When I think back to our visit to Taverna, two words come to mind: comfort food. Also, two other words: pure gluttony. Or perhaps just: damn good. I suppose you can’t really sum up a visit to Taverna with a mere two words!
We visited Taverna one evening for a fantastically delicious dinner, along with my family and our friends. As you will come to see, we had quite the feast. To me, an indulgent Italian meal is best shared with a table full of people passing dishes around to one another, drinking wine, and sharing opinions (mostly about how good the food is).
I do want to preface this post by noting that my brother is a manager here, and his girlfriend, one of the chefs. They both had a night off and joined us at the place where they spend most of their days. Though I do enjoy a little shameless plug here and there, all opinions on our meal are 100% honest.
As far as service goes, when you dine with members of a restaurant’s family, you can be sure that you will be tended to well (and we were), so I can’t speak to the level of service you’d receive as an everyday patron. I can say if you ask for Aaron, you will be well cared for. Putting you in the hot seat bro.
The ambiance of a restaurant can often be just as important as what is on your plate, and that is definitely a strong point for Taverna. The decor is cozy; the lighting dim (and the reason why my pictures are all so dark – if you want pretty food pics, go early!). Not only is it a great place to share a meal with a group, it would be idyllic for a romantic meal as well.
Now let’s get into the most important part – the food!
Who can resist a good appetizer (or maybe it was more like seven appetizers)?
Pane Fresco al Forno di Casa (aka bread): I always love to start out a big Italian meal with fresh-baked bread, and Taverna’s is warm and fluffy. You might normally see a balsamic vinegar/olive oil combination for bread dipping, but Taverna changes it up and serves theirs with Hawaiian sea salt and olive oil. Tip: a little goes a long way with the salt. A slight bummer is that you do have to order the bread (and, *gasp*, pay for it…) as it does not come standard to every table. However, it is very tasty and they put a unique twist on it with the salt. Save some of that goodness and use it to soak up some of your saucy entrees later in the meal!
Insalata di Mare (Seafood Salad): One of my favorite antipasti was the Insalata di Mare, which is a seafood salad of seared island fish, shrimp, a scallop, tako (octopus), and lobster, served with a white balsamic emulsion and fried capers. The seafood was all cooked perfectly and the dish itself was so incredibly light and fresh! I will say it’s hard to split this one up with a large table of people but it would be a perfect appetizer for two.
Insalata Barbabietola e Formaggio di Capra (Beet & Goat Cheese Salad): Probably one of the best goat cheese/beet salads I’ve ever had! Mmmm those yellow beets, though. Taverna’s is made up of arugula, local beets, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, dried black mission figs, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic syrup. I love that they source food from local farms when they can – the beets are from Fresh Island Herbs, and the goat cheese is occasionally sourced from the local Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui (when available/price permitting). And the figs? Whaaat. I didn’t even know I liked figs. Nice touch.
Carpaccio di Manzo: Next was the beef carpaccio, which is thinly sliced beef filet, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, arugula, and shaved parmesan. Classic and simple. Could have done with a touch more seasoning.
Taverna Polpette: One of Taverna’s popular share plates is the polpette, which are beef and pancetta meatballs in chunky tomato sauce, served with grilled ciabatta bread. Who doesn’t like a good meatball? Everyone at the table loved these.
Caprese: For me, I always love to have a caprese dish because it’s just so refreshing. Good tomatoes are really key and the tomatoes in this dish were awesome, local tomatoes grown on the island in Haiku (my hometown!). Paired with those delicious tomatoes, you have bufala (buffalo) mozzarella, basil, sea salt, basil oil, and balsamic vinegar. I’d be totally fine eating a whole plate of this as my entree any day.
Pizza Bechamel: Not really sure that we can categorize pizza in antipasti, but seeing as how it was split between a group of people, I’m calling it an appetizer. This pizza was actually one of the stars of the evening! I will tell you, the best pizza we ever had was in Italy and I don’t think I’ll ever find anything to top that, but this pizza was super tasty. Though they have regular pizzas on their menu, this was the night’s special which was pizza bechamel with garlic, artichoke, red onion, mushroom, shrimp, and crab. They did the seafood pizza justice.
Craft Cocktails: Before we head into the main portion of dinner, I wanted to highlight Taverna’s craft cocktails, something that they really pride themselves on. You want to go to Hawaii and order a Mai Tai? Fine. I do it too! But ordering from their cocktail menu will introduce you to a whole new world of libations. I had the Rockafella Sour and I thought it was delightful, and a nice way to start off the meal. I do think the cocktails are a wee bit pricey, but then again, they aren’t your run of the mill drinks. These are tasty and creative and definitely worth the splurge.
