Vibrant, friendly and colourful dining experiences are endless on the Kāpiti Coast. Rosalie Willis and David Haxton check out five options for you to try this spring and summer.
Passo / 159 Kapiti Rd, Paraparaumu
With six Italian staff, an Italian chef and managed by Michele Passarello who grew up working in his father's restaurant in Sicily, dining at Passo is as close as you'll get to an authentic Italian dining experience in Kāpiti.
With a smorgasbord full of options Michele said it's the classic Italian pizza, pasta and gelato that are most popular with customers.
"The margarita and carne pizzas are very popular along with the papppardelle con agnello pasta which if I take off my menu, customers will want to kill me. The maccheroni quattro formaggi, a four cheese pasta, is also very popular."
All the pizza bases and pasta are made in-house using recipes influenced by Michele's upbringing working in his father's restaurant in the Sicilian city, Agrigento, combined with the talents of his Italian chef.
"I started to cook when I was 11 before working in my father's restaurant from the age of 16."
Owning Waimea in Waikanae Beach with Blair Nicholl until 2017, Michele had every intention of leaving hospitality once he sold up, but found he couldn't walk away from it because it was his passion.
Creating Passo in 2019 after wanting to create something modern but with traditional food, the restaurant is named after Michele himself and the original name of the street his family have been living on for generations.
"Passo also means to pass, to stop by, to drop in."
Stop in for a slice of margarita pizza, a Kapiti Kiss cocktail or papppardelle con agnello - the succulent slow-cooked lamb, ragout and parmesan pasta.
- Rosalie Willis
Beach Road Deli / 5 Beach Rd, Paekākāriki
Greeted by smiles as soon as you enter, Beach Road Deli's renovations have turned the place from a bustling takeaway food and coffee store into a bright, open cafe with an atmosphere as colourful as their food.
Owned by Kelly Rees and Rebecca Robati-Busby for the last 11 years, the deli has had its fair share of changes over the years, but perhaps not as much as the two have had in their own lives.
Starting out with no children 11 years ago and now having three each, the pair work together to make both family life and their business function well with school drop-offs done by one of the pair while the other is at the deli.
"The nature of our business has always been family, but we also want to have a lot of fun too," Rebecca said.
"It's important to us that it feels homely when you come in here, that you feel invited and are looked after.
"We want people to feel acknowledged when they come in."
Known for their bagels full of flavour and oozing deliciousness for breakfast and lunch, they have recently expanded their breakfast menu and also offer pizza on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – perfect as a reward for those who have just completed the Stairway to Heaven, Escarpment Track.
Sweet treats are also scrumptious, the banana bread with coconut is an underrated winner and the carrot cake jam-packed with nuts and finished off with rich, but not too sweet cream cheese icing is not to be missed – take it home if you can't fit more in after your first course.
- Rosalie Willis
Cafe 6 / 6 Alexander Rd, Raumati Beach
Day in and day out you'll always see people enjoying consistently good food here.
The amount of people is also a solid indicator that Cafe 6 is doing things right.
Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, this place has got you covered.
You won't get bombarded with an encyclopaedic menu, but one that is easy to digest, excuse the pun, featuring a variety of tempting options.
Another key thing to point out is you won't leave feeling hungry for quite a while.
A case in point is the Ranger burger which features mozzarella and jalapeno beef patty with chorizo, crispy onion rings, lettuce, tomato and barbecue sauce as well as curly fries.
Burger tip: The size of the burger is best tackled with a knife and fork rather than fingers.
The Mexican and creole inspired menu has a wide range to choose from breakfast burrito, quesadilla, Cajun chicken, fish taco, beetroot and orange salad, beef schnitzel, barbecue glazed pork spare ribs and so much more.
There's always something enticing on the blackboard too.
A cabinet of delectable treats is definitely worth a perusal especially if you're just popping in for a coffee. The sizeable cheese scones are top-notch.
The restaurant also features the popular Wednesday burger night and Thursday steak night.
The restaurant, owned by Michelle Jennings, is welcoming, comfortable and tastefully decorated.
And if the weather is nice, the sunny courtyard is appealing.
Michelle also co-owns a mobile coffee service called Coffee Cruisers.
- David Haxton
Hola / 24 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach
Opening in May, the new kids on the block are already making an impression, adding vibrancy and colour to the Paraparaumu Beach food scene.
But Hola has more than just colourful walls.
Located on Marine Parade, Hola is the newest child of Kapiti hospitality veterans Ricardo Reis, Blair Nicholl and Kate Whiting.
"We wanted to add a little colour to the beach," Ricardo said.
"It's fun, bright and cheap and we've had great feedback since we opened."
Featuring authentic, spicy tacos, with chillies imported all the way from Mexico, Hola's food is full of traditional flavour.
With hand-made tortillas, made fresh using authentic recipes, your best option is to visit on Taco Tuesday where you can try them all for just $6 each.
Jam-packed with options, the street food menu has eight different tacos on offer.
Not to be underestimated is the pulled jack-fruit taco, the only vegetarian taco offered, which with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and chipotle crema is up there with the meat options.
Standing out above the rest were the house nachos and spicy fried chicken.
With spice and flavour galore, the nachos were the perfect contrast of spice through the jalapenos and pulled pork, and creamy melted cheese and sour cream.
For something a little classier, try the Hola Bar and Grill upstairs for creative, contemporary Mexican cuisine in a fine dining environment.
No matter where you sit, you can order churros with warm chocolate sauce for dessert – a must try to finish off your meal.
- Rosalie Willis
The Lockup / 52b Marine Parade, Paraparaumu
What does a great venue, great service and great food equal? Answer: a winning combination.
This hidden gem is a slick operation spearheaded by Jackie Wood and daughter Amanda Corrigan and their dedicated team.
All the food is made on site with a cabinet and blackboard brimming with options.
The signature dish is Jackie's cheese gems but there's also blue cheese/caramelised onion, spinach/feta, as well as keto gems made with almond flour.
A customer favourite is the ever-popular bacon n egg chip butty or sausage roll using pork from Waikanae Butchery.
Toasted sandwiches are mouth-watering too with lots of options from the classic sweet corn/cheese/onion, ham/cheese/onion, free-range barbecue pork, gourmet bacon/egg, or GF cheese/onion.
You might be tempted with a tuna/mayo roll, tuna pasta salad or peanut rice salad.
For something a bit sweeter check out the blueberry and white chocolate scones, melting moment biscuits, coffee/walnut slice, apple shortcake, GF tan slice, GF chocolate brownie, GF and DF orange cake, black Doris plum crumble, Louise slice, chocolate caramel slice, custard square (using homemade custard), sticky lemon slice.
The Lockup uses Dark Horse coffee, sells flowers from Te Horo Ornamentals, makes its own olive oil called Settlement's Best as well as plum jam, is dog friendly, and has an inviting outside area including an enclosed area called The Tent.
In a nutshell, The Lockup has a friendly vibe, consistently good quality food, leaving you thinking "I'll be back".
- David Haxton
This article first appeared in the Celebrating Kāpiti magazine spring/summer 2021.