Café Satino: The Great Taste
Of Italian Food In Kaneohe

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

One of the great things about this job is finding hidden, hole-in-the-wall places to eat. You can’t always judge a restaurant by its cover, and Café Satino, located near an auto body shop place and sporting cinderblock walls, is an ideal example. When I first walked in, I have to admit, I thought, “uh oh.” The restaurant was fairly empty, and the décor, spartan. But wait a moment. There’s soft Classical music playing. Glowing candles graced each table. The bread was served warm, soft and fluffy. It’s homemade? Oh. I started to realize that I was in for a real treat.

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I’m a calamari junkie, so obviously, my group had to try the Calamari Steak appetizer ($5.38). It arrived a few minutes later, completely tender and with a nicely seasoned herb breading. The dip it was served with seemed unnecessary. I say, stick to the calamari; it’s really terrific just on its own. We also sampled a crowd-pleaser: Deep Fried Mozzarella Cheese ($8.28). (There are a lot of prices ending in eights; either the chef is superstitious or there are some complex tax computations coming into play!) The cheese was gooey, cut into strips rather than the “stick” version. The marinara sauce really stood out. It tasted homemade, with a summery, clean, salty tomato flavor. No gummy tomato paste here; this is the real deal.

We moved on to the entrées, which are all served with pasta, but you can also substitute vegetables or potatoes, if you prefer. An added plus is that you can order half-portions of most dishes, if you have a lighter appetite. Salads, such as Caesar For Two ($9.88), or Minestrone Soup ($2.88) are other light options.

The Chicken Venezia ($10.58) featured a very tender, very moist breast of chicken, served with mushrooms, onions and a white wine sauce. Even the presentation was surprisingly upscale, with parsley artfully sprinkled around the plate’s rim. I liked the Seafood Combination ($11.78), which had a generous serving of calamari, fish and shrimp, but since I’d ordered the spicy version, I thought it came out a bit too mild. My meat-loving friend enjoyed his Veal Parmagiana ($10.88). The highlight of the meal, however, had to be the Fettucini Carbonara ($11.18), a rich, exceedingly creamy, totally decadent dish of pasta, sautéed bacon, Italian ham and onion. Really nicely done. It looks like a fairly modest portion, but it’s so filling that serving any more would be overkill.

With all the entrées, the flavors and presentations were above what you’d expect at these prices. In fact, I’ve paid way more at fancier restaurants for similar food. There is a kids’ menu, if you have diners under age 12 with you, that includes simple dishes, such as linguine with meatballs. At $2.88 to $3.68, you would be hard pressed to find a less expensive way to feed your kids, and this stuff is homemade, real food, rather than fast food.

Vegetarians, too, are easily accommodated with such dishes as Stuffed Eggplant ($10.68), or Ravioli ($9.28 for cheese version). Service throughout was very relaxed and non-pushy, yet completely attentive. A word to the wise: the restaurant does not serve liquor, so bring in a nice bottle of wine if you enjoy having Chianti with your pasta.

By the end of the evening, I was completely full of delicious Carbonara sauce and should have stopped eating. However, I couldn’t resist tasting the New York-style Cheese Cake ($2.88). It came with a nice graham-cracker crust, and the filling was really quite good. Rich, yet fluffy. It was the perfect way to cap off an unexpectedly good dinner. As they would say in Italy, bravo!

Cafe Satino
46-138 Kamehameha Hwy.
Kaneohe, HI