A Rocky Road Story From Eggs To Pasta
The year is off to a great culinary start with restaurants opening, street food festivals and creative chefs “popping up” in venues across town.
Chai Chaowasaree opened his gorgeous new restaurant last week in The Pacifica Building, after a record-setting build-out by local contractor Scott Coulter and his team of restaurant experts.
And Iron Chef Sakai is set to open Sakai, Honolulu in Waikiki in late spring.
Perhaps in response to this creative burst, we’re also seeing an increased number of TV crews arriving in Honolulu filming food-based pilots and following chefs. And amid all the buzz and the busyness of the new ones, local food businesses – those built on generations of hard work – are thriving.
A great example of an unpretentious family business is Rocky Road Products. Many will remember the Rocky Road egg farm that began in the late 1940s in Waialae-Kahala. Founder Wallace Nitta was president of the Hawaii State Farm Bureau, Department of Agriculture chairman and a man who worked tirelessly for farmers and for the preservation of agricultural land during his lifetime. An egg farmer – and the first person to sell fresh, bagged chickens in Hawaii – Nitta built a strong foundation for his company. He died two years ago, but the business continues to thrive under the stewardship of daughter Carol and son Kyle. Even 83-year-old mom, Frances, still comes to work every day to take care of ordering and supplies.
“It keeps my mind alert,” says the sprightly octogenarian. “It’s a matter of habit to keep coming here. I’ve been coming to work every day since I got married.”
Today, Rocky Road is tucked away in a quiet corner of Waimanalo. It’s easy to miss, but if you turn off Hihimanu Street and pull up in front of the unassuming offices, you’ll be in for a surprise. No longer an egg farm – the family decided to stop farming and concentrate on distribution after being devastated by two hurricanes – the company now distributes eggs and other food products. As surprising as it may seem, this humble distributor offers some fabulous Italian-inspired ingredients, including a range of sauces, dried pastas, salami and cheese. There are eggs for sale, of course, but you’ll also find turkey sausages, bite-sized snacks, dried meats and mini bruschetta. Potato chips and cheese, bottled sauces and bacon all are part of the eclectic mix.
Carol runs the office, is in charge of sales and also is the company pasta maker.
“We started making pasta about 13 years ago, when we bought a company called Maui Pasta,” she says. “And we kept it going.”
Mostly, the local community stops by for eggs, but on the days when there’s pasta left over after the restaurant orders are filled, you’ll find that for sale, too. From squid ink spaghetti to fresh linguine, the pasta is just another surprising element of this delightful, family-run food business.
“People are kind of surprised when they stop by for the first time,” says Carol, who makes several hundred pounds of pasta each week. “But once they know what we have, they soon become regulars.”
Seem unusual to shop for fresh pasta and Italian sauce at an egg distributor beneath the Ko’olau Mountain range? Maybe, but isn’t that what we love about our island food culture?
41-250 Hihimanu St. Waimanalo