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By Steven Li on 2006-01-16

January 15, 2006

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This is a loooong post. Don’t feel obligated to read it unless you have some time to kill It was an interesting meal at the very least.

I’ve never left a dinner so confused and in doubt of my ability to eat well and know when I’m eating good food…

A tiny restaurant along the Waialae dining area that runs from 8th to 13th Avenue, C&C has often been considered as one of Honolulu’s favorite Italian restaurants. I’ve been meaning to come here for a while but never found the perfect time until now. Steph and I decided that instead of exchanging Christmas presents we’d take each other out to a nice dinner.

We got in just after 7:30 pm. Though not completely full; the place was crowded with couples and groups of friends laughing and drinking wine and even a table of Japanese men conducting their own wine tasting. Soft beige walls and a wooden floor were perfect complements to the warm glow of the candlelight on each table. The two of us were even more excited about the food after seeing all the happy diners.

Our waitress was extremely sweet, cheerfully answering all our questions with great enthusiasm (she made everything sound so good!), quickly bringing out the bread and making sure our water was constantly refilled. I think it had a little to do with the fact that we were the only diners under the age of 30.

The dinner started off fantastic. We began with warm squares of onion and tomato focaccia and slices of a nutty rustic loaf. The focaccia was unlike any I’ve had before, very dense and heavy. I didn’t like the first bite but soon the combination of the buttery onions and sweet bits of tomato changed my mind. The rustic bread was accompanied with the traditional olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This was excellent – ever so simple with a crisp crust, you tasted the quality of key ingredients, the flavor of finely ground nuts with just a touch of sea salt.

Our appetizer was no less satisfying. Intrigued by the words “gelato” on an appetizer menu, we ordered the Parmagiano Gelato ($11.00). A Liliha bakery cocopuff sized scoop of creamed parmagiano reggiano was served with three slices of beautifully browned warm bruchetta generously brushed with olive oil, sweet slices of red wine poached pear, a handful of toasted walnuts and drizzles of honey. At this point I was near heaven, first the focaccia, now the gelato, everything we had been served was somehow new or unique to me. It’s my favorite kind of adventure – food adventures. Strange. I felt like I was making important discoveries despite the fact that I was actually sitting on by bottom consuming the food while some crazy inspired chef was whipping up parmesan gelato. And what delicious gelato! Our waitress explained how they took freshly shaved parmesan cheese and whipped it with cream until the cheese achieve a smooth creamy, gelato-like texture. Oh it was a joy to spread a thick layer of the parmesan, top it with a slice of the cool, sweet pear, a walnut dusted in powdered sugar and a tiny smear of honey.

We could barely wait for our entrees. And even though we had no bottle of wine on our table, the two of us felt as happily intoxicated as the other diners.

That’s when things started to go wrong. Or not wrong, but different. Well we don’t know if it was different or wrong. That what made this dinner senseless. Have I confused you already?

I ordered the Gnocchi with Sweet Sausage ($18.50). I have never tried gnocchi at a fine dining restaurant but have eaten it enough times to recognize and understand the dish. I don’t know what I was expecting but definitely not 6 tiny potato dumplings swimming in a bowl of salty gorgonzola sauce. My initial thought was “talk about small servings!” but that was quickly replaced by “what did I just eat?” after the first bite. It would break my heart to say I didn’t like it but I simply couldn’t bring myself to. The gnocchi were tasteless doughy little things, flavored only by the near headache inducing sauce. They were at once far too chewy, border lining heavy rubber. The loosely hand shaped sausages were the only redeeming component of the entrée. Moist, baby tender texture that gave into a gentle bite, slowly releasing an enchantingly sweet meaty juice, I tried hard to take back my horrible feelings about the gnocchi.

Steph had a similar reaction to her Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with aspargus, mint and mascarpone sauce ($17.50). I remember us both taking the first bite, our only expectation that it be spectacular. We looked up at each other and asked “how’s yours?” And we wanted to, so badly, to say that we loved it, that it was just as memorable as the snow white gelato and ruby pears. But it wasn’t. Or at least to us it wasn’t. And that’s the confusing part. How come every other diner around us appeared entranced by their meal?

We came up with two solutions:
1.The food only tastes good with wine. Every other table in the house had at least one bottle, if not two or even three on their table.
2.Our taste buds weren’t sophisticated enough (this one made me sad). As stated earlier, we were the only people who were under the age of 30.

