ferraro’s bar e ristorante: buon apetito!

FERRAROS_MauiIf I were lucky enough to spend a week at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, I could dine at Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante every evening and never have the same thing twice. In fact, the menu at Ferraro’s is so appealing simply studying it makes your mouth water.

And then there’s the ambiance—think dining al fresco on the terrace of an oceanside Italian villa, bathed in late afternoon sunlight surrounded by elegant terra cotta and beige hued furnishings. Ahhh, the good life.

After being seated at one of the tables nearest the ocean, Charles and I are greeted by server Amy, who immediately makes some very tempting beverage recommendations. I jump on Amy’s suggestion of the Cucumber Ginger Smash (SKYY Ginger Vodka, Stirrings Ginger Liqueur, and Cucumber—$15), while Charles opts for a non-alcoholic Tropical Pineapple Lemonade ($5). My cocktail is exceedingly light and refreshing—perfect for a warm summer evening—and Charles enjoys his lemonade so much he’ll end up drinking three glasses of it during the course of our meal!

As we enjoy our beverages, waves gently caress the beach below, keiki frolic in the sand as their parents keep a watchful eye on them, and another day in paradise winds down. Amy returns to explain the menu. “In our Piccoli Piatti section [small plates], we’ve taken an East meets Italy approach with Crudos [raw fish] on the left and traditional Italian meets and cheeses on the right,” she says. You can order individual items, or go for the gusto and try all the Crudos for $28; or, as Charles and I do, you can enjoy a Chef’s Sampler of favorite meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables for $23.

Executive Sous Chef Sam Faggetti stops by to greet us. He tells us Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Porecca has taken the menu at Ferraro’s to an entirely new level, having trained under famed chef Daniel Boulud in New York City. We tell Chef Sam we’re thinking of ordering the Olive Oil Poached Ahi ($43), and he explains it’s prepared sous-vide style to seal in the moisture, making it unbelievably tender and succulent. Sold!

The Chef’s Sampler is delivered to our table, and the presentation is not only delightful, but it follows the East meets Italy approach described by Amy: a variety of cured meats, cheeses, marinated artichoke hearts, tomato-bell pepper-caper purée, and slices of crusty Italian bread sit atop parchment paper on an Asian-inspired footed slab of butcher block. It’s an adventure in eating to put together different combinations of textures and flavors using the elements of this hearty appetizer. Especially pleasing is the terrine made with organic pork from Malama Farms in Ha‘iku.

While Charles and I happily nosh on our Chef’s Sampler, the ocean begins to shimmer under the late afternoon sun, and we hear a pu blowing in the distance heralding the impending arrival of sunset. An intriguing cumulus cloud formation hovers over the West Maui Mountains, while the rest of the sky is filled with wispy cirrus clouds that are turning golden.

We’d told Amy we planned to share everything this evening, and food runner Mark brings us matching portions of the Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup ($14)—fire-roasted Roma tomatoes, fennel puree, and kalamata olive drizzle. We dip our spoons into the brilliant burnt-orange purée, and discover a robust tomato flavor. It’s a sophisticated version of tomato soup that practically begs for bread dipping.

Next, we dig into the Butter Lettuce salad ($16). The lettuce is farm fresh, crisp, and juicy. It’s dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, roasted hazelnuts, pancetta, gorgonzola, and diced boiled egg. The flavors are perfectly balanced, with no single ingredient overpowering the others.

For our Primi Piatti, we’ve chosen the Ricotta Gnocchi ($36). Again, we’re presented with matching portions—this time it’s red wine braised short rib ragout, complemented with fresh mint, with tender gnocchi pillows resting on top. It’s akin to an elegant little beef stew with unbelievably tender beef, and complex, highly developed flavors. Right on cue, Amy appears with more bread for mopping up the remainder of the sauce in our bowls.

Thank goodness we’re sharing everything this evening so we still have room for the Olive Oil Poached Ahi to come. As darkness falls over Ferraro’s, the ambiance shifts to one of romance and sophistication. A musical duo—violin and guitar—plays contemporary instrumental music, and the abundance of dense hedges surrounding Ferraro’s, as well as a myriad of other vegetation, mutes conversation at other tables.

After just one bite, Charles declares the ahi to be the best he’s ever tasted. The sous-vide preparation makes it utterly tender; an accompanying curry-apple and fennel salad provides a contrasting (and tasty) crunch. Roasted fingerling potatoes sliced into rounds taste like savory french fries, and the ahi sits on a bed of sautéed spinach that provides a hint of bitterness. We find this dish is best enjoyed by combining all the elements on the fork and enjoying the resulting explosion of flavors.

I’m typically not a dessert person, but I do have a particular affinity for tiramisu. Ferraro’s version ($10) is as light as a cloud. If it weren’t anchored to the plate with a caramel drizzle, it might have floated away!

When not a single morsel of tiramisu remains on our plate, Restaurant Manager Alec van Meijeren stops by to make sure we’ve enjoyed our meal. He’s brought us an after-dinner liqueur—chilled Mauicello, which is produced right here on Maui using locally grown Meyer lemons and HC&S sugar. Although inspired by and similar to Italy’s traditional liqueur, limoncello, Mauicello’s rich golden color and distinctive taste make it unique. “It’s so nice to be able to serve something Italian inspired that’s produced locally,” Alec says. The Mauicello is like nothing we’ve every tasted—very smooth with an interesting and full-bodied bouquet. We find it quite pleasant, and a splendid way to end a splendid meal.

But wait…Amy has brought us a waxed paper bag containing warm puffy donuts that have been sprinkled with powdered sugar. “You can enjoy them on the way home,” she says.

Ferraro’s is truly a place to savor the sunset, while enjoying creative Italian cuisine in the open air under the Maui sky. The Four Seasons resort takes on a magical quality in the evening with its breathtaking fountains and sensuous lighting, and as Charles and I make our way through the property we make plans to visit Ferraro’s again very soon. Next time we’ll try the Beef Carpaccio (lemon, extra virgin olive oil, Grana Padano, and herb croutons—$19); the Ravioli Zucca (butternut squash, goat cheese, radicchio, and Amaretto Dolce—$33); and the Hapu‘u (Pacific sea bass with lima beans and lobster ragout—$45). For dessert, we’ll savor the Apple Crostada ($10), with salted caramel ice cream and hazelnut crunch. See what I mean? There are so many luscious things to choose from at Ferraro’s, it’s easy to imagine yourself eating there again and again.

–heidi pool

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