First Look: Sophie’s Gourmet Hawaiian Pizzeria

This new pizzeria in Hawai‘i Kai serves artisanal pies with thin, blistered crusts and quality toppings.
Sophie’s Gourmet Hawaiian Pizzeria, a locally owned build-your-own pizza shop, opened last week in Koko Marina Center.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox


First, Pieology in ‘Āina Haina. Now, Sophie’s Gourmet Hawaiian Pizzeria in Hawai‘i Kai.


Where were all these pie shops when I lived in East Honolulu?


For years, the only two options Hawai‘i Kai residents had for pizza were Boston’s Pizza in Haha‘ione and Kona Brewing Co.


Then, this February, the first Pieology, a national chain of fast-casual pizza eateries, opened in the ‘Āina Haina Shopping Center, offering build-your-own pies with a slew of sauces and toppings.


SEE ALSO: First Look: Pieology in ‘Āina Haina


Then, last week, Sophie’s Gourmet Hawaiian Pizzeria opened in Koko Marina Center, in the 1,400-square-foot space vacated by Island Treasures. Like Pieology, you can create your own 12-inch pizza here, from dough to toppings. (It’s $10.95 for up to three toppings, $12.95 for up to five.)


The dough is worth noting: Both Sophie’s Original and the guava-infused dough—your only choices—are made from scratch daily. Both retain a nice, soft texture after baking in a very hot pizza oven. The result is an airy, light pizza crust that’s crispy and lightly charred—the way it should be.


The pizzeria offers four different sauces—the house red, a zesty Sriracha red, a cilantro-tomato pesto and a macadamia-nut cream—and six different cheeses—mozzarella, ricotta, goat, dry-aged goat, Fontina, Parmesan. And for toppings, there’s everything from Italian meatballs and sun-dried tomatoes to char siu and Thai curry-spiced chicken. (You can also create your own salad for $7.95.)


The meat options for toppings include Italian meatballs, pepperoni, char siu, bacon and kālua pig.


“I wanted to take the pizzeria business up a few notches,” says owner John Kim, who worked as the general manager of Honolulu Cookie Co. for his uncle for 10 years. “Most pizzerias, and especially the Mainland brands, sadly use cheaper ingredients and typically make the same-old pizza that everyone else makes. In many ways, they are about quantity and not quality.  I wanted to use the freshest and finest ingredients and infuse my pizzas with local flavors.”


That’s evident in his signature pies, particularly the Seoul Mate ($12.95), one of Kim’s personal concoctions. This pizza is served more like a calzone—a folded-over, stuffed crust—packed with Korean bulgogi, kim chee, mozzarella, goat cheese and Maui onions. It’s finished with herb-infused olive oil, oven-roasted green onions and Parmesan cheese. It had all the flavors of a Korean plate lunch but in a pizza. Genius.


The Seoul Mate is a Korean plate lunch in a calzone.


The Hawai‘i Pie-O ($12.95) features a zesty Sriracha sauce topped with mozzarella, salami, char siu, Portuguese sausage, pepperoni, fresh cilantro and a cilantro aioli.


And the Sophie’sticated ($12.95) features the guava-infused crust brushed with herb olive oil and layered with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, slices of yellow tomatoes, spiced salami and fresh baby arugula. It’s finished with dry-aged goat cheese shavings and truffle oil. You don’t taste any guava flavor in the crust—the fruit is used to enhance and accelerate the fermentation process, Kim says—but the simple, quality ingredients really shine. It wasn’t hard to eat the entire pie—and still have room for a stop at Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream next door.


The Sophie’sticated pizza is topped with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, slices of yellow tomatoes, spiced salami and fresh baby arugula.


There’s plenty of seating inside, plus tables outside with views of the marina. The pizzeria is named after his daughter, Sophie, though Kim says it’s more about a a persona than his actual daughter.


“The pizza business, if you think about it, has a very masculine persona,” he says, referring to Papa John’s and Little Caesars. “What I wanted to do was be different and put a feminine spin on it, kind of like what Dave Thomas did with Wendy’s.”


Kim, who also worked on Wall Street and calls this new role his third career, comes from a family of food business owners. One uncle owns Honolulu Cookie Co. and another ran the popular Ted’s Drive-In on King Street where Cake Works is now located.


“Food and entrepreneurship, I guess, is in my blood,” he says. “I would regret it if I didn’t do this before I retire.”


Koko Marina Center, 892-4121,