At the intersection of Baldwin and Makawao avenues, Casanova is an upcountry institution and a gathering spot for the local community. It’s really two restaurants: a daytime deli attached to a bistro with a dance floor, open for lunch and dinner. The kitchen sends out good food to both, the service is kindhearted and friendly, and the entertainment schedule is packed with everything from visiting DJs to saucy cabaret acts.
The deli offers simple omelets with fresh mozzarella and buttermilk biscuits for breakfast — not a bad option, but not the most imaginative either. For lunch, choose from a roster of tried and true sandwiches, of which the New York with meatballs, grilled onions and marinara sauce is a standout. The pizza is more of a platform for Italian vegetables than a typical pie, but it’s hearty and delicious all the same.
Baristas will learn your name and your drink of choice if you return for more. For lunch at the adjoining bistro, the cioppino stuffed with chunks of seafood and shellfish is especially satisfying if the day has turned misty and cool — not infrequent in this neck of the woods. At dinnertime, the emphasis is not necessarily on giving you “the best night of your life,” but we have had many good nights here — and three of our readers have reported spontaneous marriage proposals. Casanova carries an undercurrent of enthusiasm and happiness that is catchy. Perhaps it’s because the building was originally a USO for American marines stationed nearby during World War II?
The menu is Italian and everything is made from scratch. The carpaccio di bresaola is thinly sliced beef rolled with fresh arugula, parmesan cheese, and a lemony olive oil dressing. There are some good flavors here, although we wish a little sharper pepper taste (capers?) were present. We like the ravioli di magro al tartufo: homemade raviolis stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese in a moat of delicately flavored sage cream sauce.
The steaks are good, and we like the fun presentation, where the mashed potatoes are shaped into a pineapple, with a little sprig of greens at the top to represent the crown. The aforementioned pizza makes a nice light meal or appetizer: the wood-burning oven turns out a pretty crust, and the simpler toppings are the best. (By the way, their bread is excellent because it’s this pizza dough baked in their oven.)
The bar is a typical nightclub’s workhorse — standard stock in the well. But decent wines can be had by the glass, and there’s Guinness on tap. The tiramisu is slightly heavy in texture, but the flavors are strong and rich. The big bar area and the dance floor make the entertainment events and dancing nights popular. Make it a point to check out their schedule: there is something going on most nights of the week, and dining here before the show can earn you free admission. Note to parents: your children can take to the dance floor — no one will mind.
Address: 1188 Makawao Ave., Makawao, Upcountry
Location: At Makawao Avenue and Baldwin Avenue intersection
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Hours: M-Sa 11:30am-2pm; Daily 5:30-9:30pm; Pizza until 11pm on
nights with entertainment