Co-owner JJ Dolan’s, 1147 Bethel St.
Where were you born and raised? The great state of New Jersey, the Garden State. I came to Hawaii in 1990.
Did you grow up in a family where everyone was cooking? Not everyone cooked, but my mom was a really big influence on me in the kitchen. She made a lot of really good food. She always says that the best thing she made for dinner were reservations, but that wasn’t true. She really influenced me.
JJ Dolan’s has such an authentic, old-time bar appeal. You guys put a lot of love into making this place a success. Thank you. We like to say we’re an Irish bar with New York pizza in Chinatown.
You were always very determined to open a place that served great pizza. That was a strong vision you had. Yeah, I did really want to do this. What made my decision easier was getting out of the Marine Corps and realizing that I didn’t want a real job – you know, a job in a cubicle. I just really wanted to do this.
Your pizza is the thin, crackling crust kind. And I notice you advise customers not to go crazy with the toppings. We try to encourage no more than four toppings, because if you overdo a pizza, you’ll kill it. You start with the holy trinity of dough, sauce and cheese – then you decide what happens next!
The Jersey Pie is something every cheese lover should try … That’s a really popular one. It has our New York-style ricotta cheese that’s so creamy it’s almost like dessert, and we top it with maple bacon and artichoke. A lot of people like the classics, too. The simple, classic pepperoni or cheese pie. And we’re using a lot of local ingredients in different ways – local tomatoes of course, and ali’i mushrooms from the Big Island.
Where do you go when you’re not working? We love Kalapawai Market in Kailua, and we’ve been enjoying Cactus recently. When we’re in town, we like to stay local … Murphy’s, of course, and nothing beats having a pizza and a beer here at JJ Dolan’s, especially when I don’t have to make the pizza.
With whom would you most like to have pizza and a beer? Anthony Bourdain, who also is a Jersey guy. And Henry VIII, because he had a penchant for food and for life. Those two would be interesting.
Do you cook at home? Sometimes. My wife, Leslie, cooks more at home than I do. When I do cook, it’s always something other than pizza.
What’s always in your fridge? Right now, some local fruits and vegetables, and black garlic. It’s sweet and delicious. I use it in a lot of different ways.
If you hadn’t been in the restaurant business, what would you be doing? I’d be in social services helping misguided youth. I would definitely love to do that work.