A Sunset Dining Deal At Donato’s

Jo McGarry
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Friday - August 13, 2005
| Del.icio.us | podcast Podcast | WineAndDineHawaii.com

Chef Donato Loperfido

To me a great dining deal isn’t much of a deal at all unless it falls into a few categories. It should be at a nice restaurant, make me feel like I’m really saving some money and it should always feature some of the chef’s best items. It’s just not a deal if I feel like I’m being harassed by the wait staff for using a “buy one get one free” coupon, or if I have to adhere to a lot of restrictions before I’m sure if I can eat or not.

No, a real dining deal is one where you’re having the same restaurant experience as the next person, just paying much less. A bit like using cheapairlines. com to book your vacation. You might be sitting next to someone who paid twice as much as you for the same service.

So it always cheers my Scottish heart when I find a restaurant that offers something really special.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Donato Loperfido’s food. He might be a bit grumpy at times and a touch temperamental, but hey, the guy can cook. Like Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi, Russell Siu and a few other exceptional chefs, he just doesn’t put a foot wrong in the kitchen.

But fine dining can be pricey — that’s why Donato’s Sunset Dinner is one of my finds of the month. Available seven days a week, the special menu offers a taste of some of Donato’s signature Italian dishes. The caveat is that you’re seated by 6:15 and order by 6:30, perfect if you’re on the way to the movies or theater and want to eat first.

A choice of starters includes a house salad (locally grown greens with fennel, local tomatoes tossed in a simple balsamic vinaigrette), or soup, which changes daily.

Entrees include: Risotto con Funghi (real risotto made with seasonal mushrooms and truffle oil), Pollo ai Castelli Romani (half a sautéed fresh chicken with garlic, anchovies, capers, olives, white wine and lemon), Salmone Arrosto (salmon roasted with sun-dried tomatoes and capers in a white wine sauce served with potatoes and vegetables) or Orecchiette alla Crudaiola (tiny “ear-shaped” pasta with arugula and Hauula tomatoes, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and garlic. Dessert is gelato or sorbet. The whole deal is just $19.95 plus tax.

Donato’s, on the second floor of Manoa Marketplace, offers exceptional Italian food. Loperfido himself is one of just a tiny group of native Italians who live in Hawaii and who make it their mission to re-create the food of their culture here in the islands.

The restaurant itself is intimate and has a nice, relaxed atmosphere (as long as you’re not working in the kitchen, I suppose). The wine list is lovely and offers some excellent wines by the glass. Mostly Italian, and all well-suited to the food.

If you have something special to celebrate this weekend — try this. And if there’s better value around, then let me know.

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