As an American living in Japan, it can sometimes be difficult to find a restaurant that reminds me of home. However, there is one dish offered nearly everywhere around the world that can almost always cure culinary homesickness: pizza.
Luckily for those stationed at Sasebo Naval Station, there’s Pinoccio — a brick-oven pizza joint just a 20-minute walk from the installation boasting a beautiful view from a balcony overlooking the ocean. The downtown Sasebo location inside the 5th Avenue mall is the restaurant’s second branch, capitalizing off the popularity of the original Pinoccio at Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-themed amusement park located several miles south on Hario Island.
While I don’t know the story behind the restaurant’s name, Pinoccio offers an English menu, a solid wine selection and (most importantly) excellent pizza.
I visited Pinoccio in the early evening, so there was not much of a crowd. However, even on a slower evening, Pinoccio has a classy, big-city restaurant feel. The waitstaff is well-dressed, and the restaurant’s wine selection, much of which is sold by the bottle, rivals many upscale Italian joints in the States.
The restaurant also features an open kitchen allowing diners to watch as their pizza is prepared, which children would definitely enjoy.
If the weather is not good enough to enjoy the restaurant’s balcony seating, the walls feature tall windows and provide a great view of the ocean for those trapped indoors.
For diners with dietary restrictions, Pinoccio’s menu features pictures identifying the ingredients of each dish, including the type of meat, as well as common allergens such as dairy, eggs and wheat.
Pinoccio’s pizzas range in price from 1,000 (about $9) to 1,600 yen (about $14). At the behest of some of vegetarian and vegan friends who have asked for reviews of some veggie-friendly restaurants, I ordered the Marinara pizza, which contains roasted eggplant, black olives and artichokes.
The pizza was perfect. I’d never tried eggplant roasted in a brick oven before — and it is now one of my favorite things to eat. If I had one complaint, it was that there was not enough of the eggplant on my pie. This vegetarian pizza was easily a one-person meal, even without any heavy cheese or meat toppings.
For those who prefer a more traditional pizza, the diners next to me ordered a pepperoni and cheese pie that both looked and smelled amazing — so you are in luck.
Provided with your pizza order is a condiment resembling pepperoncini olive oil. It is red, spicy and adds a kick to every slice of pie. I used it judiciously.
After my pizza, I opted for dessert and decided on something called a “popover” — a flaky pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar and filled with vanilla ice cream, all surrounded by fresh fruit and sitting atop a bed of chocolate syrup. The popover tasted as good as it looked. If I wasn’t on a budget, it would have been worth ordering another.
If you are not in the mood for pizza, Pinoccio also offers pasta dishes, most featuring seafood, ranging in price from 1,000 to 2,600 yen. The dessert menu tops out at 800 yen, and a cup of coffee or espresso can be added to any dessert order for an additional 100 yen. Hungrier diners might want to take advantage of the restaurant’s weekday lunch buffet (1,680 yen for adults), which offers a set all-you-can-eat menu.
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Location: 3-1 Shinminato-machi, Sasebo-shi, NagasakiAccess: Pinoccio is located on the second floor of Sasebo 5th Avenue mall, one minute on foot from the Minato exit of Sasebo station.Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; last order for food is 9 p.m.Prices: Pizzas range from 1,000 yen (about $9) to 1,600 yen (about $16), with additional toppings available for 100 yen each. Pasta dishes, offered in both regular and large sizes, range from 1,000 to 2,600 yen. Appetizers, including salads (600 yen) and charcuterie plates (800 yen) are also available. Soft drinks (300 yen) and a variety of alcoholic beverages (400 yen and up) can be added to any meal.Dress: Casual