Teen chef opens pizzeria in West Kaua‘i

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Chad and Xavier Machado own and operate JP’s Pizza. Taken Mar. 13, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

The rest of Kaua‘i – and the world – is now learning what many on the Garden Isle have known for the past year: JP’s Pizza in rural Kaumakani makes some of the most delicious slices around.

“You’ve got to check out JP’s,” this reporter was told over a cup of coffee at The Jammin’ Banana Bakery & Café in Nāwiliwili. “An 18-year-old makes the best pizza on the West Side.”

The pizzeria occupies a low green building next door to Aloha Sweet Delites on the side of Kaumualiʻi Highway, opposite a plain of grassland stretching toward mountains on the horizon. Those who approach JP’s takeout window – the business has only outdoor seating, which is placed when the weather permits – will likely be greeted by a beaming man with a bounce in his step. This is Chad Machado, the friendly father of teenage chef Xavier Jon Paul Machado.

Xavier, who is now 19 years old, rarely makes an appearance at the takeout window. Unlike his dad, the young man is soft-spoken and prefers to work in his kitchen, where he produces an average of 60 pizzas per day while playing rock ‘n’ roll and jazz from an old stereo system.

Xavier Machado prepares a red pie, his favorite menu item. Taken Mar. 13, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

“Ozzy Osbourne, Creed. Blue Öyster Cult is my favorite right now,” Xavier said, having taken a break from his duties to discuss his passion for pizza. He began by stressing the importance of good dough. He makes his own using a blend of flour and a sourdough starter he created while a student at Waimea High School, where he graduated in 2022.


“You have to look into the dough mixture to see all the possibilities,” said Xavier, who is virtually self-taught. “The temperature of the dough … There’s also a science [regarding] humidity.

“How you want the thickness of the crust, how you want air bubbles, how you want to lay out the sauce, how you handle the cheese,” he continued. “You’re painting a canvas.”

Xavier became interested in cooking at a young age, watching his mother Joy make traditional Filipino dishes like chicken and papaya soup, chicken adobo and fried rice. He prepared his first dish by age 9: A simple bowl of chicken and broccoli soup.

Xavier continued to improve his skill set, and in eighth grade, began to proclaim plans to open a steakhouse. Then he discovered the art of pizza making online and spent up to three months “falling in love” with Neapolitan-style pizza made with a crispy, sturdy crust.

That was when Xavier watched a YouTube video dedicated to acclaimed pizzaiolo Domenico De Marco, who founded Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn in New York City.


“It was so rustic, how he was making a pizza,” Xavier said. “I’d never seen anything like it. He hand-crushed his tomatoes and used two different kinds of cheeses.”

A white pie with pepperoni and sausage. Photo Courtesy: jpspizzakauai

De Marco’s techniques shaped Xavier’s approach to pizza, defined by an adherence to fresh ingredients, simplicity and East Coast tradition. The Kaua‘i chef’s preferred menu item reflects this philosophy.

“We have the red pie, which is tomato sauce and grated cheese. That’s a sign of good pizza … Plain cheese is my favorite because you get to taste everything,” said Xavier, who sources ingredients from Italy when he can. He is frank when assessing the quality of each pie he makes, noting he believes his Margherita pizza needs to be improved.

Xavier and Chad opened JP’s in early 2023, a few years after Xavier suggested they open a food business while fishing for ulua (giant trevally) in Waimea. The two went fishing every day during that time; Kaua‘i had shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Chad had lost his job training millionaire tourists at the Timbers Kaua‘i resort.

Chad – a career bodybuilder who owned an ‘Ele‘ele gym for decades – responded to his son’s beachside idea with characteristic enthusiasm.


“He’s been cooking forever. It’s his thing,” Chad said of Xavier. “My thing was bodybuilding and fitness … nobody stopped me from doing my passion. I was really good at it and I made my life through that up until this point … I was content with my achievements.

“I’m not a rich guy … But when he told me he wanted to do that, I said, ‘Hey buddy, whatever you want,'” Chad continued. “From then on, I just started investing in him. Buying whatever he needed. It was a lot but it was for his future. He needed me to find his thing, and it’s pizza … Nobody is your biggest supporter more than your dad.”

(Coincidentally, Chad’s faith in his son’s ability echoes the story behind The Jammin’ Banana – the café where this reporter first learned about JP’s Pizza. The Jammin’ Banana is owned and operated by a father-daughter duo who also plunged into the food industry with no prior experience.)

The Machado men have many friends and family members to thank for making their dream a reality. JP’s storefront is sublet from Xavier’s auntie Panny Machado, who owns the adjacent hair salon. Another auntie, Julie Mararagan, handles JP’s important paperwork. Bobby Valenti, of Bobby V’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria in Wailuā, gifted Xavier knowledge and a commercial pizza oven. Another local pizza guru, former restaurateur Tom Iannucci – who mentored the owner of Pancho’s Pizza in Kapa‘a besides – provided guidance as well.

Xavier claimed he is taking the challenges of operating a bustling pizzeria day by day. But his own comments, and the evidence of his father, belied this statement.

JP’s Pizza faces Kuamuali‘i Highway in Kaumakani on the West Side of Kaua‘i. Taken Mar. 13, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

“I’m the guy with the lasso, right? Because I know this guy is like a wild horse. He’s ready to do everything,” Chad said.

Xavier hopes to one day add chicken parmesan and meatball sandwiches to JP’s menu, which already includes pizza, calzones, garlic knots and frequent limited specials. He envisions opening a larger “artisan pizzeria” but isn’t letting current limitations slow him down.

“I want to work on making some sort of gelato,” Xavier said, adding his sister is set to join the JP’s team as its first-ever barista. “We just have to find some space.”

Xavier also has big plans that extend beyond the Garden Isle. He has never left Kaua‘i since his birth – but wants to visit Brooklyn, Connecticut and New Jersey, where the pizzerias that inspire him are based. The tour will, of course, include at least one stop at Di Fara Pizza. Xavier and Chad never got the chance to speak with their hero De Marco, who died at age 85 in 2022, but Xavier has been in contact with the master’s son.

The Machados have yet to set a date for their pizza pilgrimage. However, when they eventually arrive on the East Coast, they will almost certainly be met with open arms. Xavier’s pies have already garnered praise from visiting New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, some of whom have recommended his pies online.

“We did not expect to find good pizza on the island – but JP’s is the real deal,” one woman wrote in a Facebook group dedicated to New Jersey pizzerias.

This reporter was born and raised in New Jersey and attended college 45 minutes outside of New York City. He too can say: From the Garden State to the Garden Isle, JP’s makes great pizza.

Xavier smiled.

“I let my customers do the talking,” he said.

JP’s Pizza is open from 1 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Xavier and Chad recommend calling ahead due to high demand. To place an order, dial 808-755-8111.

For more information, follow JP’s Pizza on Instagram.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."

Scott can be reached at [email protected].
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