Move over luau pig on the Island of Hawaii, Pueo’s Osteria Italian restaurant is on the radar more than the spouting volcano.
An Italian Atmosphere in a small Hawaiian village
Tucked away in an older Hawaiian style courtyard, Pueo’s evokes the feeling of being in Tuscany. Reminiscent of a villa, with soft yellows, muted green stone wall and an archway shaped like a wine cellar, it’s an inviting Italian atmosphere without Frank Sinatra singing in the background. I introduced myself to Chef James Babian who welcomed me before the restaurant opened for dinner. Like the final rehearsal at the symphony, the kitchen was abuzz with sorting, prepping and maintaining a tight schedule. Tables were set, the gathering high bar was organized and the bartender arranged glasses and wine bottles. The activity was indicative of a busy evening to come.
Chef Babian brings his culinary skills to the Island
Restaurants are a second home to owner and Executive Chef Babian as he grew up in his family’s east coast restaurants. He attended culinary school and later became the Executive Chef at the Four Seasons, Hualalai, Hawaii. A few years ago he and his wife Christine, decided to open their own restaurant, and together they settled on a vacant restaurant in Waikoloa Village. Located in a family community and off the beaten track from tourists, it’s on the western side of the Big Island.
Reservations have become a must and those who have to wait for seating can review the entry walls lined with Chef Babian’s impressive culinary awards and certificates for community involvement. Over the years he has garnered accolades and respect by well-known chefs who have donated their services and worked together for charitable causes. One which stands out was the Made in America Cookbook event with recipes by celebrity chefs.
The small kitchen makes true Italian food
Chef Babian included recipes for Gnudi (gnocchi) and lemon mint sauce. There may be leftovers to enjoy next day.
Recipe by: James Babian
Gnudi (gnocchi) Dough
1.2 lbs Ricotta cheese
1.5 cup OO Pasta Flour
3 oz Parmesan cheese
1 tea Salt
Drain the ricotta overnight. Mix the flour, parmesan, nutmeg, salt. Make a mound with the ricotta and flour mix. Add the egg to the middle and mix to combine making sure not to over knead the dough. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky, Adjust with additional flour if needed. (Egg sizes and the moisture in the cheese varies greatly) Roll out into long half inch tubes cut into dumplings and roll each one on a gnochi board. Place on sheet pan with wax paper and semolina till ready to cook.
Gnudi with mushrooms, fresh peas, prosciutto, cream and mint
2 Tbls EVOO
½ oz Prosciutto
Seasonal mushrooms, sliced
20 fresh peas blanched
1 tsp garlic
1 oz white wine
2 oz Chicken Stock
1 tsp lemon zest and juice
2 oz cream
½ cup arugula leaves
4 Cherry tomatoes halved
1 tsp fresh Mint, chiffonade
40 Ricotta Gnocchi
Heat a saute pan. Add EVOO, prosciutto and mushrooms. Cook to lightly caramelize. Add Garlic and cook till garlic starts to color. Deglaze with white wine, reduce by half add chicken stock and cream slightly reduce till sauce coats a spoon. Season with salt, pepper lemon zest and mint. Cook gnudi in salted boiling water until al dente add to sauce and cook another minute. Toss in cherry tomatoes and arugula and parmesan. Toss to combine, serve in warm bowl.
68-1845 Waikoloa Rd
Waikoloa Village, HI 96738
Originally published in LuxeBeatMag.com July 11, 2015. Revised from the original content 2020.