We did not come up with an answer but trudged along with our entrees. I ate half of Steph’s and she had half of mine. A couple of bites into the ravioli which, thanks to the asparagus dotted sauce tasted like breath freshener, we realized that it was unusually hard. Not the, too thick dough kind of hard, but hard hard. As in undercooked hard. Do we send it back? Neither of us had sent back a dish in our entire lives and were hesitant to do so. And our waitress was so sweet we didn’t want to hurt her feelings. (how pathetic are we?) But it was HARD! So we did, only we told the busboy instead of the waitress. His remark, “is it too al dente for you?” nearly sent us into peals of laughter, but he was very kind about it and shortly brought out a new order.

It was from that point on where our waitress began to avoid us. Drunk by the rich cheese sauce, one of us got the idea that we had embarrassed her by sending by the ravioli. She had been so kind to us early on the dinner and now she was doing her best to avoid us by weaving around other tables.

And so the new dish came. This was much better. Four large raviolis in a soft shade of green enclosed a dainty filling of spinach. The ravioli was warm and slippery, bathing in a mint mascapone sauce. Though the texture had improved, we could not bring ourselves to like the barely filled ravioli and a sauce that was at once both heavy and refreshing. Similar to the gnocchi, we felt like we were consuming forms of flavored dough in sauce – mine potato dough and steph spinach dough. I know pasta is dough, but this…eh. You gotta come to understand what I’m doing a very bad job of explaining.

It was around 9 pm and the meter had run out so we gave the busboy (who exchanged our dish) a dollar and asked for change. He took our dollar. And never came back. Paranoid about getting a ticket, we frantically tried to come up with solutions. We attempted to wave him down, but now it seemed like he was also avoiding us! What did we do wrong?! Then another idea passed through out heads. What if he didn’t hear us clearly and thought it was our way of thanking him for bringing out the new dish. Oh crap. What an evening. It got to the point where Steph was ready to walk to a nearby restaurant and ask for change. Eventually we flagged down another waiter and explained the situation. He quickly apologized and came back with the change, saying the other guy had forgotten.

We didn’t want to eat any more food or embarass anyone else – we just wanted to leave. My favorite dessert, bread pudding, was on the menu and the large towering, rectangular pecan and pineapple studded pudding topped by a silky smooth round of pistachio gelato on the next table over looked tempting. But we didn’t order it, couldn’t bear to be disappointed again. So we asked for the check. And nothing strange happened while waiting to receive it – hooray.

And I guess since nothing strange happened to us, us dum dums had to go do something weird ourselves. We left the waitress a note, “Dear Waitress, we’re sorry for returning the ravioli. It was too undercooked for out taste but the mint sauce was delicious (she was the one who recommended the sauce)” Sincerely, Steph & Kathy.” What the hell possessed us to do that? I think we attempted to un-embarrass her (did we even embarrass her in the first place or was it our imagination?) but I’m pretty sure she was more embarrass or perhaps even angry after reading that note, thinking, “such immature kids!” At least we tipped well.

We were full but not satisfied. Sitting in Steph’s car we attempted to find some way to redeem this dinner. Some chicken katsu curry? An order of pad thai? Somehow we ended up with Cold Stone of all places (after a short detour to 7-11. Musubis never looked so good). A strange ending to a stranger dinner. Steph and I both dislike Cold Stone (we have Bubbies!) and have no explanation as to why we ordered the green tea ice cream in the largest size offered with a massive waffle cone. We were debating between oreos or Reese’s to mix in and ended up with both due to a mistake by the girl who mixed our order. (how often does that happen?) The sight of Cold Stone usually makes me sick but we both devoured the pint sized serving and felt perfectly fine.

We said we we’re going to exercise after – probably run around Waikiki beach like little potato men, but only got as far as the parking lot. Well this post no longer makes sense. I don’t know if it made sense to begin with. But yeah. I didn’t understand this dinner. I didn’t understand what we ate. And all the little oddities that occurred throughout our meal just confused me more.

But it was a night worth remembering. I don’t think I’llbe back to C&C or Cold Stone for a long time. Just let me know if you visit. We’re still trying to figure out if we are the only ones whose hearts have not been caputured by this little Italian restaurant.

C&C Pasta Co.
3605 Wai’alae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-5999



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