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First Look: Brick Fire Tavern

For a bite of traditional Naples pizza, made with fresh local and top imported Italian ingredients, try the flash-baked pies from Brick Fire Tavern in Chinatown.


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Brick Fire Tavern

Photo: Courtesy of Brick Fire Tavern

 

“Soft and pillowy, with a nice chew,” is how Brick Fire Tavern co-owner Matthew Resich describes his signature Neapolitan-style pizza. “It’s a different style of dough.”

 

Indeed it is, and Brick Fire, recently opened on a stretch of Hotel Street that harbors several new restaurants, is already making converts to its flash-cooked pies. “Neapolitians really honor a tradition of pizza going back to the 1700s,” says Resich, who took off a year with partner Inthira Marks to master the art of pizza, including two months in Naples with master pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia and his dough maker, Davide Bruno. Part of their immersion included interning in one of Coccia’s restaurants, which apply traditional cooking techniques in the service of modern dishes and flavors. 

 

Now their pies fly out of a 900-degree custom-made wood-fired oven; done in 60 to 90 seconds, they’re perfect platforms for seasonal, local produce (Wai‘anae herbs, Mari’s Gardens greens and Kamuela tomatoes) complemented by traditional Italian imports (Caputo flour, pepperoni and pancetta, San Marzano brand tomatoes). They pull their own mozzarella, too.

 

Brick Fire Tavern

 

The space is bright, red-bricked and intimate—but not cramped—thanks to a soaring ceiling. Besides tables, an L-shaped bar faces the oven and allows you to watch your pie being assembled and baked before your eyes. The menu divides choices between traditional and modern pizza.

 

For a quick trip to Naples, try the Pepperoni drizzled with local egg yolk ($16.50) or the delicate Margherita with that house mozzarella ($14; $11 for a 9-inch lunchtime mini). We had both, exploring the new, to us, sensation of that Caputo flour. It’s definitely chewier and what you might call floppier, and there are no blisters or bubbles. Instead, sauce and toppings are cupped inside a raised outer rim. Don’t worry about spillage—everything holds together. The mouth-feel is richer than your usual dough and enhances the fresh ingredients.

 

Other traditional offerings include a funghi (Naples-style bechamel sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms; $15), pesto e salsiccia (house pesto, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, Italian sausage; $16) and prosciutto with arugula, mozzarella and parmesan ($18).

 

Brick Fire Pizza

Margherita ($14; $11 for a 9-inch lunchtime mini).

 

Modern options include top sellers Da Shrimp Truck (white shrimp, bechamel, roasted garlic, mozzarella; $19) and Mamma Mia! (San Marzano tomatoes, pepperoni, pancetta, Italian sausage, hot peppers, mozzarella; $17). There’s also The “Real” Hawaiian, which, instead of the tired pineapple and ham travesty, blends papaya-puréed kalo, local kālua pork, lū‘au leaf and mozzarella. “Very popular with the guys,” says Resich.

 

Also popular are the craft beers, including drafts by Maui Brewing Co., Waikīkī Brewing Co. and Coronado Brewing Co., Italian birras (completists note the Etruscan pre-Roman sour beer; $16), fascinators that include Hitachino IPA and Big Island Brewhaus Overboard IPA and more. Cocktails nod at global favorites: a Brick Fire Mule with tequila and ginger beer ($10), a pisco sour with Grenadine and Amarene jam ($12), the “mai tai meets Napoli” blend of light and dark rums, orgeat, lime, Combier and Aperol ($10). The wine offerings are few but true to the regional theme: Reds include a Rosso, a Barbera and a fruit-bomb of an Aglianico, while the white list is even tighter—a Gavi and a Sicilian Vermentino.

 

Pistachio cheesecake

Pistachio cheesecake ($6).
Photo: Don Wallace

 

Desserts include an ethereal pistachio cheesecake with a thin Oreo crust ($6) by Cake Envy and a Nutella calzone ($11).

 

The charm and intimacy of Brick Fire Tavern and its sunny southern exposure make it a cheery lunchtime choice. The flow of the next-door restaurant customers coming and going on the street gives dinner a distinctly Neapolitan feel—all it lacks is a trio of racing Vespas and a young Sophia Loren swiveling down the sidewalk to wolf whistles. Looks like Chinatown has another winner.

 

Brick Fire Tavern

 

16 N. Hotel St., 369-2444, brickfiretavern.com.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY DON WALLACE

 

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