Going To Auntie’s For Comfort Food

Auntie Pasto’s Kunia general manager David Kauka | Jo McGarry photo

For chefs, menu changes are an opportunity to broaden horizons and remain creatively connected to their art.

For customers, the change usually just means their favorite dish has disappeared.

It’s a problem restaurants face whether they offer the finest of dining or simpler fare.

“It’s always a good problem when you have popular dishes,” says Auntie Pasto’s Kunia general manager David Kauka. “But you can’t keep them all. We keep a traditional menu of dishes that will always be on the menu, but unfortunately, some dishes have to come off to make room for others.”

Turning the problem into a solution, Auntie Pasto’s has kept track of the kinds of dishes, such as Crème Brulee and Osso Bucco, that are mourned when they leave the menu and, in August, favorites like Mac and Cheese, Baked Eggplant and Manicotti return for a limited time only.

“We came up with a way of giving back to our customers and letting them know that we appreciate the passion they have for their favorite dishes,” says Kauka of the Best of the Guest Fest. The idea is to run three special dishes along with appetizers every day during the festival, bringing back the most-requested dishes spanning two decades.

There always have been firm favorites at Auntie Pasto’s, the American-Italian restaurant created by Ed Wary more than 20 years ago. And along with a menu of good, simple food, the restaurant embodies everything you’d expect from a bustling neighborhood eatery: friendly staff, affordable pricing, busy happy hours and comfort food recipes that originated in Wary’s grandmother’s kitchen.

Meatballs remain among the best-sellers, but surprisingly, it’s the restaurant’s seafood pasta that’s the most-ordered dish on the menu.

“Seafood is really popular,” says Kauka, who adds that a newer dish, Shrimp Scampi, is proving to be a winner.

Auntie Pasto’s is no stranger to food festivals. Three or four times a year the restaurant hosts a festival to celebrate ingredients such as garlic, cheese and mushrooms.

But good food isn’t the only ingredient a successful restaurant needs. Auntie Pasto’s experienced team has worked together for years.

“Our founder, Ed Wary, is a wonderful guy, and we have a really tight-knit crew that’s been around since the beginning,” says Kauka. “When you have a good team and great products, it’s really all you need.”

If you happen to visit the Kunia location to satisfy a craving for Mac and Cheese, Eggplant, Crème Brulee or one of the dozen or so other dishes being re-created this summer, you might want to give a thought to other favorite Italian dishes.

“We always are open to hearing from customers what they’d like,” says Kauka, “and we’re always looking for good ideas. Anyone can come and tell us what they think should be on the menu, and we’ll listen.”

Happy eating!

Auntie Pasto’s Kunia, Kunia Shopping Center, 94-673 Kupuohi St., Waipahu