At first, the people who live in the Lipoa area of Kihei weren’t all that keen to have a new restaurant and bar open in the South Maui Center. The relatively recent opening and closing of the old Kiwi Roadhouse in the same space didn’t help; that place’s bar fights and dark interior were hardly family-friendly.
Fast forward to today and drop in at Fabiani’s Bakery and Pizzeria and you will see a 180 degree change. The bright and friendly interior fills up fast over the dinner hour, while people pop in to order take out and gaze in the bakery case. Their in-house, fresh-baked pastries and amazing Italian coffee make it a great spot to pick up breakfast or get sandwiches and pizza for lunch.
Family is important to Lorenzo and Michelle Fabiani. They have a one-year old son named Gino, so family is at the heart of their eatery.
Their restaurant is simple and elegant, fashionable without being overly stylized. Tall bar seating lines one side and their four- and two-top tables have basic wood chairs with “Wailea” and “Lahaina” char-branded onto them. There are also large family style tables with benches, and it looks like they’re working on an outdoor dining area that served as my daughter’s fenced in play area. Thank goodness, too, because after the pastries I fed her there she had some steam to burn off.
The menu is simple but makes its point with every dish. They have fresh baked goods and pastries, sandwiches, salads, pasta and pizza. Each item is executed well. The basil-infused olive oil in the caprese is a nice touch, as are the local Zuhair tomatoes. These are the kinds of touches that are put on just about everything on the menu.
Michelle, a graduate of Johnson and Wales culinary academy, is an accomplished baker, having been a pastry chef for Longhi’s, Grand Wailea and the Oyster Bar.
“Is that a cheesecake?” I asked her of one dessert.
“No,” she beamed. “It’s called a ‘Bee Sting.’ Caramelized almond crust on top. That’s Bavarian creme inside.”
Michelle says she loves making the desserts, which change every day. They bake all their bread, from the foccacia to the brioche buns for the burgers to the New York style bagels. Randy Posenauer, another (super) baker at Fabiani’s, jokes that they are growing a field of wheat in the back of the restaurant. Posenauer is also German, and I wonder if he is an influence behind the Bee Sting, also known as the Beinenstich cake. It’s a thin torte of sweet yeast dough sandwiches with inches of Bavarian creme and a sweet almond crust crown. It’s unbelievably good. Of course, chocolate croissants, fruit tarts and assorted cupcakes will also tempt you at the bakery case.
As far as lunch goes, the panini I ordered came with a hot, crisp exterior that gave way to hot gooeyness: Zuhair tomato, pesto, mozzarella and chicken, in my case. The sandwiches are all served in a basket with salad–fresh mixed Kula greens, diced candied macadamia and their house lilikoi vanilla vinaigrette dressing.
For a Girls Day celebration, my girlfriend and I giggled over glasses of Valdobbiadene prosecco and pizza. We tried “The Fabiani”–salami, mushrooms and brie. I usually feel that when you heat salami, the gamey flavors are exposed, but the star of the show is their crust, thin, crisp and chewy. With chunks of brie and mushrooms the pie becomes earthy and wonderful. We devoured every morsel and decided that on the next one we would sub proscuitto for the salami and see what happens to the flavor.
Bethany Gingerich and Joe Cicchino, who own Elise Clothing Company next door, said they love the “Maui Veggie” pizza, though they add goat cheese to it. At lunch the 12″ pizza is $10, which you can order gluten-free for $1.99 more.
Later, I stopped in for dinner. Sitting on a sofa near the entrance, I sipped an excellent cappuccino while enjoying a bird’s eye view of the kitchen. The dinner rush was on and Chef Joe Caccamo was expertly negotiating pizzas in and out of the oven. My linguini with clams came just how I like, with thick, juicy clams in the shell, a think white wine butter sauce with bits of fresh flat leaf parsley and perfect al dente pasta. I asked Lorenzo if he makes his own pasta.
“Not yet,” he said. “Not the linguine. The lasagna we do.”
I couldn’t help ordering “Lorenzo’s Garlic Bread,” that says “it’s just like Mama used to make.” I pictured Lorenzo’s mama making this delicious buttery garlicky foccacia toast to go with her pasta, and wondered what Lorenzo might think of my mama who made rice, but never bread like this.
The tako carpaccio is a stunning dish, one Lorenzo has taken from home in Italy’s Cinque Terre region. I love eating octopus but have never had it served like this. Paper thin slices of tako are drizzled with the same green basil-infused olive oil also seen in the caprese and then diced local tomato, pine nuts and fresh basil are sprinkled over it. I poked one round edge with a fork tine and rolled the whole business up and around the utensil and bit. The seafood’s usual chewy bite is masked by the micro thin slice, which gives way to crunchy pine nuts and billowy basil aroma.
“I admit I didn’t want them to open another restaurant here at first, but now I am happy,” Lipoa Center neighbor Marlene Rivera told me. “I am here everyday. I love their food.”
Fabiani’s is open 7 days a week for breakfast lunch and dinner at the South Maui Center on Lipoa.
95 E Lipoa St. #101
Kihei HI 96753
Meet the Fabiani’s in this video: