Mayonnaise and corn: two toppings that have no earthly business corrupting a slice of pizza. Nevertheless, it’s something we expats have come to expect as the options for true specimens of Italian heaven in Japan. Yes, pizza delivery franchises exist, but the price and quality hardly matches what’s in our hearts: cheesy, artery-clogging slices. But if you’re willing to travel out to Chiba, ambrosia exists in the form of New York-style pizza at the aptly-named I Love Pizza restaurant.
I Love Pizza has quietly existed on the pizza scene for almost 30 years, hidden on a side street near the Chiba monorail. Yet, when standing in front of the discrete tan building with its red awning, there’s definitely something amiss. A bike belonging to another era is parked out front, and the words “I Love Pizza” are blocked above the door in a fashion akin to something you’d see in an American city. Inside, vintage style abounds. Old Coca-Cola signs hang on the walls alongside Marilyn Monroe and pink Cadillacs. A retro Japanese radio seems to be the old nod to the homeland. The shop feels like a magically misplaced ’60s diner, despite the awesome selection of 1980s tunes jamming on the speaker.
Then there’s the pizza. Oh, the pizza. The menu showcases an eclectic range of styles and toppings—thankfully no corn and mayonnaise—including seafood concoctions, spicy renditions, and sauceless varieties. If New York style isn’t your thing, there’s also Italian. Love’s Special, with its pepperoni, italian sausage, green peppers, onion, and shimeji (a type of Asian mushroom), is by far a fan favorite (¥2,800 for a large). The taste of each pizza is overwhelmingly New York, yet the ingredients, besides the salami, are all from Japan. Additionally, the current owner of 1.5 years, Kobayashi Toshiro, surprisingly received his pizza training in Japan. Besides pizza, the owner also makes a mean mixed drink. (Order the Ginger Highball at bargain ¥580!) Toshiro also serves up the Marshmallow Dessert Pizza (¥880 for a 20-cm) that’ll round out your gluttonous feast.
I Love Pizza has two locations. If you’re out near Makuhari for the popular Summer Sonic or other events happening at Makuhari Messe, their Chiba location is just 10 minutes away. This is the original diner-style shop. Their second location is close to Narita Airport, making it a delicious stopover to break up your travel itinerary. Though the Narita branch doesn’t have the same awesome decor, it does offer up slices (about ¥400) in addition to whole pies, good for visitors running late for their flights.
Chiba branch: 1-13-7 Nobuto, Chuo, Chiba. Open Tue-Sun, 11:30am-2pm & 5pm-10pm. Nearest Station: Shin-Chiba Station. Tel: 043-248-4455.
Narita branch: 846 Hanazakicho, Narita. Open daily, 11am-12am. Nearest Station: Narita. Tel: 0476-22-0969.