Fattening research yields Tokyo’s best pizza restaurants
April 5, 2013
Bad pizza makes me angry.
Please understand that I am generally a laid-back, tolerant person. I’ve survived on months of MREs and bland food at military dining facilities, some of which actually labeled their chocolate pudding as “food for the high-performance athlete.”
I was fine with that, really. Reheated chicken tetrazzini and a side of Tootsie Rolls aren’t so bad in the middle of a war.
However, Tokyo is not Fallujah, and it’s entirely reasonable to expect a good pizza in a city with more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris. A limp, soggy-doughed pizza with an oily lump of mozzarella doesn’t cut it. Tokyo, you’re better than that.
I’ve spent four years scouring the Internet and searching hard-to-find city streets, looking for the kind of pizza I remember eating when I first visited New York as a 12-year-old. I’ll never find it, because nothing can compete with a childhood memory. But I’ve come pretty close on a few occasions.
Most Tokyo pizza is an imitation of Naples-style pizza, and a few dedicated pizza-slingers import Italian ovens and ingredients to get it approximately right. It’s good, but with all due respect to the Italians, America is where pizza evolved into the regional varieties I enjoy most. Fortunately, a few Japanese and some American expats have brought those tastes to Tokyo in recent years.
Devilcraft is where I go when I want to leave a restaurant feeling fat and happy. It’s one of the very few Chicago-style, deep dish restaurants I’ve seen here, and their pizzas are a faithful representation of the variety. The sauce is the star, blending the right amount of tang and salt. The crust and dough are crispy, though missing the char more characteristic of many of the better good northeast-style rounds.
Devilcraft’s deep-dish offerings are a good case of addition by subtraction. They offer several pies with lots of toppings, but I found that the vegetables tend to get lost in the shuffle, and too many meats adds salt and distracts from the basics that make it special. I’d stick with “The Big Cheese” or the “Devil Daddy” sausage offering, though the “Abe Froman” has fans among my friends.
Should you get a bit thirsty on your way to the last slice of pie, Devilcraft’s rotating offering of craft beer is as good as you’ll find at any restaurant.
For a round pie, there is one clear winner in my book: Rocco’s New York Style Pizza. Any New Yorker would instantly recognize this is a comfortable neighborhood pizza joint. If it’s baseball season, there’s probably a game on the television. While you’re waiting for your 18-inch pizza to come out of the oven, order some garlic rolls (or garlic knots, as they’re known there).
Pizza by the slice is pricey here, but whole pies are a bargain, given Tokyo’s generally high prices. Rocco’s gets the little things right. The cheese bubbles, the dough is slightly chewy and the crust is crisp without resembling cardboard. Someday I’ll avoid stuffing myself, maybe, and get the cheesecake for dessert.
Rocco’s one unfortunate drawback is its Oji location, which requires a 70-minute train ride for me. However, if you’re headed to Ueno Park for the cherry blossoms, it’s not far at all.
A recent addition to my pizza pantheon is 045 Pizza Myro in Yokohama’s Motomachi area. It’s billed as California pizza, though I’m not sure that such pizza really has a definition beyond what Wolfgang Puck and California Pizza Kitchen have done. 045’s pizza is far less pretentious, and starting at 250 yen a slice, cheap by local standards. It’s also a 10-minute city bus ride on the No. 21 from the Navy’s Negishi housing area. Most of 045’s business is takeout, though it also has a counter with Budweiser on tap. The tomato and basil pizza earns high marks here, but simple slices like pepperoni also satisfy.
Among the Italian-style pizza joints, La Bicocca in Setagaya does an authentic margherita using imported buffalo mozzarella. Dream Factory in Hamamatsucho has a variety of pies, prepared in an oven from Milan. Down-to-earth Da Isa and the more chic Seirinkan in Nakameguro have devoted followings.
DEVILCRAFTDirections: Kanda on the JR Keihin-Tohoku line. Take the south exit, cross the wide street and walk on the left sidewalk.
Information: Opens 5 p.m. weekdays, 3 p.m. weekends. Reservations recommended, 03-6265-1779.
ROCCO’S NEW YORK STYLE PIZZADirections: Oji, on the JR Keihin-Tohoku line.
Information: Open for lunch and dinner, see website for hours. (03)3906-9710.
045 PIZZA MYRODirections: Ishikawacho on the JR Negishi line or Motomachi-Chukagai on the Minato Mirai line. From either station, exit to Motomachi Street and Walk to Motomachi crossing. Look for sign with giant pizza slice.
Information: Open for lunch and dinner. 045-264-4045.