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Maui Rugby advantage

Marco’s Grill & Deli owner drop-kicks funds into isle program to open up field

April 12, 2012
By CARLA TRACY - Dining Editor ( , The Maui News
They scrum. They tackle. They use it or lose it. But many of Maui Rugby Organization’s players would be standing on the sidelines instead— if it wasn’t for the magnanimous funding by Marco Defanis, owner of Marco’s Grill & Deli in Kahului. “He’s a godsend,” says coach Jack Breen, a retired lawyer. “Most of the kids here can’t afford to play, but we’re able to offer rugby to them because Marco pays for it. Because of Marco, we’re able to have rugby games all summer for 300 kids.” The popular restaurant that is conveniently located by the big-box stores on the corner of Dairy Road and Hana Highway will turn 19 years old next week. “Tuesday marks 19 years in business at the Kahului location. Things are going good. But I never thought I’d be there that long. In celebration, I’m going to donate another $3,000 to the Maui Rugby Organization,” says Marco. This will be the third year in a row that Marco will make such a donation. “I usually like to give to a nonprofit every year on the restaurant’s anniversary,” Marco says. “A few years back I gave $5,000 to the Maui Humane Society. In the past couple of years, it’s been all about rugby. Jack helps out a lot of kids. He’s an OK guy. We’re both from Philadelphia and he asked me to do it. How could I refuse? Next year, for my 20th anniversary of Marco’s, I think I’ll give money to the Maui Food Bank.” So when you are dining there, savoring clams steamed in white wine, garlic, butter and herbs; and crunching spicy calamari in a rich marinara sauce, think about Marco’s generous spirit. Lift up a big glass of red wine, swirl it, and indulge in crisp Greek salad, warm garlic bread with cheese, and the house specialty of vodka rigatoni in a pink cream sauce with imported prosciutto and Romano cheese. “It’s incredible that he does this and yet he’s been so low key about it,” says Breen. “It’s so hard to take high school kids to other islands because it costs so much. But he pays for the airfare and gives us money for rugby balls, T-shirts and more.” One standout athlete just got back from London as a team member of the USA Rugby High School All-Americans. This Mauian was one of only 13 kids in the entire country making the cut to represent the USA and was only one of seven out of the bunch to be named a starter. “London was good. It was so busy with traffic and everything,” says Vili Toluta‘u, a Baldwin High School senior who now has his sights on the Olympics. “We got to watch the Harlequins play the Saracens with 83,000 fans in the stadium. It was great!” Toluta‘u made the coveted team after he was spotted by coaches from as far away as New Zealand as one of the top 10 kids out of over 100 at a BYU camp on Oahu. “Rugby will be in the Olympics again in 2016 for the first time since 1924,” says Breen. “The U.S. actually won the Olympic Games last time. So the program for USA Rugby High School All-Americans recently started as part of the Olympic revival for this popular sport.” Maui’s star Toluta‘a also was sent to Las Vegas in December for a preliminary game, once again, thanks to Defanis, who will add some new dishes to his supplemental menu in about a month. These include pesto flat- bread and turkey-burger wraps. As far as the regular operation of Marco’s goes, it’s open from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You may wake up to freshly brewed Maui house coffee, chocolate-cinnamon French toast, eggs Benedict, ribeye steak and eggs and create-your-own omelets. Lunch favorites range from meatball parmigiano to grilled Italian sausage or tuna melt with tomatoes. Save room for tiramisu, New York cheesecake and more. Call Marco’s at 877-4446.

Article Photos

Baldwin High School senior Vili Toluta‘u (left), is now a USA Rugby Team starter with a chance at the Olympics, says his coach, Jack Breen, in large part because of the donations to assist with interisland transportation by Marco’s Grill & Deli owner Marco Defanis.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo



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