Formaggio Grill

Enjoy an Eastside night spot in Kailua

Things are literally “looking good” for Kailua native Dusty Grable. Grable is not only the restaurant manager at Formaggio Grill in Kailua, but he also was voted the town’s “Sexiest Man” for the third year in a row.

For verification of Grable’s prestigious title, head to the Kailua Formaggio and just ask bartender Steve Ho – he’s eager to spread the news. If you come looking for Steve, you might as well come in the late evening and indulge in a glass of one of Formaggio’s many wines, creative cocktails, fabulous food and local musicians.

Just seven months new, the Kailua Formaggio already is a hot night spot “drawing in younger adults to older adults and anybody who appreciates good wine,” says Grable. It offers the same great quality food and drinks as the Formaggio Wine Bar at Market City in Kaimuki, but takes it a step further with its atmosphere. Angel hair-thin, chandelier-like lamps hang from the ceiling, the tiny bulbs providing lighting that’s just right – not too bright and not too dark. Quirky and colorful paintings by resident artist Ron Genta adorn the walls, and Genta, by the way, also painted the bar’s tables and wall pillars. A small stage for musicians is nestled in a front corner, opposite a counter seating area which happens to offer front-row viewing of the Formaggio kitchen. Besides the traditional table-for-your-party-only, guests may sit at “friendship tables,” where meeting total strangers is the name of the game. The long tables seat eight or so people and provide room for pairs, foursomes and trios to make new friends while enjoying libations.

“We are a bar – although families are more than welcome, we want to provide a place where parents can get a baby sitter and come out,” says Grable.

Its wine room may be cool, dark and narrow, but it houses 1,300 bottles, and Formaggio carries more than 60 wines by the glass. It’s also home to a Cru Vinet system, few of which are on Oahu (check out the one at Amuse Wine Bar in town as well).

“It’s like having a wine on tap, but it preserves the wine. It brings fine wine to the masses. It’s a lot of fun, a great opportunity for guests,” explains Grable, who is a sommelier-in-training along with general manager Patrick Okubo.

This wine-on-tap system allows Formaggio to open more wine bottles at once than your average restaurant. Not sure which wine to order? Just ask your wino friends, or order a 2-ounce pour of an eye-catching vino from the bar’s list. A favorite of both Grable and Okubo is the A&P De Villaine Les Montos, a 2005 Burgundy. The Domaine Du Rozets grenache (2005) is another good one to taste test. Because Formaggio often orders wines rarely seen in these parts, guests should check the specials board to see what’s new.

“We’re about keeping things new and fresh. We’re not your typical restaurant where people come in and want the same thing every single time,” said Okubo, adding that their drink menu changes about once a month.

Besides the wine there’s, of course, the delectable menu featuring steaks, pasta, wine bar favorites, seafood and more – all of which are available all the time, so late-night diners are welcome to order whatever they like until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, and until 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. A couple of late-night options are the truffled shoestring fries with black pepper or the Formaggio Fonduta (a fondue of imported cheese, spinach, artichoke and crab meat served with warm crostinis).

Served alongside the wine and food is live music Wednesday through Saturday, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Local wine guru Lyle Fujioka opened Formaggio Wine Bar and later sold it to Wes Zane and chef Alfredo Almar Arcano, who have since opened the Kailua Formaggio Grill.

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