ADDRESS: 5408 Koloa Road, Koloa, HI 96756
I love pizza. Growing up in central New Jersey, there were plenty of local pizza shops serving up the famous New York-style thin crust. Over time, I also developed the habit of folding all my pizza slices; this certainly confused some people when I went to college in Indiana and they watched me eating pizza. “What are you doing?” “That just looks funny.” “So, does that make it a pizza sandwich?” Old habits die hard, I guess.
Of the different types of specialty pizzas that my family ate, the one that we often fell back on was the “supreme” pizza. Pepperoni, sausage, ham, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and olives, all topped with ample amounts of mozzarella cheese. There was just something about the savory flavor combination of those ingredients that I really enjoyed, and the supreme pizza has remained one of my go-to choices when trying out new pizza places.
While browsing through restaurants to add to my family’s Hawaii trip brainstorming list, Pizzetta caught my eye for two reasons: 1) it was a well-rated pizza place close to where we were staying in Kauai, and 2) it was an opportunity to try more pizza on Hawaii. Plus, the restaurant added some diversity in cuisine selection, since the previous restaurants on our list consisted mostly of Hawaiian, Japanese, or American food.
No, this was not a quest to try “Hawaiian” specialty pizza on the islands of Hawaii, so you can set aside the ham and pineapple toppings. I’m curious to see how pizza tastes in different regions, and having the chance to sample some from Hawaii was certainly an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. Luckily, the rest of my family also liked the idea of breaking away from the other cuisines and giving some pizza a shot. It was after spending a good portion of the day out at Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast when we returned back to Koloa in time to make our 6:30 p.m. OpenTable reservation at Pizzetta.
If you’re driving into Old Koloa Town on Koloa Road, it’s tough to miss the sea green building where Pizzetta makes its home. As an “open-air” concept dining room, there are fans mounted from the ceiling to provide circulation while doors and windows are kept open to allow fresh air to flow inside. The reservation turned out not to be needed; the restaurant was only moderately busy when we had arrived.
One of the things that struck me about the dining room was how dim the lighting was. So dim, in fact, that it made it really difficult to read the menu, which had a lot of smaller print on it. I constantly had to face my menu opposite the main doorway, in an attempt to catch any residual daylight to read the words easier. Our waitress came over not too long after we got seated and brought us all waters. When we commented to her about how dim the lighting was, she said it’s not the first time diners had brought it up. The owners had been made aware, but nothing seems to have been done to address it.
We were all pretty hungry after walking around Waimea Canyon, so we decided to start things off with their parmesan crusted baked zucchini appetizer. My brother, my dad, and I decided to split a 16″ Super Combo pizza. My mom, who was avoiding gluten in her diet, was happy to see that they offered a gluten free pizza crust and decided to go with a 10″ BBQ chicken pizza.
Aside from the dim interior lighting, I thought that the décor of the place was pretty nice. Mahogany tables, wooden / tiled floors, and pictures of scenic Italy hanging on the walls provided a casual, but modern dining atmosphere. On the raised portion in the rear dining area, there’s a nice L-shaped bar area to eat at as well. But the lighting was definitely still an issue. Even if there’s ample natural light coming in from the windows during lunch service, the interior lights should be set brighter for dinner service to compensate for reduced lighting while approaching nighttime.
Our zucchini appetizer came out in no time, served with gorgonzola cheese and marinara dipping sauces. The parmesan cheese was lightly coated over the strips of zucchini, just enough to give it that savory flavor on its own. The sauces did complement the zucchini well, adding either savory or tangy elements. The breading on the zucchini was pretty light, so a chunk sometimes fell off as you were dipping it into the sauces.
The pizzas we ordered definitely looked great when they were set down in front of us. My brother, dad, and I were initially concerned if the single large pizza would be enough to feed us all, but it turned out to be just the right amount. Our Super Combo came with pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms (sound familiar?), topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. The toppings look like they were spread out very evenly around the pie; I’ve seen some places really pile it on with the toppings that I can’t tell there’s a pizza under there.
A personal gauge I use on pizzas is to take a slice and hold it straight out to see if the end drops. This one didn’t, which was certainly a good sign in my book. The bottom of the crust was crisp all the way to the center and toppings didn’t slide right off the surface. The crust had a slight garlic aftertaste and was also soft in the middle. All the toppings on the pizza tasted really fresh, and everything combined for some really quality slices. I also enjoyed trying a piece of my mom’s gluten-free BBQ chicken pizza. Cilantro on pizza was a new concept to me, but I think it really worked well on that pizza to contrast with the sharp flavor of the red onion and sweetness of the papaya BBQ sauce.
What started off as an addition to our family trip’s restaurant line-up for some variety ended up being a pleasant surprise for some quality pizza, nestled away in this small Kauai town. The use of fresh ingredients on their pizzas really stands out, and I’d love to try some of the other specialty pizzas on their menu. If you happen to find yourself craving some pizza, don’t hesitate to trek out into Old Koloa Town and hit up Pizzetta. I’m sure your stomach will thank you afterwards.
Let’s now take a look at the Pizzetta Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for Pizzetta:
Food: 4.5 / 5
The specialty pizzas are certainly the stars of the show, using fresh ingredients and tasteful flavor combinations. Supporting cast also include pastas, salads, and Italian entrées (such as Chicken Milanese, Chicken Marsala, and gnocchi, to name a few).
Atmosphere: 3.75 / 5
The wooden décor and furniture helped give the restaurant a slightly refined feel, while still keeping it casual. There’s even a small patio at the back of the restaurant that can seat a few pairs of diners. The lack of lighting in the main dining area, however, can’t be overlooked. Not to mention that the owners are aware of the issue and have not addressed it, when diners continue to raise concerns about it.
Service: 4 / 5
Our waitress was welcoming and very open to any questions we had regarding the menu. She returned throughout the meal as well to bring us refills of water. It felt like the food was pretty expeditious out of the kitchen as well, and I don’t think we were kept waiting that long.
Price: 4.25 / 5
Although the pricing was a little bit higher, I think with the locally sourced and fresh ingredients used in the dishes (and the quality you could taste), it’s worth it.