Kalihi Kai Eats: Inferno's Wood Fire Pizza

Last Wednesday on my way to pick up lunch at Kahai Street Kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice the crowds gathered in front of the new Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza tent right up the street. When I told the gang at work about it, everyone got excited, so the very next day we decided to give them a try and make a small pizza party out of it.

Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza, is located on the corner of Kalihi Street and Nimitz Highway, across from Lex Brodies in the parking lot of the Hawaii Hale Design Center…

I suppose you can call them a “Pizza Wagon” or “Pizza Truck” due to their portable set-up on wheels, although they currently stick with this one location throughout the work week from 10am to 2pm.

According to co-owner Kyle Okumoto, they’ve been in business for just over 5 weeks now. Yet based on the crowds and raving online reviews, the word about them is indeed out and spreading, well, like wild fire!

There’s ample parking in the lot, yet it can get full fast when they’re busy, which most of the cars seemed to be arriving there for the pizza, not the design center.

On this Thursday pre-lunch hour visit, there was already a steady flow of customers…

As for “dining in”, there’s just one folding table and some chairs to sit at under a canopy set-up next to the oven trailer…

Condiments on the table include Red Pepper Flakes, Parmesan Cheese and Hot Sauce. While dining here, you can take hold of the lovely scenic view of this very industrial part of Kalihi. lol

Inferno’s used to accept phone orders, but lately aren’t due to the high volume of walk-in customers. That said, when we arrived, we were immediately told before making our order that it would be a 30 minute wait. Ouch. Regardless, determined to try the place and feeling da’ “onos” for some good pizza, we accepted the wait.

This the most current menu and telephone information…

One of my favorite toppings that’s missing here is Bell Peppers. Kalua Pig also wouldn’t be a bad idea to add onto the menu, along with more cheese options.

As for the ordering and pick-up system, they weren’t issuing numbers or taking down names, but going just by customer recognition.

The reason for the long wait is that they currently only have one oven which can only cook up to four pizzas at a time, and each pie takes approximately 5 minutes to bake. Doing the math, that means they can crank out approximately 48 pizzas per hour, which is probably a lot less than their ever-increasing demand.

Thankfully Jonathan Wong, co-owner of Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza, told me that they’re in the works of building a bigger oven to add to the operation to keep up with demand. That’s good to hear, as at this point, they NEED IT!

Here’s what their roving wood-fired pizza oven looks like…

The fellah on the right in white with his back turned is Kyle Okumoto, one of the owners of Inferno’s. On this day he was the ‘Pizza Chef’ making all the pie orders.

When shaping the pie from pre-portioned balls, Kyle didn’t twirl and spin the dough in the air, but kept it down on the heavily-floured prep counter and flattened it, pulling into an approximately 11″ circle.

Then the usual next step goes in adding the Marinara sauce, slices of fresh Mozzarella Cheese and the various toppings for each order. What I also noticed for the last step is he would give a quick drizzle of (EV?) Olive Oil on each pizza before sending it off on the peel to the oven.

The flaming-hot wood fire is stoked on the left side of the 8000F oven, and the pizzas occupy the oven’s cooking surface towards the center and right side.

Here they remove a pizza that’s just finished baking with a long-handle metal peel…

Here’s a few uncooked pies ready to get blasted in the 8000F oven…

Inferno’s Pepperoni Pizza – uncooked (and I think not done garnishing yet)

Inferno’s Margherita Pizza – uncooked

Inferno’s BBQ Chicken Pizza – uncooked

And here’s a few pipin’ hot pies that just got done baking, where they’re placed on a service table on metal pans and sliced into eight pieces each…

Inferno’s Italian Sausage & Pepperoni Wood Fire Pizza (build your own). $10

Inferno’s Pepperoni, Italian Sausage & Mushrooms Wood Fire Pizza. $10

Inferno’s All Meat Wood Fire Pizza – Pepperoni, Sopressata (Italian dry-cured Salami) & Italian Sausage. $10

Inferno’s Margherita Wood Fire Pizza – Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella. $10

Inferno’s Veggie Fire Wood Pizza – Mushrooms, Red Onion, Olives & Tomatoes. $10

Inferno’s BBQ Chicken Wood Fire Pizza  – Spicy BBQ Sauce, Roasted Chicken, Red Onion, Green Onion. $10

After getting sliced, it’s straight to the box and to the waiting the customer…

Inferno’s Pepperoni Wood Fire Pizza. $8

Inferno’s Pepperoni, Italian Sausage & Mushrooms Wood FIre Pizza. $10

Each pizza purchase includes a soft drink, which is always appreciated….

