Restaurant Review - Zia's Caffe

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

It was a rainy night – really rainy, the kind of rain where you pull the car over to the side of the highway while the downpour passes. It was, in short, a perfect night for a cozy dinner, perhaps a steaming plate of Italian food.

Zia’s Caffe, located in Kailua, proved to be a cheery beacon in the storm, with a brightly lit dining area and red-and-white-checked tablecloths. The indoor/outdoor atmosphere is decidedly casual. [One tip: Because the restaurant borders a parking lot, try one of the tables toward the back and you’ll have a nicer view.] I ordered a glass of Lindemans Reserve Merlot in anticipation of a pasta meal. The wine was slightly spicy, with blackcurrant and subtle mint flavors. Our server, Kate, was warm and friendly as she brought over a basket of complimentary olive tapenade and bread.

Since there were four of us dining, we decided to split an order of warm and gooey garlic cheese bread ($3.50) served with a tomato dipping sauce. We also shared the hot antipasto ($8.95), which came with mussels, shrimp and very tender strips of calamari. The seafood was swimming in a lemony, buttery broth that was also perfect for dipping bread.

We’d run into a friend as we entered Zia’s and he had heartily recommended the chicken piccata ($9.95). It’s a chicken breast served with a white wine, butter-garlic sauce with capers, and we were given a choice of spaghetti or linguine to have it served over. It’s a giant portion, so unless you’re really hungry, you’ll have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Another entrée, chicken parmesan ($10.95), is similarly proportioned. Covered with tomato sauce, the breaded chicken was also smothered in hot, melted cheese. Yum.

Testing out the “surf” side of the restaurant’s offerings, we tried the seafood arrabiatta ($14.95). The pasta was covered with shrimp and mussels in a tomato sauce, with Italian parsley and bacon. It was good but if you like things spicy, you may want to add some red-pepper flakes. The calamari picatta ($10.95) was excellent. The strips of calamari were very tender and not at all chewy. The lemony, caper-studded sauce was just right – tangy yet restrained.

If you’re interested in lighter fare, there are plenty of options, too: the lunch-friendly mandarin orange chicken salad ($8.95), a tangy pear and blue cheese salad ($7.95) and spinach salad with balsamic dressing ($6.95). Vegetarians will enjoy the house-made minestrone ($2.95), veggie lasagna ($8.95) or eggplant parmesan ($9.95).

I’d glad we’d saved a little room for dessert, because Zia’s really shines in this department. The blueberry-cream cheese bread pudding ($4.95), served a la mode, is a house-made specialty. A walnut crust provided firmament for the otherwise fluffy bread pudding. It was hard to put the fork down but we also had to contend with the “tiger” brownie ($4.95): a blonde and chocolate brownie swirled with chocolate chips on a coconut graham cracker crust. Not decadent enough yet? Don’t worry, it’s also served with a scoop of ice cream.

While you may arrive at Zia’s on a less rainy night than we had, but you’re sure to enjoy the homey Italian fare and attentive service this sunny restaurant offers.

Zia's Caffe
201 Hamakua Street
Kailua, HI