There are some restaurants that approach food as a life mission, and Flatbread Pizza Company counts itself one of those restaurants. Sustainable, organic, and local are more than watchwords here; they are a business decision for the company and a life choice for many of the staff members. The resulting food is delicious, and this is one of our favorite places on Maui.
Even deep dish pizza fans tend to ooh and ahh over the thin, irregularly shaped pizzas. The dough, made with local spring water, organic flour, cake yeast, and kosher salt, is densely flavored, chewy, and crispy in all the right places. The red sauce is made fresh in-house from organic tomatoes and several organic herbs. Toppings include a maple fennel sausage made from scratch, nitrite-free pepperoni, chicken, and plenty of veggies including sweet caramelized Maui onions. You can select your own toppings or choose from one of their thoughtful combinations. For locavores, a regularly updated sign listing which ingredients were sourced from Maui farms and ranches hangs to the left of the hostess station.
We especially like the sausage pizza with caramelized onions, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, garlic oil and herbs. It’s a white pizza, but we occasionally get it with the red sauce added. Another perennial favorite is called the Pele Pesto, which features an luscious pesto of basil, macadamia nuts, and garlic. Goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and herbs round out the pie. Best of all? The Pele Pesto with sausage added. Boo-yah!
Every day features two specials, one vegetarian and one meat. These tend to showcase the freshest and most unusual local ingredients the manager has found, but combinations can range from odd to unappealing. Sometimes they’re winners, like a thin-sliced spicy potato pie. Other times, they’re not: Caesar salad pie? Not for us. Unless a special really calls you, we recommend choosing from among the many regular combinations on the menu.
The large salads feature crisp, fresh greens, shaved carrots, chunky celery slices, and a smattering of dark arame seaweed. Their pineapple dressing, which we once thought too tart and sweet and not cohesive enough has been updated to a lovely, lingering, light vinaigrette. There is also vinegar and olive oil on the table and you can add optional dabs of Surfing Goat Dairy cheese.
Other than dessert — an overly sweet brownie sundae we skip — that’s all that’s on the menu: pizzas and salads. And that’s all we need from Flatbread. Oh, except for a drink. There’s a full bar, including the tasty Maui Brewing Company beers on tap. The signature drink on the mainland (this is a small chain from New England) is lemonade sweetened with maple syrup. In the colder climates of the northeast it can be served warm, but in Paia it is only served with ice. The iced version is still refreshing — especially since so few Maui restaurants make fresh lemonade at all — but not as tasty as we remember it. We suspect that with both lemons and maple syrup being very expensive on Maui, this drink gets a short shrift. The pomegranate ginger mojito is likewise a tad too subtle, but we like it anyway, with or without alcohol.
All Paia restaurants are noisy, and Flatbread is no exception. The big main dining room offers lots of seating options, from huge booths to smaller tables to tallboy chairs to couches and coffee tables to the bar itself. The brick oven is roaring inside, so we often sit out on the shaded lanai. Every Tuesday is packed as people turn out to support whichever local nonprofit gets 10% of that evening’s sales. You might wait for as long as forty-five minutes on any given night, however, so consider calling ahead and putting your name on the list before you arrive.
Service can range from excellent and attentive to distracted and intentionally oblivious, and we suspect that training is sometimes left to previous employers. The person who delivers the pizza to the table is usually not the server, but the pizza maker, often wearing a heartfelt expression of humble pride as they describe the pie they made. There is no doubt that those who work the pizza oven — with their rippling windsurfer physiques, tattooed arms, and wild hair — are there to serve the Fire, the Bread, and maybe even the Divine in You. (Namaste.)
Address: 89 Hana Hwy., Paia, North Shore
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Hours: Daily 11:30am-10pm