Ko Olina Poke Pizza Dish Wins Big At International Competition

Pizza Corner's executive chef Jerome LaSorba II (left) and owner Frank Mento with their award-winning poke pizza at the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. Photo from Frank Mento.

Pizza Corner’s executive chef Jerome LaSorba II (left) and owner Frank Mento with their award-winning poke pizza at the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. Photo from Frank Mento.

Ko Olina’s Pizza Corner unveiled its Original Hawaiian Poke Pizza just a few months ago, and the signature creation is already winning awards.

The popular pie took first place in the regional division of the non-traditional pizza category at the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. The contest was held March 26-28 as a part of the 30th annual Pizza Expo. From there, Pizza Corner moved into the finals, where it won third place overall for its category.

“We went up there with the intention of trying to represent Hawaii the best way we could,” explained Frank Mento, who co-founded Pizza Corner with cousin Helen Savio-Godwin. “I was thrilled when they called our name. It was really kind of surreal.”

As far as Mento was concerned, after all, the idea for a poke pizza started as just a little office humor. When discussing possibilities for local style pizzas with executive chef Jerome LaSorba II, Mento jokingly threw out the idea to create a poke pizza. Fortunately, LaSorba was up to the challenge, and a few weeks later, he was back with the winning concoction.

The Original Hawaiian Poke Pizza features hand-made dough (all pizza doughs at Pizza Corner are hand-tossed) baked with extra virgin olive oil and furikake. When the pie comes out of the oven, a tomato lomi salsa (comprised of red onions, Roma tomatoes, cilantro and Hawaiian salt) is applied generously. Finally, on goes the poke that has been lightly marinated in LaSorba’s original sauce. They top it all off with green onions and sesame seeds.

“The nice thing about this poke pizza is that it is fairly healthy and it is fairly light,” Mento pointed out.

The idea for Pizza Corner, which turned 1 year old on Saturday, came when Savio-Godwin and Mento noticed the rapid growth that Ko Olina was going through. Mento had previously worked a string of restaurant jobs, including serving as food and beverage director at Honolulu Club and owning a soft-serve dessert shop.

“Once Aulani opened up – seeing all those families with children – I thought pizza could work out here,” recalled Mento, who is originally from New York. “We both saw that the future here was nothing but growth.”

The restaurant serves traditional New York-style pizza, but it’s also beefing up its local-style menu, which currently includes the Kalua Pork, which features pork with mango salsa and mango chutney.

“What (LaSorba) has done with chutney on here is just killer,” Mento declared. “Sweet and spicy. It’s a little dance party in your mouth for your taste buds.”

LaSorba stays busy in the kitchen whipping up a whole slew of pizzas to add to his Hawaii-inspired menu, including a chicken char siu pizza and a seafood pizza with lobster cream sauce.

“I think there’s a missing gap here,” Mento added. “The chain pizza places here are never going to do anything that is really local style. There is a real good opportunity here. We have a traditional pizza for people that want that, and then we also do something that is very different.”

Pizza Corner is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 380-4626.