Taverna celebrates three years in Kapalua this Saturday with one of the year’s most anticipated foodie parties up North. We caught up with chef Roger Stettler and bar manager April Leslie to get a sneak peek into the event, and talk about their vision of modern Italian cuisine.
For them, classics still reign supreme, although new creations are making their way onto patrons’ plates. “The number one seller from day one has been the lasagna, but we have also arrived at a point where 80 percent of the dishes on the menu will remain due to popular demand,” says Stettler. “We added lunch and happy hour. The newly created CPB house burger and Edgar’s fish taco have become the front runners at lunch.”
Taverna opened for lunch toward the end of last year, giving guests even more time in the day to try their food and cocktails. Personally, I’m really excited to hear that we now have a muffuletta sandwich on Maui.
“The lunch menu has a broader selection of non-traditional Italian dishes but still represents what our concept is all about,” says Stettler. “We have a seafood cobb salad, polpette sub, chicken panini, muffuletta sandwich, and fritto misto. We strive to continually create rustic Italian comfort food from scratch, in a relaxed yet sophisticated neighborhood tavern.”
In addition to the extended menu and operating hours, Taverna has thrown some epic foodie get-togethers and is building on that reputation.
“We did some very nice events over the year – our anniversary party has really become something that our guests are looking forward to,” says Stettler. “’Rose All Day’ is another event for us that we believe is going to be an annual event. We also did a number of wine dinners and trade tasting events. Just creating daily specials for our regulars has given the team of very talented cooks an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and creativity in Italian food.”
That knowledge and foodie passion extends to the bar, where April Leslie holds court over creativity and flavor.
“Our mai tai is definitely our best seller,” says Leslie.” We run through a ton of our house-made hazelnut orgeat [syrup]. I would say that the the Taverna negroni would come in second. We use a house-made strawberry balsamic reduction to create a wonderfully unique flavor combination. For lunch we make a mean bloody Mary with house-made pickled veggies. I’m a avid gardener and lover of all things plant-related. I tend to find inspiration in nature and love to forage local ingredients and then turn them into cocktails.”
And nature’s inspiration is always surrounding Taverna. Leslie especially appreciates the location for its natural geology.
“Kapalua has an abundance of rainbows and rain,” she says. “Definitely not complaining. It makes for a breathtaking view.”
Stettler has been inspired to keep things simple and stick to his roots.
“We have an incredible wine list and craft cocktail menu that truly compliments our style of food very well, so pairing food with great wines and cocktails has been at the top of my list,” says Stettler. “But also going back to basics when it comes to cooking: being true to the art of cooking and utilizing the basic preparation methods of cooking with great quality ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible.”
The Under the Stars Celebration of Chefs anniversary party kicks off Saturday with eight chef stations in the restaurant, a selection of local craft beer from Kohola Brewery, specialty craft cocktails, and a selection of Italian-influenced wines. Entertainment will include the Gina Martinelli and Friends Jazz Trio. A star-studded chef line-up will include Gary Johnson, Alvin Savella, Mijing Chang, Matt Paul, David Abella, Chris D’Agostino, Ces Jocson, and Courtney Galarita. This is a benefit for the Maui Culinary Academy. Call 808-667-2426 to reserve tickets.
Under the Stars Celebration of Chefs
Taverna Urban Drinks + Italian Eats
2000 Village Rd., Kapalua
Saturday, March 23. 6-9pm
$125. Call 808-667-2426 for tickets