WRITTEN BY ELIZA ESCAÑO PHOTOGRAPHY BY MYKLE COYNE
MY AFFECTION FOR SALE PEPE WAS INSTANT. In 2014, barely a few weeks into their opening, the word about Maui’s brand new Italian restaurant had gotten around swiftly. Maybe it was the spirited Italian banter between the kitchen and the servers, the intoxicating scent of garlic and herbs wafting through the space, the sacks of Italian flour or the cans of San Marzano tomatoes stacked by the counter. Who knows – but something delicious was clearly happening.
Diners flocked to enjoy dishes created by Chef Michele Di Bari and his business partner and wife, Qiana Di Bari. The couple set the bar for Italian cuisine on Maui, enriching the neighborhood and our palates in the process.
Michele rolls and cuts the pasta and pizza dough every morning. He learned the art of pasta making from his mother and was schooled at La Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli (The Italian School of Pizza). His food marries locally sourced ingredients with the rich traditions he grew up with in Rozzano, Milan and his deep familial roots in southern Italy’s Lavello and Lacedonia, where the Di Baris are currently building their dream home. The cooking is simple and honest; the end-result, superb. Kauai prawns top house made grilled crostini; arancinis rest on Maui Cattle Company Bolognese; and a fresh, local catch can be found on the special most evenings.
Brooklyn-raised Qiana manages front of the house. No stranger to building a following on the laurels of authenticity and artistry, Qiana managed one of the best hip-hop groups from the genre’s 1990’s golden era, A Tribe Called Quest, before becoming a restaurateur. Her gentle demeanor, warmth and sharp wit lend a sincere hospitality to the dining room.
SALE PEPE GROWS AND BU’ONO PASTA FRESCA IS BORN
Bu’ono, you might guess, is a combination of buono and ‘ono, respectively Italian and Hawaiian for delicious. The initial launch was done in collaboration with R. Field Wine Company, the gourmet and artisanal section of Foodland Farms Lahaina and Foodland Kehalani in Wailuku. Soon, Bu’ono will be available at Whole Foods Market on O’ahu and Maui, quite a win for this family endeavor.
Three types of pasta will be in production: spaghetti rigatoni, penne and strozzapreti, which literally means priest choker as it was traditionally served as an after-mass meal where the priests supposedly overindulged on pasta. Bu’ono offerings also include vibrant marinara, and a pesto sauce that highlights beautiful basil by local growers like Kumu Farms and Oko’a Farms. The fresh pasta and sauce provide a quick, wholesome and well-crafted dinner option for a family.
While Michele credits Qiana for most of the new menu specials and big-picture ideas, Qiana is quick to deflect some shine back on her partner. “We collaborate, that’s our thing,” shared Qiana. “He’s always moving, he’s never still. There’s not a lot of time for reflection. It’s hard for me to keep up with him during the day cause he’s just flying. His speed and power are really strong. But then he’ll stop in the middle of a dash, and say, ‘I remember when I was little; we would always eat panzarotti at the beach. I think I’m going to do that today.’ And he’ll come out of the blue with something epic. It is totally reciprocal.”
TRAVELING TO ITALY INSPIRES
“We go to Italy to connect with the roots and to remember how to maintain the Italian standard,” said Qiana. “What happens in Italy is that we’ll be sitting at the most mundane table somewhere, maybe someone’s house that I’ve sat in a million times or maybe a café. And something will come out on the table and I’ll say, ‘Why don’t we show people that?’ Then we go to New York, and it gets me excited about the future.”
Italian travels are for visits to Michele’s family who now live in Ripaldina, two hours from Milan. The time is also spent sourcing better products. “There are always new products we can find,” said Michele. “Better prosciutto, better flour, better olive oil, better semolina, and that’s a big deal.”
