There’s a new oceanfront restaurant in Lahaina that’s aiming to change the way you eat pizza. Pi Artisan Pizzeria doesn’t look different at first glance, and it has all the great smells of an Italian restaurant, but the way you order is unique. You don’t even have to be at the restaurant or on the phone: they have an Android and iPhone ap called Pi808 that could be the future of ordering food. You choose the time and the items on the ap, and they will have it ready when you arrive. You can also order from their website, but they don’t deliver.
Another striking feature that you will notice when you visit: this is build-your-own pizza, in a fashion Subway has made famous. But here there’s no big corporation in the background. Pi is all homegrown stuff, from the toppings to the mural painted by local artist Desmond Kaleolani Alexander.
“We like the idea of supporting the micro area, not just buying from Maui,” says David Hanley, managing partner of Pi Artisan Pizzeria. “This store is about Lahaina. We use Maui Cattle Co., Oluwalu Pig Farm, Simpli Fresh Farm produce. We support Lahainaluna High School and it will be our adoptive school. Those kind of things are very very important to us as a company. That is how we selected the artist. We really wanted to have an artist who was born and raised in Lahaina.”
The restaurant also has lots of pre-selected combinations you can choose from–just go straight to the “The Classics” or “Signature Pis” sections of their menu board. One of the signature pies already taking off is their Seared Ahi Tataki: arugula, balsamic, blanco sauce and their housemade buffalo mozzarella. Raw fish and cheese never tasted so good.
But Pi has more than just pizza. The Pi Chop salad is a wonderful bowl of arugula, roasted peppers, olives, spinach, red onion, peppercorn and Romano cheese. The homemade Butcher Meatballs has also been a surprising hit.
“I was really surprised the meatballs have a following,” says Hanley. “We butcher our own beef for our meatballs in house. We make our own Italian sausage, our own mozzarella cheese. We make our own dough and our own bread. As much as we can keep it in house we do. We don’t serve anything that has any chemicals or preservatives. The sausage recipe is from my grandmother. same with the sauce. The porchetta came from my family as well.”
The bread dough goes through a traditional three-day kneading process in their 65 degree temperature-controlled room, where they also break down their meats. Speaking of which, the Pi Panini menu has a Muffuletta sandwich stuffed with arugula and salami, a Meatball sando, and a spellbinding Porchetta. The savory meats enveloped in Pi’s crusty bread are filling and satisfying.
But it’s the make-your-own pizza concept that’s brilliant, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian looking for just the right combination of veggies (though Pi also offers plenty of meat toppings as well). Pi recommends no more than four toppings, and once you order they take less than five minutes to cook in their custom-built Sicilian kiawe wood-fired oven. We tried shrimp, arugula and mushroom with Maui olive oil.
The newest Pi on the menu is the Pi 3-Some. That incorporates meatball, sausage and pepperoni and it’s one of Bert Noury’s creations, along with the Creole and Forrest pizzas. Noury is another partner at Pi and a manager on the floor. He also created the beverages and bar experience as well.
“We do not carry any wine or beer by the bottle,” says Noury. “We have eight wines on tap and all beer on keg. It’s four red and four white and 10 draft beers. We have a custom-made beer system–a high pressure glycol pump that keeps the beer extremely cold. We serve it at 26 to 28 degrees, depending on the beers in there. We have Blue Moon, Angry Orchard, Stella and Kona. All the cocktails are handcrafted with local ingredients. All of our purees are made local. We do not serve Coca Cola or Pepsi. We have Maui No Ka Oi sodas made from sugar cane. We keep Wailua sodas in the grab-and-go case. The taste speaks for itself.”
Noury and Hanley travelled across the country, tasting pizza concepts and picking and choosing the best ideas for Pi. Initially they thought that they would open their concept on Oahu, but the old David Paul’s Island Grill spot on Front Street caught their attention.
“We weren’t looking at Maui first,” says Hanley. “When we found out they redid the center and we could have an ocean front pizzeria it was a no brainer. We changed gears from Oahu. Bert and I got together a year ago and decided to be partners, and started the design process. The space was originally 8,000 square feet. We took 3,600 of it. The key to it was that we get the oceanfront outdoor dining patio. It’s a fabulous location on Front Street. It all made sense to us.”
For more info or to order from Pi, go to Pi808.com. Right now Pi Artisan Pizzeria has a Grand Opening sweepstakes on their website where you can win a year of pizza and a bicycle.
900 Front St., Lahaina
Photo: Sean M. Hower