That’s amore!Ali Carte Columns
May 4, 2014
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Nathalie Walker
If I were stuck on a deserted island with only one food item to survive on, it would undoubtedly have to be pizza. I’ll admit I’m completely obsessed with it, and I’m open to all forms of these bready, cheesy masterpieces — thin crust, New York style and even the occasional deep dish.
My love “a-fare” of late has been with Neapolitan pizza, named for the Southern Italian coastal city of Naples where the dish hails from. Nothing compares to each awe-inspiring pie’s gorgeous slathering of tomato sauce blended with soft, melted and oozing mozzarella. And, of course, there’s the dreamy crust, complete with a perfect cornicione, or puffy rim around the edge that’s both crispy on the outside and irresistibly chewy on the inside.
The Italians themselves are so crazy about this precious style of pizza that they’ve created a True Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, or AVPN) dedicated to preserving the authenticity of the dish. I’m right there with them as president of the fan club, and luckily for Hawaii diners like myself, we don’t have to plan a European vacation to get mouthwatering bites of pizza napoletana. We can find it right here in Oahu’s coastal city at Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza, located within The Corner Café & Bar on King Street.
It’s easy to get lost in such electrifying pies as Double Pepperoni ($16), which enlivens taste buds with large rounds of deli sausage polka dotted with New York-style pepperoni slices that crisp up beautifully in the oven. At Inferno’s, the fire is ablaze in owner and head chef Kyle Okumoto’s 700-800 degree brick oven, which he uses to craft glorious pies with crusts as fluffy as could nine.
To break it down, Okumoto makes his pizza from scratch, starting with hand-made dough consisting of Italian “type 00” flour. The number rating refers to the milling process, and “00” is the finest grade of wheat flour available in Italy, rendering an ultra soft, powdery product. Additionally, Okumoto uses San Marzano tomatoes, which grow near Naples on the volcanic plains just south of Mount Vesuvius, for his tomato sauce.
“It’s the San Marzano tomatoes, the ‘00′ flour, the brick oven — that’s what the Neapolitan pizza is. If you don’t have one ingredient, its not really Neapolitan,” says the pizza wiz.
In addition to providing a must-have taste of this Italian specialty, Okumoto puts his signature stamp on many of his pizzas through his creative use of toppings. The flavors of a Philadelphia classic, for example, breathe new life into Philly Cheese Steak Pizza ($18). While this item doesn’t appear on the menu, customers are free to order the innovative blend of steak, fresh mozzarella, a three-cheese mixture, and none other than nacho cheese. “Since Philly Cheese Steak is really good and everyone likes it, my friends just asked if I can put it on a pizza, and I said, ‘Yea, I can,'” describes Okumoto.
The owner’s “why not?” approach also is evident in his newest creation, Sundried Tomato, Basil, Chicken and Olives Pizza ($16). The pie is unique in that it does-n’t feature tomato sauce, but rather a base of extra virgin olive oil and fresh mozzarella to keep it moist. Sundried tomatoes and olives add their bright characters to the flavor profile of this light, flatbread-style dish.
In addition to serving pizzas that would make the AVPN proud, Inferno’s also offers sandwiches — including the Philly Cheese Steak ($9) — subs and appetizers. Stop in soon, and don’t forget to wave to me, as I’ll most likely be sitting at the next table over, getting my much needed weekly pizza fix.
Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza
1344 Kona St., Honolulu (additional location at Newtown Golf Driving Range in Aiea)
Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-3:30 a.m.
Sunday, midnight-3:30 a.m.