La Piccola Tavola - genuine Napoli pizza house around the corner
Pizza margherita at La Piccola Tavola
Many guests are waiting for their turn in front of La Paccola Tavola
on sunny lunch time - a van barely finds space to drive through standing people
as well as in the rainy evening.
Another queue for a nearby ramen eatery
In Tokyo we have a large number of restaurants serving foreign foods parallel to innumerable Japanese restaurants.
I cannot find reliable statistics on
different types of restaurants, maybe because the number of restaurants is so huge and there are always openings and closings in the restaurant business.
However, if you check the site of a free paper "Hot Pepper, Tokyo", you can find some idea about relative abundance of different types of restaurants in Tokyo. Some 8500 Japanese restaurants are registered at "Hot Pepper", while some 2700 Asian restaurants and 3000 Western style and other restaurants, where "Western style" includes dishes which Japanese people invented under the inspiration from the West. Anyhow, it is remarkable that there are many Western-oriented restaurants in Tokyo.
Among different countries Italy has the largest number of its culinary representations in Tokyo (774). Though much smaller in number France keeps the second place (327) and is followed by Spain (75). No other country appears as section title on the Hot Pepper internet site. On the other hand, special categories are created for "pasta" (336) and "pizza" (202) in addition to general Italian kitchen". All in all, the Italian kitchen is undoubtedly the most popular among Western kitchens and the second most popular among all foreign kitchens only next to the Chinese.
When I visited Italy for the first time in 1977, I was fascinated by almost every meal I had there. But, in my visits to North Italy - Lombardia, Venezia and so on - several years ago, I was disappointed by low quality meals and their bad cost-performance. I thought that this experience of mine came from the fact that the quality of Italian food had drastically improved in Japan by that time. However, this impression in the North was reversed when I visited Campania a few years later. The 5 days' tour around Napoli was full of fascination and discovery. All the food was super tasty and reasonably priced. I realized that the paradise for tourists with not much pocket money exists there, though there were mountains of garbage everywhere. Certainly there is a huge gap between the North and the South in Italy.
If I remember correctly, the first Italian foods, spaghetti and pizza, were introduced via America. It is very strange that Japanese people started to use the American made Tabasco sauce for spaghetti and pizza, though there is no such habit in the US itself. Anyhow, when I first ate pizza in Germany in 1975, in a newly opened pizza house in Tuebingen, I rightfully ordered Tabasco, because there was - mistakenly, I thought -
no Tabasco on the table, but no one of the restaurant knew about Tabasco!
Though there are now many Italian restaurants, pizzeria and pasta houses in Japan, most of them are run by Japanese people and their menus, in particular pastas, are largely modified to please Japanese taste buds. As a result such pastas as "cod roe spaghetti" form main menus in many "Italian" restaurants. On the other hand pizza market is still dominated by American giants such as Pizza Hut. In such a landscape "La Piccola Tavola" uniquely represents the genuine Campanian pizza in Tokyo.
The pizzas of La Piccola Tavola are made by Massimo who comes directly from Napoli and many guests appreciate the taste of his pizzas. I tried them once and found tasty. They are in essence Italian, though somewhat domesticated according to Japanese taste and lack the original wildness. I could be a repeater if I don’t need to wait hours for my turn in front of the entrance or I don't have to order a table hours before. I find it really ridiculous that so many Japanese are willing to queue up for getting a piece of pizza or a bowl of Chinese style soup noodle (Ramen). But, this is the reality. Japanese people become extraordinarily patient when they want to eat something delicious.
Not only pizzas but other dishes are well made in La Piccola Tavola. I am personally fond of "insalata Caprese" using buffalo milk mozzarella. Unfortunately cheese selection is still very limited in Japan. Though we can gradually buy some kinds of cheese such as red cheddar and parmesan in usual supermarkets, buffalo milk mozzarella is a delicatessen not easy to find. Their house wine is also satisfactory. After having a pasta course with antipasto and dolce, we pay about 4000 yen per person. La Piccola Tavola is located only 8 minutes by bicycles from my house. It has an amicable atmosphere as a restaurant in the neighborhood. So, everything is OK, except for the long queue.
Pizza oven and guests at the counter