Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Celiac or gluten (wheat) intolerant? Make sure you’re seated before you read on.
Maui Brick Oven Pizza has scarcely been open 48 hours, but if you have severe Celiac disease or wheat intolerance, the news that there is now a 100% gluten-free restaurant on Maui may render you compelled to stop reading, drop everything, and go. Now.
Owner Terry Covington knows your pain from first-hand experience. Diagnosed with Celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine affecting those with a genetic predisposition – just a year ago, he suffered extensively before finally convincing his doctor to test him.
“I had a blistering, itchy rash for eight months. I self-diagnosed myself as having Celiac based on a picture I found on the internet, but my doctor wouldn’t listen. The rash is known as Dermatitis herpetiformis, and it was all over my arms, legs, butt and even the back of my neck. It was incredibly itchy and even painful,” Terry explained.
Once the diagnosis was finally confirmed via blood and other tests, Terry then had his two adult sons checked, only to discover they had Celiac as well. Son Chad, also a part owner in the restaurant, is a certified chef educated in Kona and the primary cook. The family’s struggle to find suitable wheat-free dining options was the inspiration behind Maui Brick Oven.
Along with wife/mother, Leanne, the parent-child threesome quickly began planning the 100% gluten-free dining establishment, located at 1215 S. Kihei Road in the Long’s Shopping Center. Unlike many establishments offering gluten free options, the Covington’s restaurant is different because there is no possibility of cross-contamination: no wheat products of any kind are used in the food.
The menu itself features a well-rounded assortment of offerings. Appetizers such as breaded mozzarella, Carpaccio, and a hummus platter run from $7 to $11 dollars. There are a variety of salads in the $8 range and after 5 p.m., there’s a dinner menu containing chicken Parmesan and even fish and chips.
Mostly, there is pizza. Although most restaurants with the option upcharge anywhere from $2 to $7 for a gluten-free crust, Maui Brick Oven does not. “I’m able to keep prices in the range you’d find at any other pizza shop because all we make is gluten-free dough,” Terry explained. “Want one with wheat, however? You won’t find it here.”
Maui Brick Oven offers five signature gourmet pizzas cooked in a brick oven made by Terry himself: 12” personal size runs $15 to $19 and a 16” pie is $19 to $23. There is also an option to create your own pizza from a broad array of toppings.
The Covingtons were kind enough to whip up a Mediterranean Gourmet Pizza ($18/$22) for sampling purposes. Those unaccustomed to gluten-free breads and dough will need to adjust their expectations: the crust doesn’t really rise and is notably chewy.
It’s made from a mix of brown and white rice flours, tapioca, sorghum, and potato flour and leavened with Redbridge beer: a gluten-free lager made from sorghum and produced by Anheuser-Busch. The beer itself has a flavor profile reminiscent of Yeungling. The resulting crust had a nice toothy texture and pleasing herby flavor.
The toppings were fresh and in ample supply. The house-made dough was slathered with pesto sauce and covered with a generous helping of mozzarella cheese, Kalamata olives, sliced pepperoncini, artichoke hearts, Italian sausage and raw onions.
Whether accompanying someone with Celiac disease or merely curious, even wheat tolerant diners are likely to find something they’ll enjoy on the Maui Brick Oven menu.
Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, the restaurant offers a daily weekday lunch special. Your choice of salad and the slice of the day (tomorrow is Mediterranean day, in case you were eyeballing that photo) is available from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and costs $9.75.
For the Covingtons, Maui Brick Oven is an avocation as much as an entrepreneurial venture. Those with Celiac disease or even just wanting to learn more about gluten intolerance are urged by owner Terry to “stop in; even if it’s just to ask questions.”
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening, reopening, or closing; total menu overhauls; or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line.
Dying to know how a certain dish is made so you can recreate it at home? Send in a request, and we will try to pry the secret out of the chef…and even take a run at cooking it up ourselves. Mahalo. -firstname.lastname@example.org