When a sudden craving for Italian cuisine struck—unofficially diagnosed as post-World Cup blues—I asked a few trusted friends for recommendations that were low-key and authentic. After tallying some positive word-of-mouth, my friend Kim and I headed to Basil Tomatoes Italian Grille, a relaxed Westside bistro sandwiched between the Royal Lahaina Resort and one of the Ka’anapali golf courses.
Upon arriving with a grumbling stomach, we found a crowd by the bar waiting to be seated. Not to fret, the host warmly welcomed us and signed us in. A few minutes later we headed to a cozy booth with views of the course’s lush landscaping. The ocean breeze blew against our skin as a server brought water and warm bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. So far, so good.
The menu offered an extensive list of tantalizing fares so we started with some vino to get inspiration. After requesting a fruity variety, our server recommended I get the 2004 Guntrum dry German Reisling, with its overtones of pear and green apples. My friend decided on the 2005 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which was still very tropical but had a dryer finish. Both were crisp, pleasant and worth seeking.
Our palates whetted, we enjoyed the Basil Tomatoes house salad with buffalo mozzarella cheese and Maui onions. On a balmy summer night, the flavors were especially refreshing. The tomatoes and thinly sliced sweet onions were fresh, ripe and juicy. The dressing was tamely tart and sweet. We were so on a roll.
For our main course, I ordered the manicotti, which came with two crepes stuffed with chicken, mushroom and ricotta cheese and drenched in creamy Alfredo sauce. The crepes were rubbery on top, but once I got through it, everything inside was tender, delicious and happily devoured. Still, the dish came listed under “specialties,” so I expected perfection.
Kim opted for the pasta primavera, which was also pretty anti-climactic. The vegetables were garden fresh, but the linguine seemed a little dead and the tomato sauce was heavy on paste but light on flavor. Just when I thought everything was going so well.
But all was not lost. To polish off, we ordered the classic tiramisu, which was not even close to a disappointment. The ladyfingers were fluffy and, most importantly, not soggy. The custard was fresh and lovely.
Considering the overall atmosphere, presentation, food and excellent service overall, I might just make a return visit. MTW