQ, just follow your nose along a smoky path that billows from slabs of tri-tip sizzling on a $15,000, custom-made grill with silver wheels and a trailer hitch.


This barbecue comes from a tradition that started in California’s Santa Maria Valley in the mid 1800s. Ranch owners gave tri-tip, a sirloin off-cut, to hired vaqueros, and the Mexican cowboys rendered the tough meat into smoky succulence by cooking it over a direct fire.


At Paniolo, we like the thin and juicy slices piled on a plate loaded with house-made chili, steamed rice, a green salad and French bread ($15), or in a sandwich topped with lettuce and salsa fresca ($10). The burgers, also, are worth trying.


4-1345 Kūhiō Highway, Kapaʻa, (808) 431-1668