Hello Pizza is out of control delicious. And trust me, I wanted to be a hater.
I love pizza. Like sandwiches, pizza, to me, is the perfect food. I love old school New York slices, like the kind you get from the dude with the cart behind Port Authority for $2 - and that includes a can of soda. I do not approve of frou-frou toppings and combinations meant to bring pizza to a level that implies silverware must be used to eat it.
White pizza, unless done well, is dumb – it’s really just garlic bread with some flair. Pizza with no cheese should not be called pizza – it should be called bread with stuff on it. Don't mess with my pizza. So Korean pizza? What does that even mean?
Brandon Tak is a pizza god. That’s what it means.
Hello Pizza offers a take on the traditional pie that even an east coast pizza cynic can appreciate. Tak told me that the combinations and menu choices are typical for pizza in Korea. Was I the only one who didn’t know this?
Let me explain what I ate. Looking at the menu, I saw the usual suspects: Cheese, pepperoni, Hawaiian. But then, there was Bulgogi and Kim Chi? What? Sour cabbage pizza? I realized that I was going to have to go all out to fully experience what this place was about. Tak, who had been seated at a table dining with his wife and cute-as-can-be little boy, patiently waited while I read the menu over and over again. I left it up to him. He suggested the Potato Gold.
Potato Gold listed tomato sauce, sweet potato mousse, mushrooms, ground beef, corn, onion, potato, cheddar, bacon, sour cream, and nacho chips as ingredients. Sweet potato mousse? Nacho chips? Sounded like frou-frou with a side of white trash. Being from New Hampshire, I could get with that.
I expected the meal to turn into one of those Amazing Race challenges, where players toss back sheep brains by downing full glasses of water with each bite.
Instead, I want to move in to Hello Pizza and eat every meal there.
Despite the ingredients, Hello Pizza doesn’t overdue it. The flavors combined and blended. The crust, nice stone-ground whole wheat, was light and toasty. The sauce was just enough, not dripping off and almost not noticeable, which worked for this selection. I expected everything to be piled on to the crust haphazardly. Instead, the pizza was a work of art, chips placed sparsely to add a bit of crunch, bacon lay across spuds like a bar-menu potato skin, and sour cream drizzled just lightly on top of it all. It looked as pretty as it tasted.
Best of all, it wasn't greasy. So a person who consumed an entire pie by herself - not saying I did such a thing - wouldn't feel guilty.
Or perhaps the best part was the crust. Instead of doughy fluff, the sweet potato mousse was shot inside, adding a savory, light treat to the end of each pizza slice. Pastries made of the crust alone could sell out at fancy bakeries.
Tak makes your pizza himself. He works every day. His wife, Helen, waits tables with their son, Harry, happily riding along in a carrier on her back. The space is shiny and dark, but in an upscale way. Hello Pizza runs special deals and donates to local schools. And the walls are covered with pictures from kids' pizza parties.
Tak wants his guests to come to Hello Pizza to “make a memory.” Smiling, he told the story of how a school kid wrote an essay about his summer vacation, with the best part of that whole summer being the time he spent making a pizza at Hello Pizza. That’s what Tak likes. “A happy story,” he said.
2261 Foothill Blvd.