Roll With It: O‘ahu’s New Italian Food Truck Is a Carb Lover’s Dream
Joja Hawai‘i brings chicken alfredo, ravioli, fettucine and other Italian dishes to Kaka‘ako.
Roll With It is Frolic’s new series about new food trucks we’ve seen out and about. We’re tracking them down and trying dishes to bring you the 4-1-1.
A food truck serving up Italian fare like cacio e pepe and ravioli with house-made pastas and sauces? It sounded like all my carb dreams came true.
Joja Hawai‘i rolled onto the Kaka‘ako scene a few weeks ago with a bold claim: “We got the best noods in town.” I went looking for the truck three times—once missing them by only 15 minutes—before finally scoring lunch. It was worth the multiple hunts.
Joja is owned by the husband-and-wife team of Jason and Joslyn Lee, hence its name. The Lees used to own an Italian restaurant in the Bay area and visited O‘ahu annually. When the pandemic hit, they had sold the restaurant and were about to sign a new lease on an older restaurant they were renovating. The pandemic sent them in a different direction—literally.
“We ended up designing a custom food truck in San Diego and had it shipped to O‘ahu, then we sold our house and moved here,” Joslyn says. “Jason made all the noodles and sauces at the Italian restaurant, and now he’s doing those same recipes in our food truck.”
After hearing that, I only have one thing to say: “Mangia!”
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At a glance:
Joja has a large pasta section, but you can also get small plates, entrées with rice and desserts. Weekly specials during my visit included a cioppino made with shrimp, smoked Kamuela tomato broth and the fish of the day (Atlantic salmon). Besides the gnocchi mushroom dish, Joja gets buzz for its fettucine shrimp with creamy white sauce made from garlic confit that’s pureed to achieve a nuttier, richer flavor.
The truffle poke is worth a mention: almost a half pound of ‘ahi, half a Hass avocado, scallions, ginger and sesame seeds mixed with the truck’s house-made ponzu sauce. It’s a twist on sweet shoyu poke, with ginger notes and a lingering ponzu tartness.
- Gnocchi mushroom, $16. Joja’s best-seller features light, fluffy potato gnocchi in a white mushroom sauce with portobello, baby portobello and button mushrooms, topped with balsamic reduction, basil and shaved Parmesan.
- Tiramisu, $5.
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How It Rolls
- Where: 725 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Kaka‘ako (in front of Mari’s Urban Garden); Kaiser Farmers Market; Kailua Farmers Market
- When: Wednesday to Saturday from 11:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Kaiser Farmers Market; Sunday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Kailua Town Farmers Market
- Preorders: Walk-ups only for now
- Payment: Cash or credit card
- Follow: @joja.hawaii