Last summer, he spent a birthday dinner at a farm with the family, something he hadn’t done in 20 years. Sunday suppers are called pastasciutta and consist of “slow, legacy cooking of braised meat and pasta that roots the rest of the week.” Michele’s mother would make ravioli and orecchiette, and the family would spend hours eating and enjoying each other’s company. Michele’s mother holidays on Maui at times, and when she does, she can often be seen making her own special pastas for the restaurant; it’s a sight to behold.
“We work hard because we see how much people love it,” said Qiana. “We are motivated by our community, the locals and the visitors, but we want to get excited too. We want to be titillated by our creative process.”
The fully updated second edition of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i includes all new recipes, new information on industry practices and trends and in-depth information on Hawai‘i coffee laws. Coffee scientist, consultant and author Dr. Shawn Steiman’s book is the definitive work on the subject, including a region-by-region guide, information on growing, harvesting and processing coffee and recipes for cooking with coffee, complete with mouthwatering photography. This comprehensive coffee book also dispenses tips on coffee appreciation and provides a thorough education on coffee essentials. Common questions such as, “How should I store my coffee?” (Short answer: Don’t.) and, “How do I brew the perfect cup of coffee?” are answered in an easy-to-digest sidebar format. A resource for everyone, even coffee fanatics who might think they know it all about their favorite beverage, The Hawai‘i Coffee Book addresses all aspects of the coffee industry and culture, from ethical farming to roasting techniques and coffee tasting to events and festivals.
Size: 9″ x 5.5″ Pages: 154 Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-948-011-16-7
CAN DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT BE GOOD FOR BUSINESSES?
FOR THE SURFRIDER FOUNDATION, the answer is “yes.” Case in point: Ocean Friendly Restaurants.
HOW DID IT START?
Following a small program launch by the San Diego Chapter, Surfrider’s Hawai‘i Chapter volunteers launched the Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR) program in the islands on Earth Day 2016. The goal was to find a new way to focus on legislative reform by helping to reduce the plastic footprint coming from restaurants, particularly take out containers, plastic bags and utensils. The OFR program recognized restaurants leading the way in environmental protection by operating without foam and plastic.
“Some politicians argued that banning styrofoam or single-use plastics would hurt businesses. Consumers vote with their wallets, so we wanted to work with businesses and support the ones who were doing the right thing,” said Stuart Coleman, Hawaiian Islands Manager for Surfrider Foundation.
Within nine months of its launch, volunteers had certified over 100 Ocean Friendly Restaurants across the state. Surfrider has also been instrumental in banning styrofoam on Maui and Hawai‘i Island.
The success of the OFR program in Hawai‘i helped the Surfrider Foundation launch the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program on a national level. Now, Hawai‘i is one of the top OFR states in the country, and there are more than 500 restaurants certified nationwide.
In 2017, Town Hospitality Group, led by Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero, was awarded the Business of the Year by Surfrider Foundation – Oahu Chapter. All four of the company’s restaurants – Town, Kaimuki Superette, Mud Hen Water and Mahina & Sun’s – earned OFR’s Platinum certification and were among the first to join Surfrider’s OFR Program.
Kenney recently joined Jack Johnson in a promotional video for Surfrider highlighting Ocean Friendly Restaurants, lending their star power to the cause. Kenney is vocal about the plastic pollution epidemic and has lent testimony to support this issue through legislative action.
Several other OFRs—like The Nook, Koko Head Cafe, Mama T’s Umeke Market, Fete, Farm to Fork, and Tin Roof—have also supported plastic-free legislation.
The momentum doesn’t stop at the legislature. Earlier this year, Ocean Friendly Restaurants partnered with The Traveling Plate on a statewide fundraising promotion highlighting dishes from participating OFR restaurants.
The Mill House, Duke’s, Highway Inn, Moku Kitchen, and Pint & Jigger have all hosted Ocean Friendly Pau Hanas, offering special gatherings as a way to build community and celebrate Surfrider’s volunteers.
