Barrett De Santos at the Aina Nalu in Lahaina recommended Penne Pasta to us for lunch. And while I wouldn’t ordinarly put pasta and paradise together as a “must” for dining, I couldn’t ignore the hunger in Barrett’s response when I asked for a lunch suggestion. “Try the Baked Penne,” he said. “Or the Nicoise Salad.”
At the time, I didn’t know the little cafe with counter service and indoor/outdoor seating was award-winning. I didn’t know it was founded by Mark Ellman. The Mark Ellman who created Maui Tacos and Mala Ocean Tavern. The Mark Ellman who is one of the dozen chefs credited with founding the Hawai’i Regional Cuisine movement in the early 1990s. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was a) we were hungry; and b) Barrett had recommended the place.
So Eric and I eagerly walked around the block (the eatery is located on Dickenson Street halfway between Front and Wainee Streets). We shared the Baked Penne (pomodoro sauce, provolone, parmesan, mozzarella) and Penne Puttanesca (pomodoro sauce, capers, onions, basil). Next time–because there will be a next time–I want to try a flatbread pizza with olives, capers, basil, oregano and roasted peppers. The time after that, I will order Nicoise Salad with garlic ahi, olives, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, capers and greens with a red onion dijon vinaigrette. Then, the Linguine Clam Sauce. Then,….