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Pasta & Basta is 'finito'


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POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fans of the handmade pasta and fresh mozzarella, imported prosciutto and other Italian noshables at Pasta & Basta might be crushed like a wine grape to read that it will not reopen.

It is “;finito,”; said chef and owner Donato Loperfido, whose wife, Desiree, worked the front of the house every day.

The Waterfront Plaza complex “;is so empty”; since Aloha Airlines and the Hawaii Superferry shut down and moved out, he said, leaving tens of thousands of square feet of office space void of potential lunch and dinner customers.

Opened in April 2007, the restaurant was operating on a month-to-month basis, he said.

It closed earlier this summer after its pizza oven was discovered to be severely damaged, sending smoke into offices above. Replacement would have cost $30,000, not including labor. Without pizza on the menu, many customers would just turn and leave rather than order a pasta dish or sandwich.

Many diners look for cheap eats at lunch without much thought to quality, such as from plate-lunch places that “;use everything out of the box,”; for plates including two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad and some sort of protein. “;That plate costs no more than $2 (to make),”; but customers pay as much as $8, he said.

“;We, on the other hand, we buy the semolina and make our fresh pasta, we make our fresh sauce with fresh tomatoes, to give the people the freshness and quality.”;

“;I did everything from scratch,”; including his handcrafted fresh mozzarella.

The restaurants that are busy are the big chains from the mainland, he said, naming Buca di Beppo, Romano's Macaroni Grill and P.F. Changs—“;and the real restaurants of the people of Hawaii, like us ... are struggling.”;

He is still involved with Elua, his restaurant in partnership with Philippe Padovani, and his Flavors of Italy LLC, which imports wines and international beers “;is doing very well,”; but as far as Waterfront Plaza, “;there was no future for me over there,”; he said.

Rather, his future is in his past—specifically, his homeland.

The Italy-born kamaaina with 25 years, a wife and two daughters in Hawaii will lead tours to his motherland.

“;I'm gonna show you Italy inside and out—how Italians eat and drink and live,”; he said. Tourists would never find some of the places he'll show his tour-takers, he said.

Ten-day oeno-gastronomic tours of Italy begin in April, “;and I'm completely booked for my first one,”; he said. He got 85 responses but is only able to take the first 20 at a cost of $4,500 per person, if traveling as a couple, or $5,000 for singles—not including airfare.

And you thought there was a recession.

“;We will stay in beautiful castles”; and villas in a rotating selection of regions all with their own claim to food and wine fame.

The first group will visit vineyards, wineries and Michelin-starred restaurants in Verona, Veneto (Venice), for the “;Vin Italy”; wine festival; Piemonte (Piedmont); Tuscana (Tuscany); and a castle in Parma in Emilia Romagna famous for its prosciutto (cured ham).

Tour participants will be offered a chance at “;vino therapy.”; Not the pau-hana lifting of glass to lip, but taking “;a bath in essences made out of wine. It's good for your skin, they say.”;

Do you come out stained?

“;No, rejuvenated,”; he said.

Each tour will include “;a great dinner prepared by me in a winery,”; Loperfido said.

Six of those who go on the next trip in September will be treated to a special cooking class. “;It's going to be me and my grandmother. She's the one going to be making all the food,”; and there will be dinner, of course.

ON THE NET:

» www.flavorsofitalyhawaii.com
» www.eluarestaurant.com