Primi / Piatti Principale (Pasta & Main Dishes)
Bistecca alla Fiorentina: My brother-the-manager’s pick was the grilled T-bone steak, so it must be good right? It’s served with roasted cipollini onions, arugula, charred lemon, and truffle oil. We’ve had other friends order this at Taverna on a separate occasion and they were super satisfied.
Linguine con Vongole: My mom (a lifetime lover of clams) ordered the Linguine con Vongole – house-made pasta, manila clams, roasted fennel, Italian sausage, garlic, basil, and pinot grigio. The clams could have benefited from a touch less cooking, but we won’t hold that against you, Taverna. She said the flavor was so good, she can’t wait to go back and try it again!
Crab Manicotti: And for me? A big bowl of baked cheese. Juuuuust kidding (but really, it kind of looks like it….). This is the crab manicotti, conceptualized by none other than the culinary bad-ass Chef Chelsee (aka Chefette – my brother’s amazingly talented girlfriend). She recommended this dish for me as I’m among the non-meat eaters (seafood excluded). This sinfully tasty dish consists of house-made pasta, crab, ricotta, mascarpone, parmesan, arugula, tomato sauce, and lemon zest. It really is amazing how the lemon zest paired with the richness of the crab really elevates this dish!
If you want to walk away sporting a food baby, this will do the trick. A generous portion size!
Pappardelle con ragù di Agnello: This is one of those rustic dishes that will transport you right to the Italian countryside. This dish of house-made pasta, braising sauce, and braised shredded lamb shank was recommended by Chef Chelsee and was a favorite at the table.
Bucatini ala Amatriciana: Another hearty pasta dish, this house-made pasta is paired with guanciale pancetta, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and tomato sauce. One word comes to mind: rich. These are definitely the types of dishes that give you that warm, comforting feel. If you close your eyes, you could almost feel transported to Italy itself.
Ossobuco Gremolata: This was Micah’s entree and his favorite of all the dishes at the table. The Ossobuco Gremolata dish is a braised veal shank served over carnaroli risotto. Talk about a rich and hearty meal! And just look at the amount of food on the plate. Taverna is not shy with their portion sizes! The only thing he was not a huge fan of was the marrow (that’s what that little spoon is stuck into in the middle of the dish), but I think they may have just had an off night with that part of the dish…
Pesce del Giorno (fish of the day): The other special of the night was the seared salmon with pesto mash, fried Brussels sprouts, and grilled zucchini & mushrooms on a yellow beet sauce. By the time this dish came around to taste, I was so full so I didn’t get a chance to sink my teeth in it but there were no complaints from anyone else at the table!
We in no way consider ourselves wine connoisseurs. If it tastes good, that’s what is most important. And I don’t like to spend too much on it. But my brother has spent quite a while in the restaurant business so he knows his way around recommending wine that pairs well with your meal. Again, ask for Aaron!
Speaking of wine, they have Wine Wednesdays were you get 50% off a bottle of wine!
We started the meal off with this incredibly tasty and refreshing Vouvray.
And washed down our delicious meals with this Nebbiolo.
Ahhh dessert. Rather, I should say desserts – plural. Because after that meal we totally needed one of everything right?
Flourless chocolate cake: THE best dessert we had that evening was the flourless chocolate cake. It was very decadent, rich and just plain chocolate heaven. Bravo, Taverna.
Tirimasu: Kind of hard to go wrong with tiramisu! I generally order this dessert at every Italian restaurant I visit because it’s one of my favorite desserts and I’ve rarely come across a bad tiramisu. This is definitely one I would order again.
Panna cotta: Panna cotta has easily become one of my favorite desserts and I have Italy to thank for that. So if I sees it in the menu, I orders it. While it had really good flavor, I think it was a bit too fluffy in texture. I prefer the firmer set panna cotta. Not a bad dessert by any means though.
Apple Crostata: Everyone enjoyed this flaky apple dessert, served with vanilla bean cream ice cream and caramel sauce. Definitely big enough for sharing!
Stracciatella Gelato: And to finish the meal, we had a refreshing stracciatella gelato (kind of like the Italian version of chocolate chip ice cream). Although it wasn’t house-made, I definitely recommend this little cool bite at the end of your meal.
Want a little night cap before saying ciao? Stop by the bar and have one of the artists craft you something tasty.
We LOVED it! I trust my brother’s high standards and everyone that I send there is equally as happy. I would love to dig my paws into their eggplant parm on my next visit back, if that’s still on the menu.
Many thanks to Taverna for hosting my family! We hope to be back again in the soon-to-be.
2000 Village Road in Kapalua Resort
Phone: (808) 667-CIAO (2426)
Open: 5:30 p.m. to Close
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