ITALIAN INVASION . . . Love Italian cuisine? Then I suggest you enjoy a leisurely repast at Saltimbocca, the new modern Italian cucina at the former Waterfront spot at Maalaea Harbor.
One special is the three-course lunch with soup, salad and pasta for $18, and the menu rotates daily. As an example, you may begin with soup du jour or cannelini bean soup. Then Caesar salad or mista insalata are served with entree choices of spaghetti and meatballs, penne ai tre formaggi or penne all arrabiata.
Further south in Wailea, the new Matteo's Osteria just got its liquor license. It now pours 64 wines by the glass and boasts a wine cellar with 1,800 bottles. But the real draw is the affordable and authentic cuisine, cooked by chef-owner Matteo Mistura.
“We just got our liquor license, so we may extend our hours of operation,” says Matteo’s Osteria owner-chef Matteo Mistura.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
My friend and I dined there for lunch recently and were bowled over by the Ligurian pizza with shrimp, pesto and mascarpone cheese; and the pasta puttanesca with Kauai shrimp on tagliatelle ribbons. Matteo's is tucked away near Wailea Wine. It's the secret spot in the resort, the place to discover.
BITS AND PIECES . . . Whales (and Saltimbocca) aren't the only things jumping in Maalaea. The landmark Buzz's Wharf at the harbor offers happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. daily, and it's a mix of visitors who just got off the tour boats and locals who just wanna have fun.
Got restaurant / dining-event scoop? Call Dining Editor Carla Tracy at 242-6342; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"At happy hour, we offer 25 percent off our lunch menu and $3 domestic beers, $4 well drinks and $5 margaritas and house wines," says owner Marla Braun-Miller."
Caprese sandwiches of toasted baguette, garlic butter, fresh mozzarella, tomato slices and whole basil leaves, topped with balsamic drizzle and crispy fried onions are $5.25; and shrimp and chips are $10.50.
Of course, excitement is building for "Top Chef," which will end its 11th season on the Bravo cable channel with a two-part finale, entirely filmed on Maui.
The "Maui Wowie" episode will air Wednesday, and the pressure will be on to see which chef will make the best meal from Hawaiian canoe crops. The Quickfire competition will also feature SPAM. The last episode, simply titled "Finale," will air Feb. 5, pitting the two remaining contestants against each other to be "Top Chef." Andaz Maui will set the stage for part of the episodes, and Merriman's Kapalua will be another venue.
For wine lovers, The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui's signature Ko restaurant will put the spotlight on Trefethen Family Vineyards throughout January with three-course menus and wine pairings. Menu highlights are Maui-caught seared ahi on a bed of baby greens with daikon carrots, kaiware sprouts and orange-wasabi vinaigrette; prawn and scallop skewers atop pancit noodles; and Waialua Estate chocolate baked custard for dessert.
Makena Beach & Golf Resort will flow with the Vine Cliff Winery dinner at 6:30 tonight in Molokini Bar & Grill. Proprietor Rob Sweeney will be in attendance, and five food courses will be paired. The Sweeney family, by the way, owns the resort.
"We are happy to finally feature Vine Cliff Winery this month, says Leo Mallari, Makena's director of food and beverage. "Our resort has such a special connection to Vine Cliff, and its wines are sold exclusively at our resort's lobby Sundry Store here on Maui."
The new Java Bee in Wailuku Industrial Area across from Napa Auto Parts is the place for espressos, smoothies, shave ice and more. The new eatery also does sandwiches, salads, pastries and desserts, and it delivers to your door with a $20 minimum. Call 244-8696.
Read all about Botero sculptures at Grand Wailea in Visual Arts column. And, then take note that Botero Bar in the main lobby does Thirsty Thursdays. For $20, you get a tasting of three cocktails highlighting the month's featured spirit, a souvenir ceramic glass, and 20 percent off food purchases. Views of the sculptures are free.