New Italian restaurant: La Cucina Ristorante Italiana
Clockwise from top left: lobster ravioli, trenette Bolognese, gnocchi Amatriciana, tiramisu
Imperial Plaza, a condo building, makes for an improbable restaurant location, but there's already one destination-worthy, tiny restaurant here, so why not add another to the mix ... this time Italian? What Ah Lang does for Korean food, La Cucina Ristorante Italiana does for pasta. At each of these restaurants, one chef in the kitchen executes comforting, crowd-pleasing food; at La Cucina, it's Don Truong, formerly of Mediteraneo, who makes most of the pastas fresh for dishes like fettucine carbonara, ravioli and Bolognese. Don't expect spaghetti, though—instead, the ground veal, pork and beef sauce works its way into all the little crevices of trenette pasta, a wider, crinkly-edged noodle—a perfect pairing for the Bolognese.
Sauces, like the Amatriciana,with bacon and tomato, are flavorful, though all the dishes ran slightly salty when we went. A lobster ravioli was disappointing, the filling a mushy puree that tasted only faintly of seafood. Gnocchi are advertised as homemade, but they look and taste bought.
My lesson: stick with the fresh pastas and basic sauces, most of which are under $15 and hearty. And don't forget dessert: tiramisu, creamy and light, appropriately boozy and coffee soaked.
Pastas $12 (puttanesca) to $19 (lobster ravioli)
Imperial Plaza, 725 Kapiolani Blvd, Suite C112, 593-2626