I first stumbled into Saltimbocca in Ma’alaea one evening after getting off a sunset cruise boat. It was the perfect place to stave off the hunger of an evening of sailing, and a pleasant discovery. The owners Jim and Masha Bateman are passionate about the Italian cuisine they serve at their cucina and make no bones about providing full vegan and gluten-free menus, making their own pastas and breads and pulling in organically sourced local ingredients.
“We have worked all the kinks out in the year or so that we have been here,” says Jim. “We have tweaked the recipes, and the chef is really in his groove. Now our focus is on the evening, happy hour, dinner and dessert, and we have really reached our stride.”
The restaurant’s interior is well-suited to the atmosphere and culture the Bateman’s are striving to create. Red brick walls and rich mahogany interior tables and chairs evoke modern, chic San Francisco Italiano dining rooms. The restaurant sits high overlooking the harbor and the curve of Kihei’s coastline all the way to Makena. Haleakala dramatically looks on from the distance. Ma’alaea’s customary blustery attitude is handled well here, with the restaurant well protected from the wind so sitting outdoors on their patio is fabulous.
The menu has plenty of pastas, with just about any cream, red or wine sauce and protein combination you can imagine. The dishes have an easy, contemporary twist to them: the traditional meatball and spaghetti is made with ground turkey; clams and linguine feature zucchini and leek; and pesto is done with walnuts and served on the pumpkin ravioli.
The carne e pesce entrees are hearty–pork chops, steaks, ossobuco, fresh fish and veal. Sides are mashed potato, tomato gratin, sautéed kale, eggplant and risotto. My daughter is a ferocious steak eater and gave them a passionate thumbs up for her grilled New York cut. We also sampled Masha’s pasta, the housemade tagliatelle with asparagus, prawns and mushrooms in a truffle cream sauce. It’s a rich, filling dish. The leftovers are also spectacular when heated up at home.
The antipasti list has a robust list of small plates to get your appetite rolling: veal or beef capriccios, Brussels, prawns, rosemary and sage gnocchi. Salads of caprese, Caesar, beet and mista with spinach are fresh and crisp. They have a header on the menu for bruschetta–here, it’s a food group with lots of options, and why not? They make their own bread and it’s exquisite. The range of toppings you can serve on bruschetta should be celebrated, too. The goat cheese and honey is exotic and they have a classic tomato/garlic-style, a rich fontina and sausage and a wine/tomato and ricotta that is reminiscent of South Italian cuisine.
Their Italian desserts are also remarkable (remember, this is the cuisine that brought us gelato, tiramisu and Amaretto). I couldn’t pass up the Profiterol. Highly recommended by our server, it went superb with a night cap of espresso for the drive home. Saltimbocca also maintains a solid selection of wine, beer and hand-crafted cocktails.
For Happy Hour, the bartender was mixing a Peroni into gin with blueberry simple syrup. These unexpected combinations are what the 5 o’clock hour is all about. You should also ask for his Caprese Martini–tomato, vodka and Fustini’s strawberry balsamic. Think of it as a salad that can get you tipsy.
Saltimbocca has an amazing kama’aina special: on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, if you buy one entree, you can get the second free. Of course, this is the last month you can enjoy it, so now’s the time to try it. They also have their regular 25 percent off food special for kama’aina.
Happy Hour runs 4-6pm and features 40 percent off their wine, $4 cocktails and $4 draft beers (they also have a list of antipasti from $3 to $6). If you join them on Thanksgiving, you can order their Italian-inspired feast of filet, turkey, seafood risotto, pumpkin bruschetta, cranberry panna cotta and pumpkin pie canoli.
Ma’alaea Harbor Shops
300 Maalaea Rd.
Open daily 4-9:30pm