Pau Hana Patrol: Arancino offers simple comfort

Mar. 5, 2015 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Arancino di Mare food server Po‘okela Wood serves a Pizza Peperoni and complimentary focaccia bread, top photo. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. daily in the cocktail area of the restaurant, in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. In addition to pizza, pupu selections include Salame Toscano (lightly spiced Italian salami). (Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com)

Arancino di Mare food server Po‘okela Wood serves a Pizza Peperoni and complimentary focaccia bread, top photo. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. daily in the cocktail area of the restaurant, in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort. In addition to pizza, pupu selections include Salame Toscano (lightly spiced Italian salami).
(Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com)

BY STEVEN MARK / smark@staradvertiser.com

Arancino is a popular Italian restaurant that features classic Napoli cuisine with a light, crisp and local touch.

Without a lot of hoopla, it’s managed to establish a winning formula here, with two longtime venues in Waikiki, on the Beachwalk and at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, as well as more recently at the Kahala Hotel & Resort.

Though all share the Arancino name and management, it’s not quite accurate to call Arancino a chain, since there are slight differences in the menus of each site. For happy hour purposes, the relevant site is Arancino di Mare, in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa toward the zoo side of Waikiki. This is the only Arancino that has a happy hour.

THE EXPERIENCE

At first glance one might think that this will be an al fresco experience. There are umbrellas, tables and chairs set up outside on the sidewalk on Ohua Avenue, opposite St. Augustine by the Sea Catholic Church.

ARANCINO DI MARE

Waikiki Beach Marriott, 2552 Kalakaua Ave.

arancino.com, 931-6273

Happy Hour:
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. daily

>> Mixed drinks: $4.50
>> Imported Italian beers: $3.50-$4.50
>> House wine: $4.50
>> Appetizers: $2.50 each, three for $6.50, five for $10
>> Pizzas: $8-$9.25

Happy hour, however, is available only inside, by the bar. For some, that might be a disappointment, but the modesty of the spot has its charm. There are about a half-dozen stools around the bar, along with a few circular tables — enough for maybe another 10 to 15 people at most.

On the walls, grainy, black-and-white photos of people dressed in traditional European clothing make reference to the restaurant’s Italian premise.

There is no sports blaring on TV here, which in this day and age makes for a nice sense of relaxation.

Although this Waikiki restaurant was fairly crowded for much of the time I was there, the atmosphere was not overly agitated or excited. The laid-back surroundings were welcome.

THE DRINKS

The drink menu has promise, especially given its good prices — $4.50 tops — for happy hour drinks.

I had the Italian Surfer, a simple, pleasant blend of Malibu coconut rum, pineapple and amaretto.

Some of the other drinks sounded interesting, too, like the “rosa rossa,” a blend of red wine, amaretto and tonic water.

Maybe more intriguing are the beer offerings, including a Peroni draft for $4.50 and bottled Moretti la Rossa for $3.50.

I tried the Peroni, which is reportedly the most popular beer in Italy. It was served in a tall, elegant glass, and went down just like you’d expect — smooth and light, with just a bit of aftertaste.

Arancino has its glasses custom-made for collectors, and a new design will be out soon.

THE FOOD

Gran Padano (hard-type cheese); Olives (brilliant green Castelvetrano olives from Sicily); Gorgonzola Dolce (semisoft cheese); and Prosciutto di Parma (aged Italian ham from Parma). (Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com)

Gran Padano (hard-type cheese); Olives (brilliant green Castelvetrano olives from Sicily); Gorgonzola Dolce (semisoft cheese); and Prosciutto di Parma (aged Italian ham from Parma). (Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com)

The food offerings here are simple and snack-worthy. There’s a small selection of pupu — olives, prosciutto, salame, and hard and soft cheeses — and three types of pizza.

The pupus are one for $2.50, three for $6.50 and five for $10, but you get just a taste of each item. For my $6.50 I got a dollop of gorgonzola dolce (a soft blue cheese that had a hint of bite), a couple of slivers of prosciutto and five olives. The appetizers really are there to whet one’s appetite, and they do it very well.

Thin-crust pizzas are available, too. These are about 8 inches in diameter and also very simple. The Pizza Peperoni took a while to come, but the mozzarella, parmesan and tomato went well with the somewhat salty meat.

And even though the cheese was nicely melted and everything came hot, this pizza was the first I’ve had in a long time that did not burn the roof of my mouth. The Peroni beer washed it all down well.

THE VERDICT

Happy hour at Arancino di Mare was a pleasant surprise in many ways. You don’t get to sit outside, but it was cozy inside. Being in Waikiki, its customer base is mostly tourist, but a few locals wandered in as well.

The drinks do not have long, complicated lists of ingredients, but they are interesting. The happy hour menu is not extensive, so you’re not going to get full eating off it unless maybe you order all three pizzas, but everything tasted good and I wasn’t left waddling around Waikiki.

It’s all served by a friendly staff and feels like a taste of Italy, local style. Sometimes such simplicity just works.

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