Manoli’s Pizza in Wailea – Improvement Needed
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
There’s a new pizza joint on the scene.
Successful restaurateur Aaron Placourakis (President and CEO of Tri-Star restaurants, owners of Sarento’s On the Beach, Son’z, Nick’s Fishmarket, and Sarento’s in Waikiki) has taken over the space vacated by Matteo’s Pizzeria in April. In its place, he has opened Manoli’s Pizza Company, named for both his Greek father and young son.
First, the good news:
- The toppings are high quality: the menu touts them as fresh, local, and organic when possible.
- The location is breezy and beautiful, with wide sweeping views of the 15th hole of the Wailea Old Blue golf course.
- There is a gluten-free crust option ($2 extra and with the 12” pizza only) for those with Celiac’s or other wheat intolerances
- The wine list is based on sustainable or organic vineyards.
Definitely, unequivocally, there is potential here. So what’s the problem?
Dining in Wailea is expensive, and travelers trapped in the four-star hotels on the Wailea Alanui strip are often seeking cheaper alternatives. The prices at Manoli’s, however, may cause continued sticker shock.
The 12” pizzas – arguably a “personal” size pie – run from $14 for the Traditional Cheese to $21 for the seafood sausage. The larger 16” options range from $17 to $26. The menu features only pizza and three salads, the House ($6), Greek ($8), and Spinach ($9). Portion size is small, and many Yelp reviewers have already logged in to air their grievances. Maui Now ordered the 16” Generoso ($24) described as “roasted asparagus and arugula drizzled with truffle oil and yuzu parmesan aioli, sunny side up egg, and truffle shavings.”
They had us at truffle shavings.
When the pizza arrived, there was a notable layer of pomodoro (tomato) sauce. This was unexpected, so when the proprietor approached our table during his rounds, we asked. Referring back to the menu still on hand, we inquired, “Was this supposed to come with tomato sauce?”
“Yes, it just isn’t listed.”
That’s a shame, as the Generoso had been chosen for a tasting specifically because of the (seeming) lack of tomatoes in the presentation. Moreover, the subtle earthy flavor of the black truffle shavings and the truffle oil were completely drowned out by the heavy tomato paste-ish sauce.
The crust, unfortunately, needs some work as well. Oily yet dry, it had the texture of unleavened bread. Maui Now asked several waiters if the crust was made in-house and/or hand tossed and received responses ranging from “I don’t know” to “yes, absolutely.” Appearances suggest it was pin-rolled and possibly premade. With an authentic brick oven on the premises, there is the potential to do something great in the crust department. One hopes this is something that will soon be successfully addressed.
The pizza was beautiful to look at and the egg was an interesting and fun addition. The asparagus was young and perfectly grilled. However, the pie seemed to be missing at least one critical ingredient. While the proprietor was still within earshot, Maui Now inquired after the yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) parmesan aioli.
“It’s there. It’s transparent,” he explained.
Interestingly enough, the side of yuzu parmesan aioli that was brought upon request was rather opaque both in the ramekin and on the pizza. One thing is certain: it added a great tart, creamy flavor and along with the egg and arugula, brought the unusual flavor combinations together quite well.
As a side note, on a return visit, Maui Now ordered the exact same pizza to be sure to give Manoli’s a fair shake. The crust was unaltered, but happily this time the pie did not come with pomodoro sauce. Moreover the yuzu parmesan aioli was not only present, it was visible!
Seeming molecular gastronomy mysteries aside, Manoli’s has a lot going for it. The outdoor-style restaurant and location are among the best in Wailea. With some adjustments to the pizza crust, pomodoro sauce, and perhaps some kama’aina deals or overall price adjustments, Manoli’s is in a prime position for success.
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]