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Photos by Fletch Photography

Featured Article

Cipriano’s! In a Word, Fantastico!

This North Kohala eatery brings fresh, new flavors to Hawai’i Island’s culinary scene

A charismatic, talented, and fun husband and wife chef team (Gino and Claudia Cipriano) opened Cipriano’s Kitchen Kawaihae on July 4, 2022, producing an exquisite blend of Italian and Peruvian cuisine ever since. Their two daughters, Angela and Antonina, and a rotating mix of nephews visiting from Peru comprise most of the small staff – making this gem of a restaurant truly a family affair. As such, dining here is comparable to stepping into one of your best friend’s homes for a delicious meal. The vibe is immediately warm and welcoming, the ambiance casual and relaxed, and the food is beyond beautiful and delicious!

The family moved to Hawai’i Island in 2018 when Chef Gino was tapped to oversee menu development and head up the stoves at Hilton Waikoloa Village’s new restaurant, Nui Italian. A native of Taormina, Sicily, Chef Gino says he immediately felt at home here with the rolling green hills, an abundance of ocean fresh fish and outstanding, as well as diverse produce. The other thing, he says, “We have an active volcano in Sicily, too!” 

Growing up on his family’s farm in the coastal community of Taormina, he says he always had one hand in the soil at his father’s side, and the other hand kneading dough for pasta and bread at his Mother’s apron strings. 

“My father taught me the importance of seasonally fresh, sustainably grown produce harvested at peak maturity, while my mother instilled in me my love of cooking. At age 9, I was up at 3 a.m. to help her prepare the dough and get the wood-burning oven fired up and ready to bake," Chef Gino says.

While his cooking career is solidly rooted in his Sicilian heritage with innumerable treasured family recipes, Chef Gino is a culinary veteran with more than 25 years of culinary experience at some of the very best kitchens throughout Italy, France and the United States. Just prior to taking the post at Hilton Waikoloa Village, he served as executive chef of ClubCorp in Marvin, North Carolina. 

An accomplished and passionate chef, Claudia now spends most of her time in front of the house greeting and then sitting with patrons to personally go over the day’s specials – and there are many on a daily basis – before heading off to craft an exotic variety of cocktails and fresh fruit spritzes. Pisco, the official national spirit of Peru, features prominently with two refreshing drinks on offer: Pisco Paloma and Pisco Chilcano. Island brews and a carefully curated wine list round out the adult beverages. Highly energetic and charming with a quick wit and constant smile, her hands are never too full not to still put in time cooking in the kitchen.

A graduate of the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Lima, Claudia moved to Florida shortly after finishing school and found herself in the same restaurant kitchen as Gino. It was the start of their story together. 

“As soon as we met, we knew our food cultures were meant to be together, and that’s what we’ve now done at Cipriano’s Kitchen. Our two daughters also were a huge inspiration for creating our own place,” Chef Gino says. 

And it is, in part, the reason the duo selected Kawaihae as the restaurant location. Their home is in Waimea and eldest daughter Angela is a recent graduate of Hawai’i Preparatory Academy, while Antonina is still attending high school there.

The thoughtfully crafted menu is small and concise, with a purpose. Claudia says, “Our fish is fresh from the ocean daily, not the freezer. Our produce is fresh from island farms, not shipped in from other locations… we can’t promise everything will be available every day.”  The menu reflects what can be reliably sourced from season to season, while the plethora of specials provides delicious options to complement and augment those items. Local farms with items featured in the dishes include Honopua Farms, Kawamata Farms and Hawaii Farming.

“We are here to make sure everyone can enjoy our delicious pasta. All of our pasta is made with no eggs, so it's perfect for vegans and anyone with dietary restrictions. Our pastries are made daily in-house with organic Italian flour, including our popular focaccia bread, which involves a 96-hour process,” Claudia says.

Among the mouthwatering breakfast favorites, menu items include: Breakfast Burrito with Italian-Style Scrambled Eggs with Yukon Potatoes, Onions, Applewood Bacon and Gino’s Special Sauce; Ham and Cheese Croissant; and the Açaí Bowl with Granola, Coconut and choice of Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Nutella, or Chocolate.

Lunch bestsellers – arrive early as these sell out quickly – are:  Kauai Shrimp Bucatini; Fugazza Margherita, House made Focaccia Baked with Fresh Kawamata Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil Pesto; Peruvian Pork Belly Sandwich with Marinated Red Onions, Chili Pepper Water and Gino’s Secret Sauce; and Vegetarian Panini with Artichokes, Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil Pesto.   

Now just one year after opening its doors, the restaurant offers dinner – a six-course prix fixe menu – on select Saturday evenings. With a maximum capacity of 36 guests seated family-style, the space is filled strictly by word of mouth among regular diners. As with the daily offerings, the dinner menu is always new and exciting, showcasing the very best of what’s seasonally available. 

“Although these special dinner menus are always changing, we always include a salad of the day, Peruvian-style Ceviche with Canchitas, Focaccia Bread with Burrata or Ricotta Mousse, ravioli and dessert,” Claudia says. 

Usually occurring two to three times a month, the best bet is to make a call to Claudia to determine when dinner is on – or make a request for a Saturday date that works for you and your group of family and friends. 

Upcoming plans include the possibility of retail food and drink products created and bottled by Chef Gino and Claudia, including items such as fresh fruit spritzers, salad dressings and sauces. Stay tuned!    

Cipriano’s is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m.- 3 p.m., serving breakfast until 11 a.m., followed by lunch. For more details, visit Phone contact: 808-657-4700; email:

  • Photos by Fletch Photography
  • Photos by Fletch Photography
  • Photos by Fletch Photography
  • Photos by Fletch Photography
  • Photos by Fletch Photography
  • Photos by Fletch Photography
  • Photos by Fletch Photography