Outrigger Hotels & Resorts and Kahala Hotel & Resort have become ocean friendly hotels, where each restaurant’s outlets are OFR-certified.
DRIVEN BY PASSION
Natalie Wohner, a University of Hawai‘i PhD student studying mechanical engineering and materials science, agreed to co-chair the Ocean Friendly Restaurants committee on Oahu last year. “The ocean gives me so much, so I wanted to find a way to give back to it and really make an impact,” she said. “Surfrider provides a channel for me to do that.”
Wohner has volunteered for Surfrider for the past three years. While she feels a sense of gratification and purpose, she also wishes there were more people to help lighten her load.
“People forget that we’re all volunteers in this very grassroots organization,” she says. “Right now, it’s primarily just me and Anny Barlow certifying all of the restaurants. We have done some great things, but would love to have more help.”
The neighbor islands have similar challenges. On Maui, Lorin Ifkovic serves as chair, and on Kauai, Ruta Jordans serves as chair. Both are actively looking for more volunteers to help identify Ocean Friendly Restaurants, then certify them. Hawai‘i Island currently does not have an active OFR chair for either Kona or Hilo.
“There’s always more work to do,” said Coleman. “But looking back ten years ago, working at Surfrider was a lonely place. Now, we have mainstream awareness of the plastic pollution epidemic and businesses and community members who want to help drive behavior change. Looking back at my time at Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Friendly Restaurants is probably the most impactful thing we’ve done.”
HOW TO REGISTER
There are five criteria that all OFR participating restaurants must follow: they must only provide paper straws and to-go utensils upon request; they cannot distribute Styrofoam or plastic bags; they must follow proper recycling practices; and they must utilize reusable foodware for onsite dining.
In addition to these core commitments, the restaurant must also choose a minimum of two more criteria from the following list: refrain from the sale of beverages packaged in plastic bottles; offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable cup/mug/bag, etc.; offer vegetarian or vegan menu options on a regular basis; serve seafood that is designated as “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” by Seafood Watch, or is otherwise certified as sustainable; implement water conservation and pollution mitigation efforts; and put energy efficient efforts in place.
A restaurant that meets all of the above criteria will be recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurant.
For more information on the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program and its coalition of partners, the full list of certified restaurants, and how to get certified, go to: oceanfriendlyrestaurantshawaii.org.
LEMONS ARE JUST BEGINNING to get the respect they deserve. In Hawai‘i, we’re fortunate enough to have a large number of varieties to grow, market and use for a massive number of culinary creations. There are almost 14 million tons grown worldwide, with India and Mexico as the largest producers. In Hawai‘i we grow and sell less than 100,000 pounds and import another 4 million pounds still. Pretty shameful considering how lemons go to waste in the state.
Most who study horticulture believe the lemon originated in northern India as a naturally occurring hybrid between sour orange and citron. The lemon made its way to Italy in 200 AD, then Iraq and Egypt by 700 AD. By the end of the 12th century it had spread all around the Mediterranean. In 1493, Columbus brought it to Hispaniola and from there it went with the Spanish to California in 1751. Don Francisco de Paula Marin first brought the lemon to Hawai‘i in 1813 with traders bringing other varieties coming in 1823.
Early territorial reports from 1904 to 1906 (including a USDA Citrus in Hawai‘i publication) listed Eureka and Lisbon varieties. These and other publications mention Villa Franca and Sicily, which I’ve yet to be able to identify in Hawai‘i. The rough Jambiri came as a rootstock in the 1920s and started to produce prolifically by 1934 when the grafts died off. Ponderosa, its seedling American Wonder, and a sweet lemon were all mentioned by 1934.
Often called “local lemon,” Rangpur and Kona are actually orange-colored limes. The Rangpur lime came to Hawai‘i as a rootstock but those grafts also died off. Over the next 175 years, the trees evolved so that Rangpur has a puffy orange skin and very thorny branches. An offshoot of the Rangpur, the Kona lime has a tight skin and very few thorns.
