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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Pizza Mamo

Restaurant Insider

May 16, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Danny Kaaialii, Anne Lee, Matt Resich and Jonny Vasquez showcase some of Pizza Mamo’s cool decor and delicious food offerings.

ANNE LEE speaks with Pizza Mamo partners MATTHEW RESICH, JONNY VASQUEZ AND DANNY KAAIALII

Pizza Mamo sits in the previous Brick Fire Tavern location in historic Chinatown. Partners and pizza-lovers Matthew Resich, Danny Kaaialii and Jonny Vasquez wanted to build a brand that uses the finest ingredients for their full pies and individual grab-and-go slices. During the pandemic, these restaurateurs pivoted, bringing on new pizza varieties such as the Detroit and Brooklyn styles, which travel well in a box for delivery and safe at-home dining.

AL: How did you come up with the Pizza Mamo name?

DK: We wanted it to be a Hawaii brand. Mamo represents the mamo bird, which is unique to Hawaii. The feathers were used to create hats and capes for royalty. Mamo signifies speedy delivery. It travels well and is elevated quality of pizza that isn’t offered anywhere else.

Potato Pizza ($24)

JV: We continue to brand the mamo bird. If you look at our logo, you will see in the corner a pizza paddle that represents the feathers. Mamo kind of sounds Italian, too.

AL: There is limited delivery for a small fee within the downtown, Kakaako and Ala Moana areas. Tell me more.

JV: We decided to go with electric bikes for delivery (shoutout to EBikes Hawaii, which found and installed the delivery storage boxes). They have pedal assist and are fast like the mamo bird.

AL: What makes Pizza Mamo stand out?

MR: We find the best ingredients, local and abroad. Our dough is made in-house with artisan-milled organic flour from California and a unique 96-hour fermentation process, which results in a crispy, airy crust. Our tomatoes are red on the vine, hand-picked, washed, steamed and canned within six hours. Our cheese is from a Wisconsin farm. When you start with quality ingredients, there isn’t much you have to add — you let it shine.

Detroit-style pesto and sausage ($24)

AL: Does the restaurant have a motto or mission it runs by?

DK: Our motto is “Regal Pies and Slices.” We want to offer a quality product and elevate the experience of eating pizza.

AL: What is the restaurant’s most popular dish?

MR: Our No. 1 seller is the Brooklyn-style pepperoni, made with organic flour, Ezzo pepperoni, vine-ripened tomatoes, farm-fresh cheeses, house-pulled mozzarella and wild Sicilian oregano.

Our Detroit pizzas sell out early. This is a thick pan pizza with a cheese crust. Wisconsin cheddar is mixed with mozzarella and goes on the crust. It literally melts into the pan and creates a cheese skirt. It’s like a Sicilian, but light, airy and thick, and baked in a special blue steel pan from Detroit. Prices are $19 (cheese), $21 (pepperoni) and $24 (Detroit-style pesto and sausage).

The Potato Pizza ($24) is a 16-inch Brooklyn style made with organic flour, whole-milk mozzarella, white cheddar, russet potatoes, rosemary and fresh cracked pepper.

AL: What are the future plans for the restaurant?

MR: To bring accessibility to our pizza wherever you live.

JV: We would like to have a couple more Pizza Mamos once things open up again.

DK: When we find the right space, we will be ready to go.

AL: Anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?

DK: Johnny and I believed this concept would work, especially with Matthew’s knowledge of pizza. His Brick Fire Tavern is certified as Oahu’s only certified Vera Pizza Napoletana (true Neapolitan pizza).

JV: Looking toward the future, when we get Chinatown back to somewhat normal, we want to welcome the beer-and-aslice customer.

MR: At the same token, Jonny and Danny’s experience with The Daley, which is grab-and-go, that model was very successful during this pandemic. One of the names we were thinking of calling the pizzeria was The Daley Slice.

AL: What is your favorite thing about Pizza Mamo?

MR: I am originally from New York, and when I took a slice from our oven, I had a tear come down my cheek. It reminded me of being home as a kid and eating New York pizza. My favorite is the triple cheese — you must try it!

JV: We now have all the major food groups within reach: burgers, tacos and pizza. We will also offer local beers.

DK: The pizza we make here is outstanding; a great product.

AL: Any fun facts about the restaurant?

MR: To the right of the counter, you will see an abundance of Fernet-Branca. It’s an Italian aramo, a bitter aromatic spirit. We are in the bar scene in Chinatown, and the bars and restaurants here are a tightknit community; they make great Fernet cocktails.

JV: There is a Fernet shrine. This spirit has over 36 herbs and spices. I am obsessed with this elixir.

DK: This building, The Encore Building, survived two fires in the 1880s and the plague.

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