Dining: Pizza for the Particular
I went looking for pizzas that would make the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana happy.
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Pasta & Basta
Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Blvd. // 523-9999 // Lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 9 p.m. // Validated parking, major credit cards // www.pastabastadonato.com
A near classic pizza Margherita can be found at Donato Loperfido’s mainly takeout space in Restaurant Row. For $10, you get a 12-inch, hand-tossed pie, crispy, even scorched around the edges for extra flavor, but still foldable. There’s plenty of bubbly brown cheese and fresh basil, but the revelation here is the tomato sauce, which was so good I wandered into the kitchen and talked to the young chef, who told me that it was very simple, fresh tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, oil and garlic, cooked down slowly. The key was that he made it daily.
Owner Loperfido is the only person I have ever seen make fresh mozzarella. However, the young chef admitted, the cheese on this Margherita was shredded mozzarella from Costco. That figures, it’s a $10 pie. And it’s actually good, so I wasn’t complaining.
There’s wine by the glass. The natural match seems to be a red, but even though I’ve tried almost everything, with varying results, I think with pizza you might try a white, something like the oak-aged Aldo Polencic pinot bianco that’s $8 a glass here.
Formaggio Wine Bar
Market City, 2919 Kapiolani Blvd. // 739-7719 // Monday and Tuesday, 5:30 to 11 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Kitchen closes one hour before closing.) // Free parking, major credit cards // www.formaggio808.com
In addition to serving 11,205 glasses of wine a month, Formaggio Wine Bar does food, including some genuine small pizzas on a crunchy cracker crust that somehow remains foldable.
The Margherita ($9.50) is reasonably classic, with shredded mozzarella instead of fresh, and large slices of tomato with a professional-looking basil chiffonade.
The disappointment was the pizza puttanesca ($11.50). Like the pizza itself, puttanesca sauce originated in Naples, where it’s named in honor of the city’s prostitutes. Puttanesca is a variation on Mama’s basic tomato sauce, tarted up with anchovies, garlic, red pepper and capers.
By definition, a puttanesca shouldn’t be dull. The one on Formaggio’s pizza certainly is. We were asked if we wanted anchovies. It wouldn’t be puttanesca without them. But these were lazily laid whole on top. Actually, the anchovies are supposed to almost literally dissolve in the sauce. Plus, there was no fire, not much garlic, no capers—and those canned olive slices, could someone ban them?
The pizza of choice here is the primavera ($11.50). Rather than just sprinkle the top of a pizza with raw veggie slices, Formaggio uses the ingredients for its signature vegetable Napoleon—portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, grilled so they are soft, flavorable and toothsome, and then dotted with a creamy white goat cheese. Eat your veggies.
Once again, I thought the otherwise delicious Pontete Bordeaux that my friends were drinking was too much for pizza. Formaggio has an entirely drinkable Adami prosecco, which makes you feel you’re having Champagne and pizza, and that’s living.
Romano's Macaroni Grill
Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. // 356-8300 // Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. // Free parking, major credit cards // www.macaronigrill.com
People roll their eyes at this Ala Moana eatery because it’s a chain. But its pizza Margherita ($10.99) is reasonably classic, perhaps not the best crust I’d eaten all month, but tomato sauce, melted mozzarella, basil and diced tomatoes. The latter makes sense because the usual tomato slices tend to slide off the pizza.
We were eating at the spacious marble bar. The bartender suggested the Sicilian pizza ($12.99). In Italy, Sicilian pizza is essentially foccacia. In New York, it’s thick-crusted, cut into squares and generally yucky.
This was none of the above, just a classic crust and sauce, topped with sweet Italian sausage, pepperoni, fontina and mozzarella—and worth eating, enough spice in the sauce, great pepperoni, with a little kick from the fontina.
With both pizzas, the menu recommended the house Chianti, which isn’t a Chianti at all, since it’s made in California by a conglomerate named Constellation Wines. But it’s cheap, drinkable, food-friendly and comes in a generous tumbler like you were an old Italian guy playing bocce ball on Sunday in San Francisco’s North Beach.
Alas, it was lunchtime, so instead we let the bartender whip us up Italian sodas—the pomegranate is tart, refreshing, and the vanilla reminds you of New York egg creams.
Say what you will, Romano’s puts out a decent pizza.
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