There is also a primitive subgenus of citrus called Papedas, some of which came to Hawai‘i as rootstocks and now produce here. Ichang papeda is often mistakenly called or sold as Japanese Yuzu. Yuzu, however, also fits into this subgenus as does Suidachi, Yuko, Kabosu, Khasi, Melanesian, Kalpi and the popular Kaffir lime.
HERE ARE SOME POPULAR VARIETIES:
KALPI – (CITRUS WEBBERII)
Kalpi is arguably one of the most common lemons in Hawai‘i. A natural hybrid found in the Philippines, one could only presume that it came here with the immigrants. The name comes from the Bicol region of southern Luzon. These trees are found all over the state and very prolific. They are often confused with small Italian lemons that are very recent imports and the larger rough-skinned Jambiri lemon. Kalpi is sometimes called Malayan lemon.
MEYER – (CITRUS X MEYERI)
This lemon was first found on a fruit-hunting trip by Frank N. Meyer, who was sent to China by the USDA’s David Fairchild. Of the more than 2,500 species Meyer introduced to the United States, this is the only one that bears his name. The Meyer lemon has dramatically increased in popularity over the past 20 years in part due to Alice Waters and Martha Stewart featuring them. They do very well in warmer climates like Hawai‘i where other lemons may struggle with the heat.
The improved Meyer lemon is a selection found in the 1950s that is resistant to tristeza virus. It was released in 1975 as an improved version. Ever-increasing in popularity, it is sometimes referred to as the Sweetheart citrus.
SWEET LEMON – (C. LIMETTA RISSO)
Called sweet lemons and, to a lesser extent, limes, this fruit is found in some areas of Hawai‘i. “Sweet” is somewhat of a misnomer as the fruit is generally insipid with only a very slight taste. A number of varieties were introduced from India, Brazil and Mexico but they have never achieved any commercial value. The fruit is not without fans and there are a few named cultivars.
JAMBIRI – (CITRUS JAMBHIRI)
This rough-skinned lemon, originally from northeast India, was commonly used as a rootstock for citrus coming to Hawai‘i. Those grafts died off and the plant became a popular backyard tree. Recent studies, using molecular markers, show that it is a cross between mandarin and citron. The tree is somewhat resistant to a host of pathogens and extremely resistant to leaf spot although sensitive to Phytopthora and waterlogged roots. It is tolerant of both cold and also does well in Hawai‘i, which is hotter than the average citrus climate. Its unclear if the fruit arrived in Hawai‘i with Marin in the early 1800s or later with the first Portuguese immigrants. The Spaniards are credited with bringing the fruit to Florida and the new World. There are a number of named cultivars; Estes, Milam, McKillop, Nelspruit 15 and Lockyer although it’s not known if these are in Hawai‘i. About 98% of the seeds planted are true to form and the tree is fast growing and early maturing. Some texts list the Volkamer or volckameriana lemon as being a type of Jambiri. Rangpur and Kona lime are also given the Jambiri name at times.
PONDEROSA (CITRUS LIMON)
Ponderosa and its protégé American Wonder are among the most popular lemons grown in Hawai‘i. Elsewhere it’s considered an ornamental because of its thick foliage and very large “showy” fruit. It came from a seedling grown in 1887 by George Bowman in Hagerstown, Maryland. It appeared in many nursery catalogs in the early 1900s. Sometimes classed as a citron hybrid, ponderosa fruit is extremely large. It has been confused with pomelo at some of Hawai‘i’s farmers’ markets, although one taste makes it is obvious that it’s a lemon. There are some commercial plantings and the tree is often used as a rootstock for other lemons.