Yes Diner A, a complimentary soft drink certainly deserves a big “shaka”. lol Note that, further adding to the value is that tax is included in the price. So if you buy 1 pizza it’s $10 even, as it would be $40 for 4 pizzas, no spare change necessary. It’s also CASH ONLY.

Upon request, they also gives you the usual Red Pepper Flakes and Grated Parmesan Cheese condiment packets…

So after the estimated 30 minute wait, which is pretty much how long it took, we quickly headed back to the office with our fresh-baked pies and set them up for our little 5-person Pizza Party…

As you see at the beginning of the spread, there’s a tray of Chicken Wings, which the girls picked up from Costco while we were out getting the pizza.

Pizza ‘n wings sounds like a plan. I must note before getting to the pizzas, these Costco wings were pretty darned ono! Really moist and tender and the sauce tasted great! All that was missing was Bleu Cheese and/or Ranch Dressing and some Celery Sticks. Was just $6 for that big tray.

Now let’s go down the line and check out the pizzas we ordered for our little party here…

Inferno’s Pepperoni, Italian Sausage & Mushrooms Wood Fire Pizza. $10

Inferno’s Spinach, Garlic & Tomatoes Wood Fire Pizza. $10

Inferno’s Margherita Wood Fire Pizza. $10

Inferno’s Veggie Wood Fire Pizza – Mushrooms, Red Onion, Olives & Tomatoes. $10

Included with those 4 pizzas were 4 drinks…

We also grabbed some Red Chili Flakes and Grated Parmesan Cheese condiment packets…

Well, everything looks and smells good. Time to eat some pie!

That was Diner E and Diner A’s plates, where they had the freedom to just “pig out” (because you know, that’s what eating pizza is all about lol). Since I’m the food blogger in the group, I had to carefully dissect and taste each pizza at a time so I could make a mental note of every nuance.

So let’s start with Diner A’s choice, a slice of Inferno’s Pepperoni, Italian Sausage & Mushrooms Wood Fire Pizza…

Let’s flip it over and check out the crust…

Looks toasty and fairly thin for all you thin crust lovers (I’m more a pan and deep-dish kinda’ guy).

Let’s have a bite (or two or three or four)…

How is it? First of all the crust has great flavor, being nicely salted, and of course those slightly burnt edges bring lots of toasty love to the party. I also like the sort of gritty texture underneath the crust that seems to be the flour the pizza dough was prepared on getting singed onto the bottom surface. On the down side, most of us felt the crust was a bit too much on the chewy side. Enough where both Diner AC and myself felt like our jaw muscles had just gone through a rigorous workout after we were done eating.

Sitting on that, the combination of Pepperoni, Italian Sausage & Mushrooms packed on lots of delicious, meaty flavor, while the on down side, the mozzarella cheese and especially the San Marzano brand marinara sauce underneath tasted fairly bland.

Now let’s try Diner E’s choice, the Spinach, Garlic and Tomatoes (ala Boston’s)…

Crust check…

Notice the olive oil coating the edges.

Sample some, cuz…

Normally I’m not one for garlic on pizza, but on this one I liked it, mainly because the minced garlic is just what the bland marinara sauce needed in order to get kicked up a notch. Bam! The tomatoes and spinach didn’t really do much, with the tomatoes lacking any sweetness or depth. The crust here still suffered the same chewyness, yet its good flavor shined through, making up some points for what fell behind in the toppings department.

Now let’s try Inferno’s take on my favorite pizza style, the Margherita…

I didn’t ask where they get their basil from, but the leaves they were using on this day were huge.

Crust check…

Margherita is one of the ultimate minimalist pizzas, where it’s crucial that every ingredient be their best, but in this case the marinara sauce and tomatoes just weren’t up to snuff. There also wasn’t enough melted mozzarella, where I felt like it was “cheeseless” in some spots. The toasted basil helped a little, and overall it wasn’t bad, but this example of Margherita Pizza certainly has room for improvement.

Finally, let’s try the Veggie…

One final crust check…

Knowing by now that the Marinara and (lack of) Mozzarella were its weakness, I was hoping the salty olives would liven things up, but it wasn’t the case. Again, not a bad pizza, but not great.

What must be noted is that I tried all four variety of pizzas here first WITHOUT adding any Red Pepper Flakes and/or Parmesan Cheese condiments so that I could taste the “essence” of their pizzas the way they intend them to taste. Now let’s try the same Veggie Pizza with the addition of those condiments on it…

Ah, now that’s MUCH better! The salt and fat in the Parmesan Cheese and heat from the red pepper flakes really brought the life out of the marinara and mozzarella (whatever there was of it), along with everything else on each pizza.

