Casanova Italian Restaurant

I don’t remember much about my trip to Europe. Of course, I was 10 years old at the time, which was, like, 20 years ago—or a little more—but I do recall loving Italy. It’s a love and fascination with the culture, the people and especially the food, that has stayed with me even into my old age.

This might help explain why I find Casanova so charming. And this is coming from someone who actually pulled the hectic Ladies’ Night cocktail-waitressing gig a few years back. So yes, even after slinging shots of tequila through the wall-to-wall crowd of scoping scenesters, I can safely say my love for Casanova remains intact.

There are obvious reasons: first, its prime upcountry location in the middle of Makawao Town means cool nighttime breezes will encourage romantic snuggling as well as heavy carb consumption. And the dimly lit dining room set aglow with scarlet walls on which hang seductive paintings by local Italian artist Piero Resta is made cozier by large bouquets of tropical flora and a lushly foliaged waterfall in the corner.

A family operated restaurant for more than 20 years, Casanova’s owners—one of whom is always roaming the dining room and offering warm smiles and flirty winks (viva Italia!)—take pride and pleasure in ensuring their guests’ comfort. And the prices are surprisingly moderate for what you get, winks notwithstanding.

And then there is the food. In the past I’ve given way to a couple dinner favorites, which meant always ordering either the Paglia E Fieno Al Funghi (linguine with mushrooms in creamy garlic sauce, $15), the Beverly Hills (chicken rigatoni with sundried tomato cream sauce with vodka, $15) or the Margherita (tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza, $12) and ending with tiramisu.

Mmm… tiramisu.

But recently, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone. That happened when chef David Gemberling treated me to an astonishing—although not unconquerable—feast.

We started with the Gamberi E Fagioli Al Rosmarino ($9), scrumptious skewers of charbroiled shrimp served atop white cannellini beans with sweet Kula onions and capers. We also went for the delectable Asparagi Al Prosciutto ($9), fresh asparagus sauteed in garlic and then wrapped in prosciutto with Kula goat cheese and a creamy avocado dressing.

The L’Insalata Russa ($9) in our second course was a hit. Diced organic beets with cubed potatoes were served with a tangy dill and tangerine dressing on a bed of baby arugula with roasted walnuts and French goat cheese. The richness of the salad paired fabulously with the Insalata Fabiola ($9), light and refreshing Begian endive with pears, arugula, Gorgonzola and walnuts.

But one of my favorites came during course three, with the Ravioli De Magro Al Tartufo ($16), homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese with fresh sage cream sauce and a hint of truffle oil.

Our fourth course featured a tender and juicy, baked mahi mahi in parchment paper with lemon and dill cream sauce and an incredulously tasty ossobucco ($26), simmered in red wine for three-to-four hours, in classic Italian style.

As for the desserts, I don’t remember much at this point, as I also might’ve been simmering in red wine for three-to-four hours, but I do recall loving them. MTW