EUREKA (CITRUS LIMON)
The first Eureka originated from seed in 1858 in Los Angeles and was propagated in 1877 by Thomas Garey, who called it Garey’s Eureka. Its popularity rapidly increased, in part due to the tree being virtually thornless. The University of California lists 14 types of Eureka lemons. Depending on the source, Hawai‘i seems to have a few of these: Old Line, Frost Nucellar, Allen-Newman and the Variegated Pink-Fleshed Eureka. The pink came from a regular Eureka prior to 1931 when budwood was distributed. Pink Lemonade Eureka has become very popular in Hawai‘i over the past 20 years.
LISBON (CITRUS LIMON)
Perhaps the most popular commercial lemon next to Eureka, its relevance in Hawai‘i has always been marginal as the trees are more tolerant of the cold and produce much better in cooler areas. The tree is most productive in California. Thick foliage better protects fruit from the sun. The thorns are considerable. The yield is about 25% greater than Eureka.
There is some disagreement as to the origin of Lisbon. What is known was that seeds were sent from Portugal to Australia in 1924. The name Lisbon is not used for the lemon in Portugal. It was listed in nursery catalogs as early as 1843. It was introduced to California in 1849 and again from Australia in 1874 and 1875. Although continuously imported to Hawai‘i, Eureka seems to be more popular. The University of California lists 12 types of Lisbons.
There are hundreds of other lemons around the world, which have not made their way to Hawai‘i. With citrus greening disease (HLB) in many locations around the world, it’s doubtful many of these will ever come to Hawai‘i. Lemons and lemon hybrids like Sicily, Femminello, Genova, Monachello, Perrine, Marrakech, Pear, Galgal, Karna, Sanbokan and Snow could be found in HLB-free areas or could be tissue-cultured and given a chance to thrive in Hawai‘i’s microclimates. Each of these unusual varieties represents a potential for niche marketing as fresh fruit or in value-added products for Hawai‘i’s agriculture entrepreneurs. [ eHi ]
Recipe Courtesy of Michele Di Bari of Sale Pepe, Lahaina, Maui HI
Photography by Mykle Coyne
1½ pounds eggplant
Olive oil as needed (at least ½ cup)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
1½ pounds of San Marzano canned peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon basil
1 pound of Bu’ono rigatoni
¼ teaspoon parsley, chopped
½ cup grated Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano
1. Slice the eggplant about ½ inch thick. Cook in abundant olive oil, without crowding, sprinkling with salt and adding more oil as needed. You will undoubtedly have to cook in batches; take your time and cook until the eggplant is nicely browned and soft. Remove to a plate. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it.
2. After cooking the eggplant, the pan will ideally have a couple of tablespoons of oil left. If there is more or less, drain some off or add a bit. Turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic and onions and cook until the garlic and onion color a little bit. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and basil along with some salt and pepper; cook until saucy but not too dry, stirring occasionally.
3. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 1 minute and half, While the pasta is cooking, cut the eggplant into strips and reheat for a minute in the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta and toss it with the tomato sauce and the eggplant. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then top with the parsley or basil and grated cheese and serve.
Recipe Courtesy of Michele Di Bari of Sale Pepe, Lahaina, Maui HI
Photography by Mykle Coyne
3 to 4 cups Italian Arborio rice cooked al dente, cooled
¼ cup basil, chopped
¼ cup capers
¼ cup pickled pearl onions
¼ cup green olives, pitted
¼ cup black olives, pitted
¼ cup green peas
¼ cup corn
¼ cup chick peas
¼ cup cannellini beans
¼ cup black beans
1 small or ½ large red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons honey mustard
¼ cup vinaigrette, made with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
¼ cup Grana Padano cheese
1. Combine the honey mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a small dish.
2. Put the rice and all the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and use two big forks to combine. Add the Grana Padano cheese, tossing gently to separate the grains.
3. Stir in the parsley, taste, and adjust the seasoning or moisten with a little more vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to a day, bringing the salad back to room temperature before serving.
Search edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine
Sign up to receive updates - you'll know when we've added fresh stories!