Pita Paradise Wailea
Wailea Gateway Center,
34 Wailea Gateway Pl.
879-7177, open 7am-10pm
The Arabatzis family has generations of Mediterranean cuisine experience to share with Maui—so much, in fact, that it can’t be contained in one restaurant. And so they opened another one, the new Pita Paradise location in Wailea. The culture of food runs deep in Greece. Did you know people have been eating feta cheese since the Byzantine? It was good then and it rocks now.
You may already be familiar with the the Arabatzis’ food. The Greek Bistro, now closed, was started in 1988 by John Sr., while Pita Paradise in Kihei opened was more than eleven years ago by John Jr. and his wife Christine, and is still going strong with its casual but delicious Mediterranean offerings. While the Wailea and Kihei restaurants share the same name—and both have lots of great Arabatzis recipes—the similarities end there.
“My father is from the Grecian islands and introduced an ethnic, Greek-flavored cuisine to Maui,” says John Jr., who adds that he learned to cook at The Greek Bistro and has been preparing food for two decades, since high school.
The new location has a gorgeous full bar, an extended wine list and a spacious dining room with air conditioning that gives way to large windows looking out at the open-air lanai seating. A mural adorns the wall, telling a story of the family’s dedication to sharing their food traditions with Maui. Christine Arabatzis, who oversees the restaurants, designed the room to be elegant and comfortable, awash in warm tones with modern stucco walls.
The breakfast menu is unique with its Greek-inspired dishes, like the egg with feta and basil pita, and the Mediterranean skillet. They have a pastry chef who comes daily to make fresh baked goods. The lunch menu has lots of pita sandwiches, fresh salads and pasta dishes, all available for take out as well.
The Pita Paradise crew have a special connection to the bounty of the Pacific Ocean, something the Greeks lack. The once-abundant Mediterranean Sea is overfished and polluted and fishing is threatened. On Maui, John Jr. fishes for the restaurants on his boat, “The Ricket,” catching ahi, mahi, ono and local bottom fish like opakapaka, onaga, gindai, lehi, and hapu (seabass).
Executive Chef Jesse Robinson designs a nightly special around the fresh fish. “My inspiration in creating the fresh fish dishes come from the environment around me, the fresh produce and the people I work with,” says Robinson. “The Mediterranean flavors you can expect are the freshness of the herbs and citrus. It’s a combination of light with rich flavors. Greek food is some of the healthiest food.”
The evening I stopped by, the fresh fish was pan seared ahi with a burgundy red wine butter sauce with sun-dried tomato mashed potato and sauteed vegetables. The ahi melted in your mouth, and the sauce had a gorgeous glossy purple color. Every dish is served with their house-made pita bread, and it goes with everything.
The Mediterranean appetizer platter is a can’t-miss starter, full of fresh vegetable tapas and dips. The spicy falafel is amazing; some falafel can be dry, but these have an irresistible texture and flavor. The bruschetta, hummus and tepanade with grilled pita make it a salad and appetizer all at once. There are lots of tapas to enjoy: ziziki, tiropita, lamb pitza and calamari. The Greek salad is reinvented with an amazing dressing.
A new addition to the menu are the pasta entrees, recipes sourced from John Jr.’s sicilian roots traced through his mother and grandmother. The Bolognese is a rich pork and beef sauce stewed for hours. “I have watched my grandmother make traditional Italian cuisine since I can remember,” says John Jr.
The chicken fettuccine, which has a light cream sauce with mushrooms and chicken breast chunks, was a table favorite; we had to jan ken po for who got to take home the leftovers. The traditional Greek lamb is seen in the lamb salad and the medalions entree, but if you really want to go Greek get the Greek Gods Platter, which features all of the family specialties: moussaka, gyro, spinach tiropita and tzaziki. The Pita Paradise gyro isn’t made on a spit, but rather from hand-sliced, grilled leg of lamb.
The new bar is decked out with a cocktail menu that’s perfect for celebrating the day’s happiest hour, 3-6pm, where cocktails are $1 off, beers are $3-$4 and tapas are $2 off. The Mediterranean punch is made with Southern Comfort, Disaronno, melon liqueur and fresh juices. The Paradise Passion designed by bartender Chad Beitler and Christine Arabatzis imparts a ginger passion fruit buzz with Canton Ginger liqueur and St. Germaine plus fresh passion fruit juice.
Pita Paradise Wailea is offering a buy one, get one half-off entree special on Mondays; call and make a reservation and mention the special. They’ll also be participating in restaurant week Wailea, running November 7-13. And on the second Fridays of each month starting at 6:30pm they’ll have a live belly dancing show, while on Sundays Benoit Jazzworks will perform at 5:30pm. ■
Got a hot food scoop? Contact Jen Russo at 280-3386 or fax to 244-0446.
To share or save this article, type:
For more foodie news, visit MauiTime’s food blog at: mauidish.com