Outrigger Pizza – Best Pizza Ever?
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
“I’ve only worked here a couple weeks,” the man hand-shaping the individual crusts announced. “I was so impressed – I mean, this is the best pizza I’ve ever had – I asked if I could work here. We bonded over pizza dough and that was that.”
With such a promising sales pitch (who can resist the best anything anyone’s ever had? And why would you want to?) it was impossible not to sample the wares at Outrigger Pizza Company, a food truck on the move between Kihei, Lahaina, and Pukalani five days a week. Check out this link for the exact locations and schedule.
Depending upon where you grew up, “pizza” can have a lot of connotations: New York style, New Haven coal-cooked, Chicago deep dish, square Sicilian, stuffed, California style, Philadelphia tomato pie, and even – gasp – topped with pineapple and pig.
Outrigger Pizza Company could be classified somewhere between New Haven (the crusts are hand-shaped and neither pin rolled nor tossed) and California (the dough rests for three days before use, giving it a distinctive sour taste) styles, with a dash of the whims of nature thrown in.
Orders were placed for an $8 four cheese (the fourth cheese being white cheddar) and a $10 pesto pie (cherry tomatoes, feta, and three cheeses finished with pesto drizzle). The creative menu – all of which will set you back an Alexander Hamilton – also includes options such as the such as the Italian sausage (freshly made tomato sauce or garlic aioli, Italian sausage, sweet onion, portabella mushrooms, sweet bell peppers and three cheeses) and the lilikoi pork (garlic aioli, kalua pork, sweet bell pepper, sweet onions, three cheeses and a lilikoi drizzle).
The pizzas were shaped by hand, given a thin layer of sauce, generously piled with toppings, and slid into the homemade wood-burning oven. Almost immediately, the trade winds swept up and within seconds, both pies were notably en fuego. Once the fires were put out, the bulk of the two-minute cook time was spent furiously rearranging the pizzas to keep them from bursting back into flames.
The “plain” cheese pizza was up first. At around 10” across, $8 feels like a fair price for this tasty snack. The sauce may be a little sweet for some tastes, but happily there was a thin layer of it: the perfect amount. The dough, as mentioned, is mildly sour, with a very chewy consistency. The fresh Parmesan grated onto the pizza after it was baked gave a nice zing to the healthy helping of cheese already melted on top. Although mostly a great bite, the notable char on the crust was a bit distracting.
The pesto pizza was equally good, although the basil-based drizzle and feta cheese overpowered the subtly sweet flavor of the cherry tomatoes and the other cheeses. The pesto pie had gotten the worst of the earlier fire and the char was prominent and often the most dominant flavor in each bite.
However, anxious to give Outrigger Pizza Company a fair shake, a special trip was made to Pukalani to visit the truck again under different circumstances. Unlike the modest footprint in Kihei, the Pukalani setup includes a covered picnic table and seating for five. The gods smiled, and the winds – helped along by the improved location of the mouth of the wood-fueled oven – were not posing the same issue this time. The pizza made it through the baking process without so much as a single fireball.
Upon second tasting, the four-cheese pizza was much more balanced with only a few burned bits that could probably be prevented altogether with a quick sweep of the oven after each round of pizza baking. Pizza purists may want to lean toward the cheese and pepperoni options, while those with more exotic tastes will find plenty to stimulate their palate as well.
Business is booming: a second truck is being added later this month and the success is deserved. Although there is likely to be some inconsistency in the product coming out of Outrigger Pizza Company’s wood burning ovens, it is equally fair to blame it on Paka’a and Pele, the Hawaiian gods of wind and fire.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share.
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. [email protected]