Nakameguro da Isa

Da Isa pizza spicy salami

Nakameguro da Isa spicy salami pizza

Many friends tell me that they love the pizza at da Isa in Nakameguro. The shop is very famous and is often featured in magazines and on television for its pizza. Whenever I come to this part of town though I usually make a beeline for Seirinkan. At lunchtime at da Isa there is a great special of about six different pizzas for only 1,000 JPY. A bargain as many of these pizzas are almost about twice that price. When we were seated a little after noon we were given the lunch menu and told that two were already sold out for the lunch offer. We took this spicy salami pizza off the regular menu, it was about 2,000 JPY. It was good although we picked it because it said it had taleggio cheese and instead we got blue cheese. My girlfriend and I were too busy chatting that we didn’t comment on it until we had already eaten most of the pizza, too late to ask for it to be remade. :-)

Da Isa pizza mushrooms

Nakameguro da Isa lunch funghi pizza

The lunch menu included this funghi pizza which is a great bargain at 1,000 JPY. The crust was charred and there is a generous amount of toppings. These are great pizzas and you could imagine yourself in Italy. There is a long list of pizzas so something for everyone, but it is the lunch special that is worth making a trip across town for. It’s about a five-minute walk from Nakameguro station along the main street. When you exit the station (there is only one exit) cross the street and take a left. Walk about five minutes and da Isa is on your right.

The pizzaolo, Hisanori Yamamoto, is very nice on the eyes. He is behind the counter in front of the wood-fired oven. He is known for winning the World Pizza Cup in Naples, which is no surprise.

Just be sure not to come on a Monday as they are closed. I have done this in the past. Also, don’t come on a Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday. Da Isa will be open for the national holiday on the Monday, but will then close on Tuesday. I have also come on a Tuesday after a national holiday. Luckily, Seirinkan down the street, was open.

da Isa

Meguro-ku, Aobada 1-28-9, 目黒区青葉台1-28-9

Napoletana Pizza in Tokyo

aogi pizza

aogi pizza

Peppe

Peppe

Perhaps the best place to get a really great pizza outside of Italy is not New York City but in Tokyo. The website for the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana lists thirty-five authentic Napoletana pizzerias in Japan.

Many of the pizzaiolos have apprenticed in Italy, bake their pizzas in wood burning ovens, and do an outstanding job of replicating authentic Italian pizzas. Alan Richman wrote an excellent piece about this (as well as French and Chinese cuisine in Japan) in this piece in GQ magazine. His piece opens up in Nakameguro with Kakinuma-san of Seirinkan, who is one of the most revered pizzaiolos in Japan. There are only two pizzas on his menu, marinara or Margherita as well as some salads, pastas, and other dishes. I always get the broccoli sautéed with garlic and then save the garlic oil to dip the crust of the pizza into later.

Thanks to Tokyo’s pizza boom there are now several more restaurants in the metropolis to satiate your craving for pizza. Here are just some (of many).

Seirinkan

Seirinkan

Seirinkan 聖林館

Meguro-ku, Nakameguro 2-6-4

03-3714-5160

11:30 – sold out; 18:00 – 21:30

no holidays

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1317/A131701/13003188/

la bicocca

la bicocca

la bicocca

Setagaya-ku, Kamiuma 4-5-1

03-3410-7710

11:30 – 14:00; 17:30 – 22:00

closed Monday

http://www.la-bicocca.jp/

Peppe, at only twenty-six years old, may appear to be young for a pizzaiolo but has said that he has been helping out in pizzerias in his native Naples since he was twelve.

Tarantella da Luigi

Tarantella da Luigi

Tarantella da Luigi

Minato-ku, Shirokane 3-22-2

03-6408-5552

12:00 – 14:00 Saturday and holidays

17:30 – 23:00 Monday – Saturday (until 22:00 on Sunday)

no holidays

http://tarantella-da-luigi.com/

Teratoka-san has apprenticed with seven pizzerias in Naples and has spent more time in Italy making pizza than in Japan.

aogi Soshigaya

aogi Soshigaya

aogi Soshigaya

Setagaya-ku, Soshigaya 2-4-7, Soshigaya Danchi Building #1

03-6411-9676

12:00 – 14:00; 18:00 – 22:30

closed Tuesday

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1318/A131814/13117590/

Goto-san serves authentic Napolitan pizza as well as a local version which is topped with shirasu (boiled baby anchovies) and nori.

da Isa

Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa

Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa

Meguro-ku, Aobadai 1-28-9

03-5768-3739

11:30 – 14:00 (until 14:30 on Saturday and holidays)

17:30 – 22:00

no holidays

http://www.da-isa.jp/

Yamamoto-san prides his pizza on its ingredients. The flour and salt are imported from Italy. The dough is slowly fermented at room temperature for eight to ten hours.

Roma pizza in Tokyo.

Seirinkan

Seirinkan

Seirinkan

Photo by Chuck Tanaka Peterson

As a New Yorker who visited Japan often in the early ‘70s as a child, I have ingrained in my memory a pizza that was topped with squid legs. I remember the disappointment of the tentacles peeking out from under the cheese almost taunting me. For the longest time I avoided pizza in Japan. Besides, there are so many great things to get here like tempura, tonkatsu, and ramen, why bother with mediocre pizza? GQ contributor, Alan Richman—the “most decorated food writer in history”—encouraged me to check out Seirinkan in Nakameguro. I went, albeit with little confidence that I would be satisfied or satiated.

The first good sign, Seirinkan is easy to find: Just a few minutes walk from Nakameguro station. The restaurant is spread over three floors and a narrow, spiral staircase connects the floors. The owner, Susumu Kakinuma, has an affinity for military souvenirs.

Restaurants like Seirinkan that focus on their craft often have limited menus. Seirinkan’s menu offers simple ingredients like cheese and tomato sauce on handmade dough, heated in a wood-burning oven until crispy and piping hot. You can select from either a Margherita of tomato and buffalo mozzarella or a marinara of tomato and garlic. Pizzas this simple insist upon quality ingredients. Cooked to exactly the perfect moment, the middle ingredients melt together and the outside crust is puffy, scorched, and crispy.

The side dishes round out the menu with salads such as Caprese, or ruccola and Parmigiano, sliced prosciutto, and broccoli in a garlic olive oil sauce. The staff suggested that we save the garlic infused olive oil to dip the pizza crust into. Brilliant advice and it has become a regular part of every visit since.

Service is simple as is the menu. My only complaint is that the staff opened the wine before bringing it to the table. My three thirsty friends looked at me disappointingly when the server presented an opened half bottle. I wanted to refuse the bottle but my Japanese companions were too embarrassed.

Seirinkan is open for lunch and is often on the quiet side. Dinners can be very busy. Note that Seirinkan’s website advises diners that the restaurant will close early if they run out of pizza. While my craving for pizza no longer exists, the search for an authentic bagel continues.

Seirinkan
Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 2-6-4
Tokyo, tel: 03-3714-5160, Web: www.seirinkan.jp 

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/seirinkan/