I love pizza. I’ve been eating it for my whole life in every form, from frozen Pizza Pop to the most authentic trattoria in Naples, Italy. I don’t discriminate. I grew up in a small city in Canada where all-you-can-eat was a necessity for my two brothers and I. Anywhere in the world that I travel, big city or small, I at least do diligence to put my finger on the pulse of the local scene. Whether it’s a flat one-dollar slice, hipster pizza with toppings like Sriracha or honey, or deep dish in all its heavy greasy glory, I want to know what is out there. Just because I don’t discriminate, doesn’t mean I don’t have a preference: I love Neapolitan style pizza and I love it most in Japan. Especially at Pizza Studio Tamaki.
From Pizzeria da Yuki in Kyoto and Pizzeria Logic in Yamagata, to the pizza institution Savoy in Tokyo and the replica Pizzeria da Gaetano in Fukuoka, I’m convinced this high temperature pie is done best in Japan.
I have been exploring pizza in Japan for about four years and while I’m rarely disappointed, I’ve naturally become more discerning with every slice. I was afraid that I had tasted almost everything I could, especially in Tokyo, until a friend mentioned an article he had read. There was a relatively new place in Akabanebashi, not far from Azabujuban Station. The next time I was in Japan, I knew I would have to find the time to go.
When I walked into Pizza Studio Tamaki (PST), there was one visitor already at the counter around 6:00 pm. A sophisticated Coltrane playlist was playing and I sat down next to him. I think the best measure of pizzeria is its expression of a classic like Margherita. With this simple pizza you can’t hide any blemishes and must rely on water, heat and the quality of your ingredients. So, I examined the menu and got nervous when I saw tsukemono (house pickles) made from Okinawan vegetables at the bottom of the first page. Nervous but curious, so I ordered them. They woke me up with a perfect balanced brightness. From the bitter melon to the carrot, I could tell they knew what they were doing here.
Even though I don’t usually focus on beverages when I go to a pizzeria, they had Dolcetto d’Alba on the beverage menu from the cult Barolo producer Roberto Voerzio in Piemonte, North West Italy—it’s one of the ultimate pizza wines hands down. I already knew there was something special about this place and I hadn’t even ordered my pie yet.
I deviated from the classic Margherita I would normally order and tried the Tamaki Special, with his own smoked buffalo mozzarella and the freshest cherry tomatoes. I watched the Pizzaiolo knead the dough and dress it with a few choice ingredients. He threw it in the oven for just a moment and with perfect timing and precision, removed it to reveal the perfectly charred disc. He tossed pinches of salt into the oven and onto the plate before he placed the pie on, a technique all his own. This pizza is unforgettable.
Tsubasa Tamaki is from Okinawa and has served his time among the local Japanese pizza legends. He celebrates local farms and meat providers whenever possible but honors the indisputable quality of Italian ingredients such as Bufala Mozzarella. Celebrated pizza oven maker Yamamiya Kamado Kogyosho crafted the incredible oven specially for Pizza Studio Tamaki before taking on other pizza oven projects as far away as Dubai. There is a shared philosophy between Tamaki’s wine list, his ingredients and his appliances: quality and simplicity. He wears these traits well and I can’t wait to go back for more conversation and, of course, another chance to enjoy my favorite pizza of 2017.
Pizza Studio Tamaki (PST)
1 Chome-24-6 Higashi Azabu, Minato, Tokyo 106-0044
Tel: 03-6277-8064 (Make reservations by phone)
Open Monday–Friday, 5pm–11pm
Open Saturday & Sunday 12pm–4pm, 5pm–10pm