Nalani Aguano

Jo McGarry photo

Managing Partner, Brick Oven Pizza

Where were you born and raised? Kauai.

Did you grow up in a restaurant family? Not a restaurant family, but growing up we knew Brick Oven Pizza and we always went there for treats. It opened in 1977 on Kauai in Kalaheo, and it was about a mile away from our home. I was just a little kid when it first opened, but my family would go whenever we had good grades or any special occasions.

So how did you get into the restaurant industry – and eventually become an owner of the company? When I was 15, I started working for TS Restaurants on Kauai, and I loved the industry. Eventually I moved to San Diego and worked for the TS family of restaurants on the Mainland, and basically I’ve been in the industry ever since.

Your experience with TS Restaurants must have been invaluable when it came to running a restaurant of this size. Oh, it was absolutely the best training possible. I learned everything from hosting to bookkeeping to front of house to being able to communicate with staff and with customers. I think you communicate better with all your staff when you have done their jobs and understand what they are going through.

So you’ve created this amazing group of family-oriented, locally owned restaurants that could easily become a national franchise. Congratulations. That’s no easy task. Thank you. Partly the product at Brick Oven sells itself. Earl Denas, the founder and original owner, still comes into the Kauai restaurants to check the crust, the sauce … make sure everything is consistent. And we all really love what we do. I think that shows. And we’re all invested in making sure that our product is of the highest quality and that people enjoy everything about their experience here.

I notice you had a very, very quiet opening in Kaneohe recently. (laughs) Yes, we tried, but it’s not so quiet! People in Kaneohe remind us of people on Kauai – so friendly and it’s like family here, so word spread pretty quick. Last night at the bar, it was like every single person knew everyone else!

What’s your favorite Brick Oven Pizza? Our margarita pizza with shrimp on a whole-wheat crust. I love that pizza!

With whom would you like to have dinner at Brick Oven? Mmm … think … George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and possibly President Obama, and maybe Oprah … That would be fun.

Brick Oven Pizza
Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center