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Entertaining | Party Plans

When "Ciao" Means Aloha

November 04, 1998|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gabrielle Longhi and her brother Peter seldom get to cook together. That's because she lives in Los Angeles and he lives in Maui, where he's general manager of Longhi's, the restaurant their father, Bob, founded 22 years ago.

Gabrielle has cooked, baked and waited on tables at Longhi's, and she still maintains a close relationship with the restaurant even from a distance. In fact, she wrote a recently published cookbook on the restaurant, "Longhi's" (Ten Speed Press; $29.95), with her father, and she shot the photos that illustrate the book.

When Peter flew to the mainland recently, brother and sister pooled their skills to cook dinner for friends. Gabrielle's apartment was too small for what turned into an ambitious party with florist-designed centerpieces and professional servers. Fortunately, they were able to borrow the home of one of the guests, Jim Falk, who also divides his time between Maui and Los Angeles. And Gabrielle and Peter's brother, Charlie, was able to join the party too. The only missing sibling was sister Carol O'Leary, Longhi's current chef.

Longhi's in Lahaina looks out onto the Pacific Ocean. The dinner guests here also looked out onto water--Falk's West Hollywood swimming pool--and they ate the same dishes they might have ordered at Longhi's, where the food is mostly Italian. The main difference was that the guests in West Hollywood were dressed up. At Longhi's, anything goes.

Cooking here was quite a change for Peter. At the restaurant, ingredients and wines have to be have to be shipped or flown in. Here, he and Gabrielle could shop for everything locally at the last minute. They picked up much of the produce at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. Gabrielle was so entranced with the tomatoes that she added an heirloom tomato salad to the menu. Peter selected the wines, choosing moderately priced ($12 to $25) bottles that he carefully matched to each dish.

As the guests arrived, they were handed glasses of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, then they moved on to a table of appetizers served in such abundance they could have sufficed for dinner. Crostini were topped with goat cheese and a Mediterranean salsa that combined tomatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant and red bell peppers. Then there were grilled mushrooms--shiitake, crimini, portabello, white chanterelles and button--seasoned with lemon juice, rosemary, roasted garlic and the oil used in roasting the garlic.

Frutti di mare, a chilled mixture of squid, scallops and shrimp, is one of Longhi's most popular dishes. Peter spotted the salad at a small cafe in Florence and worked out his own version. It's good for a party because it can be prepared the day before and left to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

While guests were heaping their plates with appetizers, a big pot of water was boiling in the kitchen. A hearty Italian dinner demands pasta, and in this case, it was going to be spaghetti "putana." This is Bob Longhi's twist on pasta puttanesca. Greek feta cheese replaces Romano; there's an exorbitant amount of garlic--about 10 times the classic quantity. In honor of these changes, Longhi replaced the Italian name with its Greek equivalent.

Peter Longhi chose 1995 Silverado Vineyards Napa Valley Sangiovese for the pasta. "It's not a super-heavy red like a Cabernet or Merlot," he said. "It's a lighter wine, has nice fruit and is not oaky."

Gabrielle's tomato salad appeared with the next course, prawns Venetian--large shrimp in a sauce of white wine, lemon juice, butter, garlic and parsley. The wine: 1997 Zaca Mesa Chardonnay. In August, Peter made his first trip to the Santa Barbara County wine district. "It was so beautiful," he said. "I wanted to serve something from there." He chose the Zaca Mesa wine because its acidity would work as a palate cleanser.

Then came "filet Longhi"--Black Angus filet mignon grilled outdoors by Peter and garnished with peppers prepared by Gabrielle. What made the steak different was the buttery sauce flavored with anchovy, garlic and basil. The wine this time was 1995 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. "A heavier grape--with meat dishes, it's a classic pairing," Peter said.

Dessert brought chocolate-dipped macaroons and strawberries and a Hungarian wine, the 1993 Tokaji Aszu from the Royal Tokaji Wine Co. The name Aszu indicates that it was made from grapes affected with botrytis mold, which is desirable in sweet wines. Although the wine went well with chocolate and fruit, it was rich and sweet enough to serve as dessert by itself.

That course finished, it was time for one last drink for the road--coffee. Around midnight, as the guests said goodbye, many expressed the hope that this brother-sister team would get together again soon. They wanted another Hawaiian Italian dinner.

MENU

Frutti di Mare

Spaghetti Putana

Filet Longhi

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons

Frutti di Mare

Total Preparation Time: 2 hours 10 minutes * Active Work Time: 45 minutes

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