By ELA BOGATAJ STOPAR
A delicious pizza Margherita. Photo by Yoshihide Nomura | Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/yoshimov/11875314/
Finding pizza in Tokyo is difficult.
At least finding reasonably sized, reasonably priced pizza available relatively near Komaba campus is. With prices for deliveries from popular restaurant chains usually ranging above ¥1500 and mini pizzas sold in cafés hardly accounting for an adequate lunch, European-style pizzerias are somewhat of a rarity. However, as a European in Japan, sometimes looking for a break from traditional Japanese meals, I also find them to be a necessity. Based on recommendation from other PEAK students and my own experience, I embarked on a journey through the streets of Shibuya to find three excellent pizzerias.
On the basement floor of Shibuya-Ekimae, there is an easily missed restaurant by the name of Miami Garden. Even on a Saturday afternoon, the comfortably small room wasn’t crowded and the wait before the meal wasn’t long. The menu, available in English as well, offers a choice of about ten different kinds of pizza priced between ¥1100 and ¥2000 – amounts that I have found to be the standard in the kind of restaurants I was looking for in Shibuya. Drinks, on the other hand, were surprisingly expensive with fruit juices costing above ¥700, in spite of the fact that they came in the usual quantity of 200mL and were not exceptionally delicious. The ham and rucola pizza was quite tasty, although I missed the presence of cheese on the soft dough; turns out, if it’s not explicitly listed on the menu, the topping is probably not there – regardless of the somewhat deceptive photographs that can be found on the menu. Miami Garden is a perfect choice for spending time with a small group of friends, or having a rest after a shopping spree in Shibuya.
When circumstances call for a pre-exam stress eating escapade, an American-style buffet called Shakey’s is the place to go. An all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner menu for an adult costs about ¥1100, including pizza, pasta, salads, and drinks, all of which come in varieties; in particular, it is with the pizza that the cooks get the most creative. The choices change regularly, varying from your average pepperoni and cheese pizza to the more bizarre vegetable and meat combos, such as the corn and Bolognese sauce pizza, as well as interesting dessert pizzas with toppings including marshmallows, white chocolate or cinnamon to top off the delicious meal. As the buffet works on a self-serve basis, the pizzas are served sliced and the customers can help themselves to however many slices of their pizza of choice they desire.
A slightly classier choice for a romantic dinner, or simply a relaxing meal away from the rushing crowds of Tokyo, is La Soffitta. With its Mediterranean décor, complete with herbs hanging off the ceiling, La Soffitta is a lovely Italian restaurant located a mere five minutes’ walk from the Shibuya train station. The prices for rather large pizzas, as well as various kinds of pasta, range between ¥1000 and ¥2000. The meal may be accompanied by a high-quality wine that tends to be more expensive than the food itself, or a non-alcoholic beverage of choice priced around ¥500. The cheese pizza which I tried came with a cup of honey for flavor and was extremely delicious, although the very thin crust had trouble balancing the strong taste of the toppings as well as carrying their weight.
Pizzerias in Tokyo may be few and far between, but they hold themselves to an extremely high standard. Japanese pizza chefs usually study their craft in Italy, working hard to replicate the original tastes as precisely as possible. In fact, there have even been some to win international pizza competitions held in Italy. Makoto Onishi, who won the Pizzafest Competition in Naples twice, says that the scarcity of “true” pizzerias in Tokyo is the reason why Neapolitan pizza is unknown to so many Japanese, and is motivated by the idea of spreading the Neapolitan pizza culture across Japan.
No matter how long you stay here, there are always new and incredible things to be discovered in Tokyo. Next time you get tired of the campus cafeteria, grab a friend and let yourself be pleasantly surprised by the mysteries hidden in secret corners of Shibuya.