It's like a giant, thin potato latke, minus the grated onion, turned into a pizza, with a slight greasy-spoon omelet vibe.
That's probably the quickest way to explain Paradise Pizza's unique pies, which, save for a couple of recently added regular-dough pizzas, are mostly gluten-free and constructed entirely atop a hash brown crust. These all-day breakfast pizzas come from John Rocco and Linda Lindeman, newbie restaurateurs and sole employees of the two-table, mostly to-go, arbitrarily island-themed outfit.
They hand peel and auto-grate Russet potatoes, hit 'em with a touch of extra virgin olive oil, and then mold 'em into 8-, 10-, 12- and 14-inch rounds on pizza pans. (The personal runs $7.25; small, $10.95; medium, $12.95; large, $14.95.) Those are pre-baked throughout the day for 40 minutes, then finished off to-order with scrambled egg bits, toppings and sauces.
With that finishing cook-time running half an hour and literally only four seats available in the place, it's the kind of concept that screams call-ahead. That said, walk-ins and motorists that grass-skirt-clad hourly hires wave in from Austin Bluffs Boulevard are privy to a daily pizza by the slice ($2) on paper plates until it runs out.
And that happens. Only two months into the game, Rocco and Lindeman can find themselves with limited options toward early evening closing times. I called at 6:15 on a Friday and was told that only two small or two medium sizes remained — not exactly luau-ready stacks.
That said, the Luau pizza itself invites a feast, with a pesto base, huge chunks of feta, avocado, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes and egg. Aside from a slightly too-raw bite from the onion that can overpower the pesto flavor, it's on target.
The Hawaiian Sunburst proves a fun flavor study, combining pineapple, chicken, cheddar, onion, tomato, bell pepper and egg in a classic Béarnaise sauce (egg yolk, clarified butter and herbs). Rich, sweet and expectedly complex, it would have been perfect were it not for some uneven potato texture and burned edges.
Such hiccups might be partially blamed on the heaping portions of toppings. Aptly, there's little subtlety or restraint in this paradise; it's a starchy, heavy, hangover-friendly land. Culinarily speaking, it's kind of like Mexico, which is best represented by the Lava Flow of salsa, pepper jack, chorizo, bell peppers, olives, onion, egg and green chilies. Though it's peppery, I still craved Tabasco or one of its ilk, not available in-house.
If you're craving more of a standard, gooey cheese-topped pizza, the 3 Cheese in Paradise most fits that profile among the pies we sampled. (The others were more topping- than cheese-heavy.) It combines Swiss, mozzarella and cheddar with egg, onion, olives, bacon, pork sausage and ground beef to delight. As with most of the pies, a small can almost feed two people on account of the potato weight.
The sparse drink fridge could display more imagination and maybe a touch of the island theme, and Rocco's food knowledge could improve. (He had to look up basic information or consult Lindeman on nearly all my queries.) But I like that everything is made from scratch here, as well as Rocco's claim that he'll buy local when in season.
But most of all, I like the courage to attempt a creative, new food concept: It may feel a lot like diner food, but this isn't just another diner.