Whether you sit near the stone-hearth oven in the people-watching piazza, under the cork-lined rotunda in the bar, or overlook the sunset and neighbor island views al fresco on the patio - Ferraro's is as good as it gets for an Italian meal on Maui.
The only question you may have is, "to share or not to share?" Ponder this in your cushy chairs as you are pampered by servers of Four Seasons quality.
It will be the only worry you have all night long. The starry night we dined there, we were tempted by the crisp calamari, and the vegetable gazpacho. Should we share? How about pizza? Braised artichoke?
New Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Porreca is of Italian heritage from New York and he’s cooked everywhere from Le Cirque to Daniel to Tocqueville in the Big Apple and beyond.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
What to do?! Then new chef de Cuisine Nicholas Porreca talked about some of the dishes he's added since his arrival and we started to crave it all - from the Puunoa figs grown on Maui to the new braciola stuffed with meat, veggies and cheeses.
The good news is, some items come in small and large; and you may sip Italian wines by the glass or the bottle. It's easy to have it your way.
"I would say Ferraro's menu is like rustic Italian (cucina rustica) with modern cooking techniques," says Porreca, who moved here recently from New York City. "The flavors and the local ingredients are very typical to the old-world style of Italian cuisine. It's farm to table all of the way."
Where: Ferraro's Bar e Ristorante is located poolside and oceanfront at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea.
In the bar: Crunch complimentary house-roasted nuts, dried fruits and mixed olives marinated in rosemary; and sip tropicals; imported, organic and local beers; wines; and refreshing light drinks.
Hours and costs: Open daily. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Salads and sandwiches, $19 to $28. Late afternoon snacks from 4 to 5:30 p.m. from $18 to $28; dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Entrees range from $29 to $52.
Live music: Enjoy instrumental Italian music during dinner from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Lunch: American bistro dishes as well as Indian tandoori, Asian soba noodles and Italian pasta.
For reservations: Call 874-8000.
Porreca also says he grew up in an Italian family in Lake George, N.Y., and that "food was always a big deal in our house. My parents were very passionate about their vegetable garden. I learned at a very young age that Italian cooking revolved around preparing the freshest ingredients available as simply as possible."
He also gets inspiration from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and he's worked for such acclaimed restaurateurs as Roman-born David Zeccinni in Saratoga Springs.
"My position as chef at Pasta Pane was a great experience in Italian cooking. I spent a great deal of time working side by side with Zeccinni as well as his longtime friend and executive chef of the restaurant's group, Fabrizio Bazzani."
At Ferraro's, Porreca's starters impress to the max. Slow-poached egg and Parma ham salad is intensified with caramelized local asparagus. Other "must trys" are New York strip carpaccio with black truffles, steamed black mussels, and crudo.
"Crudo is Italian for raw," Porreca says. "They are presented on a plate with different sea salts and flavored oils, depending on the type of fish."
For instance, ahi tuna crudo is served with extra-virgin olive oil and black sea salt from Kona. Salmon is flavored with blood-orange juice, Hawaiian sea salt and fried capers. Ono is drizzled in lemon-thyme vinaigrette; and oysters just jump when seasoned with Lemoncello oil.
Another "share or not to share" appetizer consists of handcrafted Italian salami and imported cheeses. You'll fall in love with the presentation, too,
"We offer a variety of Italian handcrafted salami and hams, available both individually and as a part of a sampler platter assembled on a small butcher block," Porreca says. "They are accompanied by a selection of cheeses and house-marinated vegetables. They include chorizo, dry salami, tartufo (truffle flavored), wild boar, prosciutto di Parma and Serrano ham."
Add olives, artichokes and cheeses to your butcher's block and you've got the makings for an Italian party.
"Several of our cheeses are imported from Italy," says the chef. "Grana Padana, Pecorino and Gorgonzola Dolce. We also like to offer Surfing Goat Dairy Cheese, which is made right here in Maui."
Of course, pizzas from the stone oven are always a big draw. Crunch the White Pizza with organic garlic cloves, Little Neck clams, and ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Or opt for the classic Margherita.
Pastas made such as pappardelle, gnocchi and tagliatelle are made in-house. You'll also find grilled T-bone steak with wild arugula, Pecorino cheese and aged balsamic; and veal Marsala with three-cheese potato gratin and broccoli rabe.
For dinner, fresh catch will lure you in hook, line and mahimahi. "Right now, we serve ahi tuna, monchong, striped bass, ono, salmon, and a daily catch of locally caught fish," says Porreca, who loves to suggest wine pairings as does Restaurant Manager Kevin Miao, and Beverage Manager Nick Martin. For dessert, delight in roasted pear sundae with balsamic ice cream, hazelnut cake, gelatos and more.
"All of our servers have been trained to anticipate your every need and to provide a completely relaxed dining experience. And, of course, the ocean views are absolutely breathtaking."