Still, like any other dish, a pizza should taste great in as is right out the kitchen and not need doctoring at the table to make it taste right.

Summing up Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizzas on this first time experience, I’d say stick with the meat varieties for the most flavor, as was the case here with the Pepperoni, Italian Sausage and Mushrooms choice we made. That was by far my favorite of the four in this spread, and it’s not because I’m a meat lover, because I’m not. I prefer balance in my meals and I LOVE all-veggie pizzas when they’ve got their groove on.

We all, with the exception Diner A (who gives them 3 SPAM Musubi!), pretty much unanimously thought the San Marzano Marinara Sauce was bland, there wasn’t enough cheese and the crust was too chewy. To illustrate that point, here’s Diner AC’s crust leftovers on her plate…

Diner AC pointed out that normally she eats all the pizza crust with no leftovers, but just couldn’t here because of the chewyness.

That besides, would we come back again for more? Sure. We all thought so, especially Diner A. On my next visit I’d probably do a “Build Your Own”, going for the Sopressata Italian Dry-cured Salami, along with Mushrooms and Olives. If they offer ” the works” for a couple bucks more, I’d also add Prociutto Di Parma, tomatoes and basil.

And while the overall opinion of the five of us didn’t turn out to be screaming “thumbs-up all the way”, the majority of Inferno’s reviews on Yelp are highly favorable 4 and 5 stars, so we’re certainly in the minority here. I gave them 3 Yelp stars, which is “A-ok” or “average”. Here with the Tasty Island’s SPAM Musubi rating system, since there’s a broader spectrum between “average” and “superb”, on this first time visit, Inferno’s Wood Fire gets a still-respectable 2 SPAM Musubi (good).

Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza
306 Kalihi Street (on the corner of Nimitz highway, in the parking lot of the Hawaii Hale Design Center, across the street from Lex Brodies)
Honolulu, HI 96819

Tel. (808) 375-1200

Business hours:
Monday through Friday 10am to 2pm

The Tasty Island rating:

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it.

Related links:
North Shore Farms Neapolitan Grilled Pizza (still has my vote for Oahu’s BEST Pizza!) – The Tasty Island
Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza (Honolulu) – Yelp User Reviews


12 thoughts on “Kalihi Kai Eats: Inferno's Wood Fire Pizza

  1. Only in Hawaii where rent is so high…a stand alone pizza oven in a parking lot. LOL. The prices are great; I hope the quality of their marinara sauce improves.

    Pomai, you are not only a culinary artiste extraordinaire, but also a master craftsman/technician, as anyone who knows about your smoking (literally) skills making your own pastrami can attest to: My question is: What kind of wood do they use to heat up that huge oven? (They must use tons of wood!)

  2. Pomai, is this business a pizza truck bussiness like that famous shrimp truck?
    In San Francisco there a truck that sell fresh rotisserie chickens and Vietnamese truck selling springrolls and summer rolls during lunch time.

  3. Tried the sopressata pizza this past Sat. I agree with you. This marinara sauce is lacking in depth and flavor. It’s more acidic than I like. But loved the thin crispy crust and mozzarella. Although a little more mozzarella would be nice. Hope the marinara sauce improves. Nice guys and good service. The guy tried calling me twice on my cell to let me know that my pizza was ready for pick up.

  4. lance, I couldn’t even detect an acidic element in the sauce. FYI, co-owner Jonathan contacted me personally through Yelp and explained what’s going on with their business, which was a very nice touch! Cool guys indeed.

    Michael, not sure exactly which shrimp truck you’re referring to, as now we have tons of them now. Giovanni’s? But speaking of Vietnamese Lunch Trucks, I was really surprised Nom Nom Truck didn’t win the top trophy in the food truck competition on Food Network!

    Raph, I’d say they need to use better quality (or ripeness stage of the) tomatoes than what was put on the pizzas we tried.

    Molly, to be honest, I forgot to ask that very important question! Ack! I’m pretty sure it WAS NOT Kiawe (mesquite), but something “cleaner” (and not as hot). Instead of assuming any further, I’ll get a concrete answer to that ASAP.

  5. Xiufetish, I agree, that they need to add a few more “essential” pizza toppings to their menu. Bell Peppers and peperoncini are missing as well. They’ve only just begun, so give ’em time and I’m sure they’ll be expanding and tweaking things on the menu based on customer feedback.

  6. This is a great review of Inferno’s. I think you nailed it. Great pizza at a great price, cooked in a wood fired oven.

    What could be better?

    On behalf of all Hawaii pizza lovers (put me in that group), I want to say thanks.

    pizza all over Kalihi,
    Albert Grande

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