Puckering Up for Pizza

Columns Ono, You Know

February 11, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I say forget the chocolates and roses, boys — those are so overrated — sure it’s sweet and all, but a girl like me is puckering up for pizza! Yes, I said it, pizza. I’m head-over-heels in love with this pie of all pies! Thin as in a typical hand-tossed pizza or thick as in a typical pan pizza aka Chicago-style pizza; I’m all over it. I am a self-proclaimed pizza fanatic!

So, doing away with all the sweet stuff, this week I bring to you some hearty and savory pizzas, full of passion and made with love. And if you’re in the mood for some pizza perfection, bring your sweetheart to the following Ono, You Know hot spots and treat your loved one to some of the best pizzas in town. They’re great for sharing by candlelight, but if you’re appetite is anything like mine, these pizzas are best shared with me, myself and I! Xoxo.

Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza

  • The editor has nothing but love for Happy Valley Style Margherita Pizza ($9.98).
  • Happy Valley Style Margherita Pizza ($9.98)
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I was all smiles knowing that I was about to journey on the path that leads to Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza. Located on Monsarrat Avenue, this quaint establishment offers Italian specialties with a hint of Japanese flair. And owner Yuki Saito, who has been in the restaurant industry for 15 years, couldn’t wait to share some of the eatery’s best-selling items.

“I was born and raised in Japan and my family was in the restaurant business, so I always grew up around food,” says Saito, who also serves as chef at Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza. “We sell a lot of pizza and pasta, of course, and we’re open daily for lunch and dinner.”

At a glance, you’ll notice a multitude of appetizers on the menu, including Homemade Focaccia ($1.98), Fried Calamari & French Fries ($7.98), soups, salads and more. However, eat smart and save plenty of room for your entree because Happy Valley’s pizzas and pastas are definitely worth filling up on — especially Happy Valley Style Margherita Pizza ($9.98). This classic, thin-crust pizza is simple in ingredients, but doesn’t in the least bit hold back on flavor.

“The pizza is hand-tossed and made fresh,” Saito explains. “It’s a tomato-based pizza topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and a spiral of pesto sauce. Instead of basil leaves, we thought it would be nice to substitute it with fresh pesto.”

For all of you carnivores, Meat, Meat, Meat ($11.98) is the pizza for you — morsels of sausage, chicken and bacon adorn this onolicious pie. And while you’re at it, go beyond the realm of your typical pizza and take a bite out of the restaurant’s unique pizza options, such as

Bacon, Potato and Corn ($10.98), Karaage Chicken & Broccoli ($11.98) and Happy Valley Mix ($16.98).

“We’re changing the menu in April, and will be presenting diners with new pizza and pasta choices,” Saito says.

So with that, it’s bound to be happy eating at Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza, where every menu option is guaranteed to make you smile!

Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza
3106 Monsarrat Ave.
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  • Zpizza's Provence Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large)
  • Zpizza's Moroccan Rustica Pizza ($12.95)
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Zpizza is the purest of them all when it comes to fresh flavors for the healthy appetite. So, who said you can’t have it all? Because here at Zpizza you can! Hawaii owner Cesar Llarenas opened the Ward Centre restaurant in 2008, and most recently added a second location in Kailua (151 Hekili St.). Business has been booming at both locations known for its onolicious Southern Californian-Italian cuisine, and I couldn’t wait to grab a slice of this guilt-free pizza pie!

“All of our pizzas begin with the best ingredients that are all natural or certified organic,” Llarenas says. “And it’s important that we keep everything at a reasonable price.”

My list of Zpizza favorites could go on forever, but since I’m honoring the perfect pizza, I might as well reveal my top three zesty picks, including Moroccan Rustica Pizza ($12.95), Provence Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large) and Italian Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large).

For starters, Moroccan Rustica Pizza offers up a crispier, crunchier crust decorated by the most refreshing flavors of basil pesto, mozzarella, roasted eggplant, feta cheese, caramelized onions, and garnished with a dash of pine nuts. And if you’re on a major health kick, you’ll be glad to know that this famous rustica pizza also is available with either a regular or wheat crust.

Then, if you’re in the mood for a classic at this pizza palace, opt for Provence Pizza made with a gluten-free crust, organic tomato sauce and roasted garlic sauce, and loaded with a variety of toppings — mozzarella, artichoke hearts, capers, tomatoes and fresh basil — that’ll please any veggie lover. Add chicken sausage for an additional cost if you care to spice it up some.

Now, being a bit biased, the Italian gal in me just had to save the best pizza for last, because let me tell you, Zpizza’s Italian Pizza is an absolute winner in my book! This five-star pie is tantalizing in all regards as it presents you with a magnificent pairing of basil pesto, mozzarella, ham, artichoke hearts, rounds of fresh tomatoes and black olives. With just one bite your taste buds will be transported to Italy!

Keep in mind these three tasty pizzas are merely skimming the tip of the iceberg. Zpizza has many other alluring options, such as salads, appetizers, sandwiches and more that will quickly melt your heart. It’s purely love at first bite, no question about it.

Ward Centre
1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
596.0066 (Ward) or 230.8400 (Kailua)
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Tony Roma’s

  • Tony Roma's Steak & Wild Mushroom Flatbread ($12.99)
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For the best take on finger-licking good baby back ribs, Tony Roma’s serves up some steep competition. With one location on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki and another on Kaonohi Street in Aiea, this eatery has become a household name for locals throughout the state. And Tony Roma’s savory ribs aren’t the only things that work up an appetite, there’s a wide array of irresistible dishes that make stomachs growl. Trust me when I say Tony Roma’s has mouths watering up a storm!

Tony Roma’s regional chef JP Choy has been working at the Waikiki eatery since it opened its doors in 1980. Today, Choy has honed his skills in the kitchen and cooks up a fabulous Steak & Wild Mushroom Flatbread, and then some. Before you know it, you’ll be whisked away to a melt-in-your mouth heaven of utterly fantastic flavors.

Served for $12.99, Steak & Wild Mushroom Flatbread is Tony Roma’s twist on your original pizza. In fact, they’ve kicked it up a notch, and this unique pizza pie of sorts has quickly become a chef’s recommendation. This starter dish features a crisp flatbread topped with grilled, all-natural beef tenderloin, melted Havarti cheese, crumbled bleu cheese, wild mushrooms, red peppers, chives and a creamy horseradish sauce. I’ll give you a moment to take it all in, I know this work of edible art can be overwhelming. Bam! Surprise, surprise … this family favorite has been flying out of the oven, and is a hit among the keiki and adults alike.

Customer service is held at the highest of standards here, and the No.1 goal, according to Waikiki general manager Grace Villagracia, is to make customers happy, which is why the menu is revamped every six months or so, offering new culinary pieces that are pleasing to the palate.

So, the next time the temptation for pizza becomes a little too much, think outside of the box and treat yourself to Tony Roma’s Steak & Wild Mushroom Flatbread. And here’s some food for thought: Arrive early; the Waikiki establishment does not take reservations. However, free valet parking is available from 5:30 p.m. daily.

Tony Roma’s
1972 Kalakaua Ave. (Waikiki)
98-150 Kaonohi St. (Aiea)
942.2121 (Waikiki), 487.9911 (Aiea)
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Hawaii's Best