Kapolei’s New Italian Restaurant Mad Bene Getting Crazy Good Reviews

Mad Bene, the new NYC-style Italian spot at Kapolei Commons, is wowing the critics and drawing overflow crowds.

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

“The best thing in Kapolei.” — Thomas Obungen, Frolic Hawaiʻi

“Mad Bene has one of those rare menus where I want to try everything, and I’ll be making multiple drives out to Kapolei until I do.” — Martha Cheng, Honolulu Magazine

The restaurant has lots of five-star reviews on Yelp, too. If you want to go, you should probably make a reservation. On a recent Sunday night, the earliest available dinner seating was 8pm.

Mad Bene’s Success Is No Accident

Co-Owner Henry Yoon, who also owns DB Grill next door, is clearly doing things the right way with his plans for the restaurant.

  • Head chef Bao Tran comes direct from NYC, where he worked at some of the city’s top Italian restaurants.
  • They’ve custom-built ceramic pizza ovens for maximum heat and crispy crust.
  • Everything is being made from scratch — sauces, pasta, pizza dough, any many other components of the dishes.
  • Mad Bene is using fresh local ingredients, or tried-and-true Italian ones. Read up on their tomatoes, for instance.

A Tantalizing Menu

I agree with the reviewer who said they want to come back and try more. I’ve been twice and every time I have to choose from the menu I’m wishing I had three or four stomachs. Here’s what I’ve tried and can recommend.

Mezzodi Negroni cocktail

The classic Negroni recipe calls for Campari. Mad Bene make theirs with the slightly less tart Mezzodi. The result is a brighter, more fruit-forward Negroni that still has the play between sweet and sour.

Pizza

They did it! I lived in NYC for 9 years and this is the real deal.

mad bene margherita pizza

The crust is crispy on the bottom, there’s the sizzling oil on the top, and with plenty of cheese but still foldable. It somehow even smells like classic NYC pizza, although I can’t figure out how.

Please be sure to fold, lengthwise, to eat. New Yorkers who eat pizza with a fork face severe mockery, even when they are the Mayor.)

Chicken Parm

Pictured above, and amazing. The Mad Bene chefs take a massive chicken breast and flatten it to about 1-inch wide. Then it’s breaded, cooked, and topped with a bright tomato sauce and house-pulled mozzarella. One of my favorite bites of 2019.

Pappardelle Bolognese Pasta

Mad-Bene-Pappardelle-Bolognese
Hearty pappardelle noodles are the ideal compliment to a 12-hour ground beef sauce with magnificent deep flavor.

Mrs. Tran’s Tiramisu

I can’t remember having a better tiramisu. It’s like eating a cloud, but has a deep, comforting flavor that’s hard to describe.

Mad Bene is open every day for dinner. Call 808-744-7400 for reservations — recommended, we’ve heard that two-hour waits are possible. Lunch and happy hour service will begin in 2020.

One last thing — it’s the little touches that can make a meal memorable. I like how Mad Bene commits to the NYC vibe by putting your check in a replica of the classic NYC deli coffee cup.

mad bene nyc coffee cup