Sabrina’s Ristorante Italiano

This month’s girls’ dinner was at Sabrina’s in Kaimuki at the request of the birthday girl.

I read online Yelp reviews which provided helpful tips warning first timers about the slow service at Sabrina’s. Yelpers recommended I avoid going there on a starving stomach (check – I snacked before I went) and go with good company to pass the time (check –  what better company than decade-long girlfriends!?) and how right they were. Also note that the restaurant is BYOB (no corkage fee) and parking is very limited (but not to worry – there’s a paid lot right across the street for a $5.00 flat fee).

The restaurant was tiny and very busy. Indeed the service was slow  and it was 2 hours before we got our entrees. The server strongly recommended we order family style because “there’s only one chef in the kitchen and the dishes come out one at a time” but once the entrees started coming, the lag between the dishes turned out to not be so bad.

The food: delicious! We shared an Insalata di Rucola ($9.50) with prosciutto and parmesan cheese with an olive oil balsamic dressing.

Sabrina's - Insalata di Rucola ($9.50)

My homemade Ravioli Pomodoro E Basilico ($17.75) stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a fresh tomato sauce.

Sabrina's - Ravioli ($17.75)

Sabrina’s Dream ($16.50) – orecchiette pasta in tomato pesto sauce.

Sabrina's - Sabrina's Dream ($16.50)

Bucatini All’Amatriciana ($18.50) – hollow spaghetti in a slightly spicy tomato sauce.

Sabrina's - Bucatini ($18.50)

Daily Special ($23.00) – squid ink linguine with seafood and a kick of chili peppers. This dish was so full of flavors of the ocean.

Sabrina's - Daily Special ($23.00)

There’s no arguing that the food here is fresh, homemade and delicious. It is some of the best Italian food in Honolulu for sure. But when factoring in the price and wait, I would probably choose another restaurant over Sabrina’s.

They have a little sign at each table that explains why their food takes so long (how they put care into each dish, etcetera, etcetera). They call it “slow food” which I found humorous because while the speed at which the food comes out is probably not what the founders of the slow food movement had in mind, Sabrina’s food certainly is slow food on so many different levels! But they seem to have a solid following of customers who are able to look past the slow service and come armed with a bottle of wine (or two or three) to enjoy the evening. As for me patience, sadly, is not one of my virtues. Something to work on…

MENU: View the menu here.

Sabrina’s Ristorante Italiano
3036 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
Tue-Sun 5:30-10:30p


5 Responses to “Sabrina’s Ristorante Italiano”

  1. 1 Er September 20, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Yes, I will agree that the QUALITY of the food was quite good. BUT if you factor in the price AND the wait time…I don’t know if it’s worth it.

    Altho THANK GOD we had our girl talk to pass the time, having to wait that long without any food (and they didn’t give us more bread either!) was pretty tough. I mean, that salad lasted us a good 5 minutes. 😛

    Glad we got to try it tho…and thank you girls for my birthday dinner! 🙂 Great time as usual. 😉

  2. 2 taroinbrisbane October 5, 2010 at 5:12 am

    I am surprised at your disapproval of a restaurant because of slow service. It also hits me where it hurts… I thought the definition of slow food included patience for good food. To an extent, fast food is fast because it is a mere composition of pre-prepared food and slow food is cooking stuff from scratch, which, comparatively takes more time. Of course they would have prepped the sauce and such but a good Italian restaurant can not have pre-prepped the pasta, etc. But 2 hours, I guess that’s a bit rough. I guess I would rather make it myself. How many seats were there being cooked by one chef?

    • 3 honolulueats October 5, 2010 at 9:55 am

      Sorry Chef, didn’t mean to hit you where it hurts! According to Wikipedia, “Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and promotes farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.” They have a long list of objectives including promoting local agriculture and traditional cuisines, educating and lobbying against the dangers of fast food and commercial agribusiness, pesticides, etc. but none of them include patience while sitting at a restaurant for your food to come out. You’re totally right in that good food does take time and care, from growing the produce to prepping the dish from scratch. But most of this can happen prior to the customer being seated at the restaurant.

      To me, part of running a successful restaurant business must combine good food + reasonable service. Notice I say reasonable (not good) because I can totally ignore an unfriendly waiter or a unattractive interior if the food is good. But taking 2 hours to serve food is in my opinion more an indication of the restaurant owner unwilling to take reasonable measures to improve efficiency of the back-of-house operations (i.e. hire a sous chef or prep chef, add additional stovetops to boil pasta, do more prep work before the customers come in, etc.). I don’t believe for a second that the chef was working on my pasta for 2 hours. It was simply waiting in line to be next after he finished other people’s pastas.

      I suspect that at this point, they don’t care to invest the additional resources because the restaurant is doing very well regardless. Hey, more power to them! But me, I prefer a restaurant where the owners care just as much about the customer experience as they do the quality of food. I think you do, so don’t worry – your customers can tell that you care!

      The restaurant had about 50 seats.

  3. 4 taroinbrisbane October 17, 2010 at 1:42 am

    All noted and totally agree with you. I genuinely believe in providing satisfaction from the customer’s perspective.

    50 seats with one chef and one wait staff! Sounds really really crazy.

    I guess it is one radical way to get famous. They will lose customers like you but will create a different sense of satisfaction to others. Some will think the longer the wait, they are in a really popular spot, and increase appreciation for the food. Actually in Japan, some ramen shops employ a similar tactic. Long ques indicate sign of popularity. This creates attention and is quite an effective marketing ploy.

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