PRINCEVILLE — On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, restaurant-goers tired of tryptophan-laced turkey leftovers thronged to the dining room at Piazza. Located in Princeville Center, the modern Italian kitchen serves up comfort food of a different sort: handmade pasta, cannellini bean soup and an assortment of salads starring flavorful, organic produce.
Piazza’s facade is an unmissable taffy pink. Inside, the restaurant’s aesthetic is more neutral, dominated by reclaimed wooden floors, rustic brick walls and high ceilings. There is a smattering of vintage Italian movie posters touting Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn films. Edison lightbulbs and elaborate crystal chandeliers provide dim lighting, while the beguiling voice of Billie Holiday spills out from unseen speakers and sets the mood.
The menu, which changes seasonally, stars house-made pasta and mozzarella. Entrees include grilled octopus from Spain served with marinated olives, cherry tomatoes, almonds, arugula and oranges and a grilled spice-rubbed hanger steak with salsa verde and roasted potatoes. Wine is served in the informal stemless glassware of old Italy.
And, of course, there’s pizza. Piazza’s Italian pizza oven, adorned in 4,000 copper pennies, is fueled by logs of Iron wood. Guests seated at the pizzaiola counter can watch as the restaurant’s chefs knead and toss the pizza dough before piling on the toppings and sliding the finished pie onto the fire. At 720 degrees, the oven cooks a Neapolitan-style pizza in five minutes.
Gluten-free pizza and Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella are available upon request.
“I’ve lived in Italy and New York, and our pizzas here are fantastic,” said Emily Dunn, a manager whose family is Sicilian. “This is the best pizza you can find on the island, but we offer so much more than that.”
Although the menu is Italian, many of Piazza’s dishes are infused with a flair of Kauai. A classic scampi dish stars Kauai shrimp served over a bed of fettuccine, garlic butter, tomato, lemon preserves and parsley. The local fish, which rotates based on availability, comes seared with braised fennel, tomato olive tapenade and poached Yukon potatoes. The prosciutto di parma marries the saltiness of Italian dry-cured ham with the sweetness of roasted pineapple.
When possible, Piazza’s produce is sourced from local farmers, with fresh, crisp greens grown by Kailani Farms in Kilauea. Organic herbs and local vegetables are also on display in a selection of hand-muddled craft cocktails. A favorite inebriant is the Mai Milano, a rum drink flavored with lime juice, muddled pineapple and a macadamia nut salted rim.
Piazza is open for dinner daily from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Lunch service extends from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays only, with a menu that features salads and paninis.