Pizza Showdown: Prima vs. Inferno’s

Of all the restaurant comings and goings, the going that made us the saddest was when V Lounge pizza went away. Pizza maestro Alejandro “Aker” Briceno had seriously perfected the wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. We can’t think of a time when the mention of the word “pizza” didn’t result in an instant craving for a slice of the slightly charred, thin-crust margherita pizza. And if the craving came in the middle of the night? No sweat. V Lounge made pizzas until 4 a.m.

But oh, sweet solace! When Prima in Kailua opened, Briceno and his crew took the pie know-how to the new restaurant, where he trained his protégés to make pizza like he did, in their own wood-burning oven. But for townies, Kailua may as well be in Naples.

And it (the restaurant and the town) closes at 10 p.m.

In the meantime, the dive that was once home to Briceno’s pizza, is the new home of Inferno’s Pizza, a rival wood-fired pizza company that’s filling the late-night pizza niche. With our pizza cravings only getting stronger (naturally, when we know we can’t get V Lounge pizza anytime we want it), we thought we’d challenge ourselves to a bit of a pizza showdown. Is Prima pizza really V Lounge pizza—and is it as good? And could Inferno’s fill the pizza-shaped hole in our bellies when we’re jonesing for a V Lounge pie sometime after midnight?

108 Hekili St. (next to Foodland)
Pizzas: $19-$22

The crust: Strike us dead (or worse, pizza-less for the remainder of our existence) if we got this wrong, but Prima’s pizza may be better than V Lounge’s. Sometimes, the protégé surpasses the master, because the master was just that good. Here, the crust is perfect. Thin, with a good handle, a bit of charred crunch and plenty of chew without being a flatbread (flatbread is not pizza, people).
The toppings: Prima gets extra points here for good pizza composition. That is, they have created pizzas with topping combos that really work, and that go beyond the usual all-meat, no-meat, pep and cheese and just cheese varieties. We love the Five-P, mozzarella, fennel seed, pickled piquillo peppers, peperoncini and pepperoni. And they have the topping-to-crust ratio just right. Any more of anything—sauce or other toppings—and the perfect crust would get soggy and limp.
The late-night-munchies factor: Unfortunately, there is no love for late-night pizza cravings in sleepy Kailua town.
Pizza for breakfast? OK, so maybe Neapolitan pizza isn’t the kind of pizza that would normally be recycled into a college-kid breakfast, but we love cold next-day pizza and Prima is great a few hours old and straight from the fridge.

1344 Kona St.
Pizzas: $14-$19

The crust: Like Prima, Inferno’s fires its pizza in a wood-burning stove at a scorching 800 degrees, and it makes for a nice, thin crust with large pockets of air that make you think you’re eating light, which is a good thing when you’ve finished off a whole pizza by yourself. Not that we’d know. The crust needs salt, and when it cools, it loses a lot of its tenderness.
The toppings: Here, the pizzas come in pretty straightforward varieties: cheese, pepperoni, pepperoni-sausage-mushroom. They do make an all sopressata pizza, which is a must-have for lovers of cured meats (and who isn’t?).
The late-night-munchies factor: Mega points! Inferno’s is open until 4 a.m. every single day. Caveat: We tried to go twice on different days at different times and it was closed both times. Call ahead. Keep in mind that this place is as much of a dive as it ever was. That hasn’t changed. Germaphobes might want to consider take-out.
But is it good cold? Cold, not so much, but it’s not bad reheated.