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Serving up slices of fresh, local fare

March 24, 2014 - 12:05am

Bring on the garlic, cheese and thin, crispy crust. Kailua-Kona has two new offerings for aficionados of pizza pie.

On Hualalai Road, Vern Liebelt and his two sons toss their taro dough in the air in front of a toppings bar featuring pepperoni they’ve cured themselves, ham they smoked and freshly roasted vegetables, pickled jalapenos and oven-dried tomatoes.

A bit of flour dusts some of the bar seating in the warm-colored wood interior, a complete redesign of the space in the Alii Plaza shopping center. More seats are available in the courtyard out back, with tables that will be dwarfed by the restaurant’s large pizza, a whopping 28 inches across.

Liebelt moved to West Hawaii from Oregon four years ago to work at University of the Nations, where he continues to be the chef. With a background in fine dining, and a son who had worked in a New York-style pizza restaurant, the family noticed the lack of independent pizza restaurants and began planning to open their own.

From concept to opening day in March took about six months, Liebelt said. Part of his goal, he said, was to have fun and provide a fun pizza experience for the community. His other goal is to provide high quality, locally sourced and healthy dining options.

Longboard Legends’ pizza combinations aren’t the traditional pepperoni, cheese and sausage. Two big hits so far, Liebelt said, have been the Brazilian steak pizza, which is finished with a tomato, red onion and parsley vinaigrette and fresh arugula, and his barbecue tri-tip, which gets a chipotle drizzle after baking.

Though not listed on the menu, the restaurant does offer a daily pizza-by-the-slice option, Liebelt said.

The drinks are made in-house, too. Longboard Legends offers fresh ginger ale and limeade.

Longboard Legends Pizza is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. They will open Sundays for private parties. They offer dine-in and takeout services. For more information, call 329-2211. Prices start at $11.50 for a 10-inch cheese pizza.

A few blocks away, tucked under Jack’s Diving Locker, Chris Cass has been serving up slices since October at Get Sum’ Pizza. With an emphasis on fresh and organic, Cass is also focused on healthy, local food options.

But Cass, who moved to Hawaii from Tennessee seven years ago to work on an organic farm, has his eye on another crowd — late-night eaters looking for a snack. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Cass stays open until 2 a.m. His busiest night is Wednesday, when a nearby bar has half-price drink specials.

“It seems to be going really well for us,” Cass said. “We have been able to keep people happy.”

In addition to pizza featuring house-made pepperoni and a variety of veggies, Cass said the shop’s salads have been popular. A cheese pizza costs $17, more toppings increase the price, up to the Bad Mutha, which features all 15 toppings, plus a house salad, for $30. Slices range from $3 to $4.

Cass learned pizza making from a native Long Islander. He won’t go so far as to call his pizza New York-style — he’s never visited the state, after all — but it’s definitely thin crust and inspired by the Empire State, he said.

“We do what we know we can do, the best we can do,” he said.

People are responding pretty positively.

“It’s really awesome how Yelp and TripAdvisor have been very good to us,” Cass said. “Word of mouth has been going really good.”

Another fortuitous thing, he said, is the partnership he struck with a couple who own a bakery. They use the restaurant in the morning, selling bagels, pastries and smoothies. At noon, Cass takes over, and the shop converts to the pizzeria. In the back, the bakery owner also runs a pottery painting studio.

It’s a nice way to offset the costs of running a business in Hawaii, he said.

“When I found this space and wanted to lease it. I knew I didn’t need all the space,” he said. “It seems to work out really well.”

If things continue to go well in Kona, Cass has hopes of returning to Tennessee and opening a pizza shop there, too, he said.

For more information, call 327-4555.

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