Finding A Homemade Food Fix At Mix

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - July 27, 2011
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Bruno Iezzi with his sandwiches crafted with house-made bread at Mix. Jo McGarry photo

There’s a common thread that runs among chefs who make outstandingly good food: They all speak eloquently and passionately about ingredients as if they themselves are little more than conductors of a series of daily concerts where freshly grown ingredients are the true performers.

At Mix, the downtown sandwich shop on Alakea Street, owner Bruno Iezzi is no exception.

Ask him about his highly successful ventures an original café formerly on Beretania Street and Bruno’s Forno, his utterly addictive Italian spot on Maunakea and he shrugs and says, “It’s nothing complicated. It’s just real food.”

It might not be complicated to Iezzi, but with its combination of house-made ciabatta bread, fresh herbs and vegetables, soft, melting comte and mozzarella, roasted pork, cured hams and a Nicoise that will knock your socks off, a sandwich from Mix is the kind of food that encourages addiction.

Originally from Italy, Iezzi had restaurant success in Seattle and New York’s East Village before deciding to settle in Hawaii 10 years ago, bringing with him an uncompromising sense of quality and a quiet confidence in his food.

Today, his lasagna, found at Bruno’s Forno on Maunakea Street and at Mix, has a near cult-like following. For a while, Iezzi tried daily soups and even a rustic lamb stew at Mix, “but I realized that the lasagna was really the thing,” he says.

It’s not surprising, really, that this simple, excellent, homemade food is creating a wave of word of mouth whispers, because in the near-crazed environment in which most people seem to live, homemade food is something of a luxury. Coming up with the trifecta of time, passion and skill, then taking all three into the kitchen is something of a challenge for most who work two jobs and try to fit the rest of life into the precious little time that’s left.

And perhaps that what’s makes this food, whether it be a tray of lasagna with a side salad, house dressing and freshly made ciabatta bread, or a rustic, grilled panini with rosemaryinfused ham on a warm baguette with a crust that cracks with each bite so utterly wonderful. It reminds us that simple food unadulterated and chemical-free can satisfy more than just an appetite.

“I think it all goes back to childhood,” says Iezzi. “It’s about food that came from your mother or your grandmother every day.” Even with the need for fast food, he says, there should be time to eat well and enjoy.

It should come as no surprise that desserts are all made in-house too both at Bruno’s and at Mix.

“All natural,” says Bruno with a smile. “The eggs, they are eggs, the flour is flour and the fruits are real fruit. Pretty simple stuff.”

And it’s that simplicity pure, real and tangible that’s making Iezzi’s eateries, as small as they are, some of the most popular spots in Honolulu. Like music and art, food this good has the ability to transcend what’s ordinary.

“You’re having a bad day,” says Iezzi, “you sit down and have a plate of beautiful food that’s just the right amount, the right color, the right smell, flavor and balance. That will fix everything.”

Mix Café
1025 Alakea St.
Open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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