Summer is here and as the days are longer...the heat and summer sun also feel stronger. When planning a dinner I find that I usually like to eat something fresh, crunchy, tasty and on the lighter side. Bernini Honolulu is a hidden gem in the Ala Moana area when seeking out delicious, authentic, contemporary Italian cuisine with a bit of Japanese flare. If you didn't already know some of the finest Japanese chefs in the world have studied in Italy and brought the cuisine home. This is certainly the case when it comes to Bernini.
In honor of the season, Bernini has created some unique "summer only" menu items through August that utilize farm fresh produce and proteins at their peak now. I was invited to taste the 10 specialty seasonal dishes they are now featuring, items include fresh beef, tako, pasta, risotto, seafood, and of course my fave...pizza. They focus on locally farmed products and offer a great combination of meats and cheeses with something fresh and crunchy to accompany the dish like tomato, arugula and fennel.
Familiar items like Shinsato Pork and Kahuku Corn can be found on the menu, which is focused on keeping the palate happy and not overwhelmed with heavy creams, or other overwhelming seasonings. After each item came out it was apparent the dishes were not only created using summer ingredients but the dishes also left your tongue dancing and not bogged down with heavy butter or rich oily entrees. I honestly ate a bite, or two, of every dish and felt comfortable at the end of the meal, I didn't feel the urge to solicit a chair with wheels to roll me out of there. It was nice to embrace the summer flavors which are meant to cool you down and leave your tummy full.
My favorite item of the night was the homemade pasta made with fresh, delicate fettuccine and pork ragout, which was like a light brown gravy... and if I had to pick another it would be the risotto with summer truffles. Both sound really decadent and rich but the flavors were so uniquely fragrant and intense, yet light, such a treat. I loved how fresh the pasta was and how moist and delicious the pork ragout was! A must try if you love pasta.
Here's my Food RevHeu for Bernini Honolulu's summer menu (stay tuned for their fall specials later this year):
The Venetian-style beef carpaccio with arugula and aioli sauce - is a staple dish for Italian cuisine. The beef is finely sliced and served on a bed of spicy arugula which adds a nice texture to the meat. I loved that the carpaccio was still tender and not rubbery or chewy. The flavors were vibrant and a great starter. Heads up if you don't like rare or raw meat you may not like this dish, but you should try it to be adventurous and try everything once. Its not as bad as it seems.
Marinated octopus (Madako) with tomato, orange and fennel salad was delightful and tender. I usually don't eat octopus, but I gave this one a try (see above for reminder). The fennel salad added a really pleasant celery-like texture and the tomato a sweet citrus, perfect dish for someone who is looking for a light refreshing salad.
Caviar on capellini noodles was reminiscent of eating a somen salad to me. The honest truth is this dish is a bit on the pricey side because of the caviar and it is hands down the most photogenic item on the menu, but it wasn't that interesting. The caviar adds texture and savory hints but the pasta is plain and the tomatoes add color, but thats about it. Beautiful plate tho...It got 200 likes on my Instagram page.
Homemade fettuccine with pork ragout was hands down the best thing I ate that day. The pasta was so fresh it would practically break a part on my tongue. The pork ragout tasted like my aunt would make in the old country with only the freshest and finest ingredients -- oh and lots of love. This dish kept us wanting more!
Risotto parmigiano with Kahuku corn and truffles was another smash hit. Risotto is a type of rice so it has that comfort food feel to it. Topped with the sweetness and crunchy texture from the corn and the salt from the house made pancetta the flavor profile is already superb, but add to the the decadent summer truffle and this dish is a home run. Everyone wanted a second or third serving, if you don't like mushrooms then you don't know what you are missing. Truffles offer an aromatic voyage unlike any other and the memory will last a lifetime. This dish is a little on the pricey side because of the truffle, but it could serve 2-4 people easy, if you share, some might want the entire dish for themselves.
The "Norma" pizza - was wonderful. Bernini does a really delicious thin crust, homemade, oven cooked pizza that is very authentic. The toppings are a great combination of sweet and savory with wonderful texture.
Veal cutlet was a beautiful dish. The veal was cooked perfectly and the addition of the tomato and baby kale salad really complemented the dish. I am not a huge veal fan, but this was a nice, simple yet elegant entree.
The swordfish stuffed with scallop is obviously a great combo for someone who loves seafood. The broth was also excellent for dipping the homemade bread. The clams, prawns and stuffed fish are all cooked to perfection and very moist. Love the combination of stuffing the scallop mousse in the fresh fish.
Lastly, dessert left everyone a happy camper -- the coffee gelee was light and had a great flavor combination and the pineapple tart was my favorite. It looked like a pineapple upside-down cake, but was a bit more upscale and had the nice crunchy tart crust with a delightful pineapple chip on top. The yogurt cream served with the pineapple was a perfect combination of tart, sweet and creamy.
Here's a look at Bernini Honolulu's tasty summer dishes - prices range from $8-45.
1218 Waimanu Street 591-8400 www.berninihonolulu.com