WINE & DINE
Master sommelier Chuck Furuya shares his passion for wines. Photo courtesy of Vino Italian Tapas
Veni, vidi, vici, Vino!
By Simplicio Paragas
Hawaii isn’t just for umbrella-garnished mai tais. Not when you have Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar, ranked this year as one of “America’s Best Wine Bars” by Travel + Leisure. First opened in 2004 by Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya and chef D.K. Kodama, Vino’s goal was to create a dining experience reminiscent of an enotecca, Italy’s counterpart to the French bistro.
“It’s casual and intimate,” Furuya says. “We want guests to have fun but, at the same time, be exposed to the premier winemakers in their respective regions.”
Samplings of wine here start at $2.50 for a Cabernet Sauvignon, Tilia 2009 (Argentina). Full bottles are also available, although the 2-ounce pours offer a better chance to ramble through the vineyards. Chef Keith Endo stays consistent with the enoteca theme with a “rustic Italian” menu that lists tapas-sized dishes, which are intended for sharing.
Photo courtesy of Vino.
“The opportunity for people to experiment and pair a variety of wines with a variety of dishes is here,” Kodama says. “Everything is done small, from the food to the wine to the prices.”
To complement guests’ glasses of wine, Endo has developed a menu that is categorized by Starters, “Must-have Signature Dishes,” “Latest Specialties” and “Sides.”
An order of crispy calamari ($8.95) topped with a robust pepperocini-balsamic aioli makes for an ideal starter, especially when it’s paired with a glass of Barbera d'Alba, Marchesi di Barolo 2008. For heartier appetites, an order of mini veal osso buco ($14) or the fluffy homemade three-cheese gnocchi with jumbo lump crab ($16) should hit the spot. Salads, including the KCC Farmer’s Market salad ($10) and daily special homemade pizza ($11), also are available.
“We want it to eventually become a major wine center,” Kodama says. “We want it to be a place where people can sit in on a seminar, attend tastings and, overall, gain more knowledge about wines.”Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 808.524.8466. Closed Sun-Tues.