Restaurant Review - Paesano Ristorante
Offers Elegant Italian Dining

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

Hmm, you think. It's in a strip mall? Not an encouraging sign that it will be a good restaurant, right? But when you’re talking about Paesano, tucked into the Manoa Marketplace, you’d be wrong. It may be next to a Subway sandwich shop and in view of the Pizza Hut, but if you wrote off Paesano, you would be missing out on a surprisingly sophisticated Italian restaurant.

When you enter Paesano, the first thing you see is a beautiful display of wine bottles, elegantly backlit. Overall, the classy, upscale interior has a contemporary feel. Buttery colored paint on the walls sets the whole restaurant to a soft glow, emphasized further by the hip light fixtures and interesting artwork. The opera music playing in the background and the gentle conversation of fellow diners brought us into a state of relaxation immediately.

The wine list focuses primarily on Italian wines, although Chilean is another intriguing option; I went traditional and had a class of Chianti. Our bread arrived hot and the butter was served properly—instead of in a cold slab, it was warm enough to be spread easily. These sound like small things but they are often the telltale signs of a good restaurant.

We started our meal with the hot, homemade Carpaccio ($8.90). A thinly sliced filet mignon, it had a great deal of flavor and was very tender. We also tried the Mozzarella in Carozza ($6.90), deep-fried, breaded cheese served with a marinara dipping sauce. The breading was thicker than other similar dishes I’d seen before and made a nice contrast to the gooey interior. Artichoke Pepperonata ($7.90) was a nice alternative to a salad and included salty capers, roasted red peppers, and tangy artichoke hearts.

At Paesano, entrees are offered in small and large portions, but as our server explained, “Small is a large and large is extra-large.” Unless you have a really big appetite or want to share a plate, small is probably plenty, especially considering that of our entrees came over a bed of linguini.

The evening’s special, Chicken al Pomodori, sounded delicious and we were not disappointed. The chicken had been cooked in a soothing, nurturing tomato sauce with tomatoes and basil—and had a wonderful addition of flavor and texture provided by big, juicy shrimp. Another dish, Scallopine Saltimbocca Romana ($14.90/$19.90), was also very good, a fragrant combination of veal, prosciutto ham, spinach and cheese.

Seafood lovers have plenty to rejoice about at Paesano. We tried the Seafood Combination ($15.90 for a small; $20.90 for a large), which offered shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels sautéed in a spicy garlic sauce. The nice thing about this dish is its versatility: you can order it spicy or mild and with either garlic or tomato sauce. The Calamari Vegetable ($12.90/$15.90) featured tender, breaded squid strips as well as carrots, zucchini, peppers and mushrooms.

To tie the meal up with a little dolce, or sweetness, we split the Homemade Cheesecake ($4.00). It was moist and flavorful, prepared in an East Coast style and topped with a strawberry sauce.

Service throughout the meal was pleasant and professional—we never felt rushed, but we also received plenty of attention.

Paesano is one of those classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” examples. The minute you open the door, you are transported to an elegant dining experience. It’s well worth a stop and will be especially appreciated by those who enjoy Italian cuisine.

Paesano Ristorante Italiano
Manoa Marketplace
2752 Woodlawn Drive