The restaurant that has it all
Friday - August 22, 2008
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With a view of the beach at Ala Moana, trade winds that breeze through open windows and a menu that’s packed with fresh food, Longhi’s offers some of the best eating in town.
From early morning, when the aroma of freshly baked breads and pastries drifts from the bakery to the restaurant, through sunny lunches, happy hours and dinner, Longhi’s is one of the restaurants I associate most with good food, family-style eating and fun.
Owner Bob Longhi knows good quality and instinctively understands family-style dining, the art of great conversation and the simple pleasures that come from a meal shared with good friends.
“My dad started Longhi’s because he used to throw these huge parties when we lived in Washington,” says co-owner Charlie Longhi.
The parties grew so famous and to such proportions that people would say to Bob,“Why don’t you open a restaurant?”
I’m never really sure whether it’s the Mediterranean-inspired food, the great company, the positive energy or the breathtaking views (particularly at sunset), but whatever it is, Longhi’s works.
“The Longhi style is infectious,” agrees general manager Mary Ann Bowman. “At Longhi’s, we really want people to have a great time. I feel like people are coming to my house when they’re in the restaurant, and I want them to leave happy and feeling like they can’t wait to come back. Sometimes it’s ridiculous how much we care about our guests.”
The caring, coupled with high-quality ingredients and a well-trained staff, works - even in tough times.
“We know that the economy has changed the way people are spending,” says Bowman, a nine-year veteran with the company. “We have guests who have cut back on dinner, yet they’re coming instead for breakfast or lunch. And we’ve also seen an increase in the number of people who are coming and eating family style.”
Family-style eating is not just allowed at Longhi’s, it’s actively encouraged.
“It’s the way the Longhis eat,” says Charlie. “It’s how we eat at home - we’ve always shared everything - and in the restaurant our portions are so large that it makes sense to order a couple of things and share them at the table.”
Dishes like Filet Longhi ($38), a 10-ounce filet served with sautéed red and yellow peppers and fresh basil butter sauce, and Rib Eye Steak ($38), a 16-ounce Niman Ranch rib eye finished with a balsamic reduction) are cut pupu style, making sharing simple - just add a vegetable dish and a pasta or two and pass the share plates.“It’s a great way to eat,” says Charlie.
At breakfast, Longhi’s offers one of the most exciting menus in the city. Fresh berries, freshly baked breads and gorgeous dishes like Crab Cake Benedict ($17.50), Lobster Benedict ($21) and Longhi’s Famous Crispy Waffle ($8.50) smothered in Grade A maple syrup, are part of a menu that offers the best start to the day.
At lunch, there are dozens of dishes that feature light, fresh fare including an irresistible Caprese Salad ($16.50) with Island-grown basil, fresh Italian buffalo mozzarella and Kamuela tomatoes drizzled with excellent extra-virgin olive oil.
There’s a long list of classic American-style sandwiches, along with a prime beef hamburger ($11), steak sandwich ($20) and a classic New York-style Reuben ($13). The beef is Niman Ranch prime certified Angus beef farmed without antibiotics or hormones.
For those looking for pasta, there’s a wide range of dishes that include a perfectly simple Lemon Zucchini ($15) and a rich, intensely flavored, classic Bolognese ($14).
And while the menu might be vast - there are more than 40 items for dinner alone - there’s a simplicity to most of the dishes that allows ingredients to shine.
“It’s all about good ingredients,” says Bowman. “On Parmigiano Reggiano alone, we spend $250,000 a year importing the wheels of cheese from Italy.”
Add to that imported olive oil, cured meats and the highest-quality steak and fish, and you soon see that the Longhis are serious about their food - and wine.
“We’ve had a world-class wine list for a long time,” says Charlie, “It’s another thing that people don’t know about us.”
But despite the accolades, the essence of Longhi’s is family - and feeling good about what you eat, while you eat.
“This is such a great place to hang out,” says Charlie, looking across the restaurant to the ocean. “With the view, the breeze and the food, it just feels good up here.”
Longhi’s Restaurant Ala Moana Center 947-9899 www.longhis.com
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