On the face of it, Japan has something of an odd relationship with pizza. You can find pizza slices in most bakeries, convenience stores do pizza dumplings called pizzaman and the range of pizza flavoured potato chips is mind boggling. It’s obvious that the Japanese love pizza, but none of these are what you would consider ‘proper’ pizza. I mean, just take a look at a Pizza Hut menu and you will find all sorts of strange toppings such as mayonnaise, seaweed, and mentaiko fish eggs. And that will be on just one pizza!
But fear not pizza lovers, because there are in fact plenty of great, authentic pizza places around Tokyo. Here are just a handful of our recommendations.*
Though Devilcraft is best known for its beer (and you can find it mentioned in our guide to Tokyo’s craft beer restaurants here), its pizza is frankly amazing. A deep dish, Chicago style pizza, this is a pie worth reckoning with. So good that a friend of mine, a native of the Windy City, travels from Nagoya to the Kanda branch twice a year simply to get this taste of home.
Another American style pizzeria, this place is like a real slice of the city that never sleeps. And I mean slice, as just like in NYC, Rocco’s serves up the pizza by the slice. Run by an American, it has the New York style red and white checked table cloths and a counter-top display case with slices to choose from. Though not as big as you would expect to find Stateside (this is still Japan) they ooze with cheese and the meat lover’s is chock full of pepperoni, ham, and Italian sausage, guaranteed to fill you up.
Though American style pizza is making inroads in Tokyo, there is no doubt that it is the Neapolitan style that is dominant in the city, and Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa is perhaps the best of the lot. Shabby in traditional Italian style, this popular restaurant is the baby of award winning piazziolo Hisanori Yamamoto and is as popular with Italian ex-pats (amongst them Alberto Zaccheroni, the Italian one-time manager of the Japanese national soccer team) as it is with locals. You can expect long queues but also great, authentic pizza.
If da Isa is considered amongst the best in the city, then Seirinkan can boast a link to the greatest longevity. Long before the pizza boom in Japan, Susumu Kakinuma spent a year travelling Italy, testing and tasting what he found, before bringing his discoveries back to Tokyo. He set up the Savoy chain of restaurants and in 2007 opened Seirinkan. This steampunk style restaurant themed on Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea takes delicious simplicity to the maximum. Though the pizzas spend just 60 seconds in the oven, the crust is slightly charred and salty, and the sauces are minimalist with sprinklings of ripe tomatoes and basil as well as lashings of the finest olive oil.
If you are looking for something a touch on the upmarket side with a full dining experience you can head over to Napule in Minato-ku. With plenty of Italian style deco and even a guitarist serenading the diners, it offers a real touch of (if slightly stereotyped) Naples. With World Pizza Championship-winning chefs manning the ovens you can be assured that you are going to be getting great, authentic food, and the service is top notch (decanted wine is warmed by candle to ensure the full release of odour). It can be a little pricey – pizza, drinks, coffee and desert can easily surpass 6,500 JPY per head, but it’s certainly cheaper than flying to Italy.
More great pizza choices
*Please note, the above is for information only. Japan Info Swap does not endorse any of the aforementioned restaurants.
By Mark Guthrie
Image: Facebook.com "Devilcraft Pizza" by Mark Guthrie (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified