Italian Food with Heart & Soul
Riga Tony’s isn’t fancy, but the food
service will warm your heart.
By Kevin McQuarrie
Tony’s is a small restaurant tucked into a corner of downtown Honolulu on
Alakea Street. It opened last fall, and judging from the crowd that was there on
a Friday evening, it’s getting a loyal following of regulars.
ten-table spot is simply, but lovingly decorated, with Italian-themed art on the
walls, rows of cheerful white Christmas lights, homey wood paneling, and a
grapevine wallpaper border. We were greeted warmly upon our arrival, and told to
sit wherever we liked. The swinging, Rat Pack-style music certainly put us in
the mood for Italian food. The restaurant is BYOB, so feel free to bring in a
nice bottle of Chianti or a lively prosecco.
dug into a bowl of bread, dunking it in olive oil, and studied the menu.
Appetizers include healthy options, such as bruschetta ($4) and insalata Caprese
($6), with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil in a vinaigrette, and the more
decadent, including fried mozzarella cheese ($4.50) and garlic cheese bread
decadent types, we ordered the fried calamari ($6). “Right on!” encouraged
our sweet server, a beautiful woman with cascading curls and a husky, hippie
calamari arrived fairly slowly, but was well appreciated: large rings (about
onion-ring size) of tender squid, with a nice light batter. Note to the chef:
Please, warm up the marinara dipping sauce! It was served cold, straight out of
the fridge. We also tried the bruschetta, a simple, eye-pleasing preparation of
thick slices of bread, with a garlicky basil and tomato topping. The tomatoes
were perfect—where did they get such ripe, red toma-
toes at this time of year?
chef himself brought out our entrées, a sweet touch, and offered us ground
pepper from a grinder the size of a table leg. We had the chicken cannelloni
($12.50), a dish featuring three homemade crepes filled with a creamy mixture of
ricotta cheese and chicken, covered with a Béchamel sauce. This dish was rich
and delicious—far too much for one meal, so we enjoyed it the next day as well
repeated warnings on how spicy the shrimp diavolo ($13) was, I had ordered it. I
found it was actually a good heat level, with a prolonged, warm mouth
sensation—but extremely garlicky. Garlicky, as in, chew gum on the way home,
brush your teeth twice before bed, drink a cup of mint tea, and still wake up
with garlic in your mouth garlicky. If your name is Nosferatu, this dish might
meal options include pizzas and calzones, as well as favorites such as veal
Marsala, lasagne, Caesar salad and fettuccine alfredo. Next time I visit, I will
have to try the eggplant Parmesan, which was one of the specials the night we
Overall, we found our meal at Riga Tony’s to be inexpensive (a huge meal for two was $45, including tax and tip), with warm, personal service. The appetizers weren’t nearly as strong in terms of flavor and presentation as the excellent entrées, but there is still something about Riga Tony’s that’s special. It’s not a fancy place or gourmet cuisine, but you leave feeling good. Perhaps it’s simply the pleasure of being cooked for by someone who is cooking from the heart.
Alakea Street • 534-0100
is served Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
is served 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday.