Penne Pasta is a good choice for no-frills, no-surprises, well priced Italian food. Well-known Maui chef Mark Ellman (Mala and the brand new Honu) opened this small, amiable eatery and then passed it on to his sous chef, who continues to cook the same authentic Italian — and some Italian-American — dishes for $18 or less. (In Lahaina? Yes. In Lahaina.)
The pastas are cooked al dente, and the sauces are homemade and taste that way (good). If you’re from the East Coast and have a fondness for baked penne, the version here is cheesy and has good flavors (not completely bland like so many are). We like the bolognese sauce with its tender meat, and the slightly spicy meatballs. The house salad is very good and comes with an excellent piece of homemade crostini. Even better is the ample Nicoise salad, with roast potatoes, garlicky seared ahi, olives, and a lovely red onion Dijon vinaigrette. Pizzas are thin crusted and good. The oven-roasted squash is sweet and flavored with plenty of butter, sage, and almonds.
The daily specials are worth ordering. The regulars include a succulent roast chicken, a spicy and hearty sausage with pasta, and a tender and meaty lamb osso bucco (the new owner inherited the recipe, originally from Mark Ellman’s grandmother.) Each special comes with a small salad.
You order at the counter and take a number back to your table (inside or outside), so your server can find you when your food is ready. Beer and wine are available and we always find something simple to go with the meal. The clean, well-lit restaurant features blond tables with aluminum legs and lightweight chairs (some folding), and you’ll see that most of the cost of the meal goes into the ingredients, not the dishes or the ambience. In a town where everything is overpriced, this is a relief.
Address: 180 Dickenson St., Lahaina, West Maui
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Hours: M-F 11am-9:30pm; Sa-Su 5pm-9:30pm
Parking: Lot, Street