Everyone has a favorite go-to restaurant to fall back on — when you are not quite sure what it is you are craving or you just cannot seem to agree on a place. Bella Mia in Kaimuki used to be our go-to spot for years, until it suddenly shut down one summer. Not a huge deal, but for customers like us, who used to frequent the Italian eatery every other week, we felt stranded in the dining arena!
Since then, we have been diligently searching for our next go-to restaurant, which always happens to be an Italian one. I suppose you would call that comfort food, ha! We tried a few places around town and even on the windward side of Oahu, but nothing seemed to compare. To be totally honest, no other place had bread like Bella! I’m big on bread, so I guess you could say I judge an eatery by its bread. For me, the bread needs to be soft, fluffy and doughy; that’s it.
I am happy to say that I think we finally found a place with bread up to my caliber, lol, called Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza. Not sure yet if it would qualify as our go-to place because it’s a little pricey and out of the way for us. But the bread! The cheesy focaccia bread is amazing. It looks like a little personal pan pizza, except without the tomato sauce. You can douse it with a balsamic vinaigrette, eat it plain or dip it in your pasta sauce. Yum, so good and so worth the calories. But who is counting anyway, especially when you are on vacation?
We have actually drove past this restaurant near Diamond Head for years but never ate at it till recently. Inside, it really is “happy,” as the name suggests. Pale-yellow walls with colorful hand-painted tropical scenery surround customers dining in. It helps that the food is good and prices affordable, too. What customer wouldn’t be happy there? Happy Valley is actually an Italian-Japanese fusion eatery that mixes both flavors in each dish. For instance, a pesto pasta with karaage chicken instead of regular chicken breast or a karaage chicken pizza.
However, you can always still order strictly Italian dishes, like we did — homemade creamy pesto basil pasta, a Caesar salad and the cheesy focaccia bread. It was just enough for the both of us to share, but still seemed like a rather small portion for the $13 or so we paid, which is why I am still on the fence about if we would start coming here on a regular basis. Also, parking is limited to a few stalls in a small lot out back. Otherwise, customers need to find parking in the surrounding neighborhood, which can also be pretty challenging.
I will say that the food, however small the portion, was excellent. I don’t think I have ever had better pesto pasta before. Maybe it was a good thing the portions were smaller? It definitely left room for dessert, which we ended up getting elsewhere. Plus, we did not leave with that disgustingly stuffed-beyond-capacity feeling. I know we will be back to Happy Valley, for the bread especially, but not sure if it will be our go-to spot just yet. We shall see!