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Mangiamo! Nonstop dinner next Tuesday

Free for dinner on June 19? Let’s try out a promising new Italian place

Posted June 11, 2012 by Mari Taketa

Pasta lovers of Honolulu, you know the feeling. Where’s the good spaghetti for under $17 a plate? I’m not talking about overboiled strands in runny marinara, or luxurious heaps of frutti di mare or top-of-the-line uni spaghetti. Just a good plate of pasta priced at what it’s worth.

So La Cucina opens about six weeks ago in the lobby of Imperial Plaza, and your intrepid fair-deal pasta lover sets out to do a review. In three visits I work my way through fresh housemade trenette (a wide pasta with ruffled edges) with housemade Italian sausage, uncased ($15); trenette in a rich bolognese ($15, pictured above); fresh fettuccine that instead of swimming in a heavy cream sauce carbonara is lightly tossed with parmesan, bacon and eggs ($15); fresh ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a gently sweet basil and saffron cream sauce ($19); pillowy fresh gnocchi tossed in pesto ($13), and fresh spaghetti coated in a spicy, salty puttanesca ($12 and the only miss).

That’s just my own personal parade of pasta. For secondi, the protein dishes that follow the pasta course, I can tell you the osso bucco ($25) is fall-off-the-bone in a satisfying sauce that’s more delicate than robust, and the veal piccata ($22), more tender and light than Mediterraneo’s, is hard to stop eating.

So two things happen on my last visit last week: When I open the menu I again renew my resolve to work my way through every pasta; and I find out that La Cucina, a tiny place with one chef and five burners, encourages family-style eating.

Mangiamo, people! Forget the review, let’s go eat! The place is a find highly worthy of a group dinner, so here’s an open invite to Nonstop readers: Tuesday, June 19, 6:30 p.m. We show up, order off the menu, and sample course by course: Antipasti like these mushroom crostini, salads if you like, then pastas, ravioli, risotto, proteins and dessert.

As with all Nonstop group dinners, we all split the cost of the food and pay for our own drinks (there’s a small menu of Italian wines, and a corkage fee if you bring your own).

A couple of notes: This is not East Coast-style Italian, so you won’t find things like lasagna and eggplant parmesan. Chef-owner Don Truong trained at King Street’s Mediterraneo under owner Fabrizzio Favale, a native Roman, so there are similarities between the menus, but La Cucina’s offerings run in a narrower range and Truong has added his own touches.

And I’ll buy a drink for the first person who can identify the secret ingredient in La Cucina’s bolognese.

Interested? Just sign up in the Comments here, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

What: Nonstop dinner at La Cucina
Where: Imperial Plaza lobby, 725 Kapiolani Blvd.
When: Tuesday, June 19, 6:30 p.m.
Parking: Up to 3 hours free with validation in Imperial Plaza garage, or street parking


You can read all of Mari’s blogs at Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at

  1. ThomasOhhh
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    you know i’m in! 

  2. nonstopmari
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm

     @ThomasOhhh dingdingding!! a new record for quickest response. just u or +1?
    p.s. did u even read the blog? ;)

  3. ThomasOhhh
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm

     @nonstopmari You had me at MANGIAMO! but yes, I did read the post ; )
    i’m getting john sy on board right now! I’m sure BraddahUnicorn  will want to join. Maybe Yobobear too! 

  4. nonstopmari
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm

     @ThomasOhhh  BraddahUnicorn  Yobobear k. lmk!

  5. ThomasOhhh
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm

     @nonstopmari  BraddahUnicorn  Yobobear They are both in and So is John Sy! Boom, let’s go! 

  6. Melissa808
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I’m in!

  7. nonstopmari
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm

     @Melissa808 u’re in!

  8. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Oh man, my mouth is watering…when’s the next flight over?! Looks like it’ll be a blast. Enjoy, everyone! :) 

  9. MyongChoi
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

     Is he going to wear the unicorn mask to dinner?

  10. nonstopmari
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:29 am

     @annedreshfield spkg of which, when ARE u coming to honolulu? ;)

  11. Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

     @nonstopmari hopefully in December! :) 

  12. nonstopmari
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

     @annedreshfield hopefully! we’ll go eat up this town :D

  13. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 6:52 am

    EO:  put me down for 2

  14. nonstopmari
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

    @Annoddah_Dave Mangiamo! See u next tues :)

  15. Soos2005
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Hi @NonStopMari can 2 eaters join?

  16. nonstopmari
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm

     @Soos2005  si, bene! mangiamo! ;D

  17. ThomasOhhh
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

     @MyongChoi He just might have to! 

  18. russkar
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 5:17 am

    Hi Mari, 
    Do you have space for 2 more?

  19. nonstopmari
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm

     @russkar hey, just seeing this now! glad u cd make it, and thnx for the cabernet ;)

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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