Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2014
Neapolitan pizzerias, with their signature charred and chewy crusts, abound in Tokyo. What’s harder to find is a crispy Roma-style pizza. The recently opened Pizza Bar on 38th at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo is dishing up a unique pizza alla pala worthy of a trip to the historic Nihonbashi district. A “pala” is the wooden board used to bring the pizza out of the oven.
Located inside the Italian restaurant K’shiki, the Pizza Bar is comprised of eight counter seats overlooking an open kitchen and a gas-heated brick oven. There is a flurry of activity as servers come and go from the main kitchen, but it isn’t a bother as the chef is friendly and easy to chat with. Italian Executive Sous Chef Daniele Cason, half-Italian and half-Somali, is very enthusiastic about pizza. He went back to his hometown of Rome to study with some of the best pizzaioli and has brought his own recipe back to Tokyo.
Pizza is a very simple dish, and Cason has searched for the best of ingredients to make his unique. The flour is organic and from a small producer in Piemonte. Pelati tomatoes from Puglia “il Tavoliere” are used for the sauce, and the chef will dress the pie with fresh Japanese tomatoes—after the pizza is baked—to ensure the crust stays crispy. The Fior di Latte mozzarella cheese he has selected does not release a lot of liquid when it is baked.
The pizza dough is made with a high proportion of water (80 percent) to flour, which is the secret to the crispy crust. While the mixture contains only one gram of yeast, it is fermented for 48 hours, making it light and full of bubbles. It is evident how delicate the dough is by watching Cason as he stretches and flattens it out on the marble counter.
We start off with a Campari-based cocktail like the classic Negroni (¥1,500) and then move on to an Italian craft beer. The Collesi Imper Ale Bionda (¥3,000), with its citrusy notes, is a nice partner to the pizza. Among the starters to choose are a colorful five-tomato salad (¥1,900), and sliced meats (¥900) such as mortadella, speck, and prosciutto.
The pizza selections include a Quattro Formaggi (¥2,300), which is actually made with five cheeses (provolone, Gorgonzola, smoked scamorza, taleggio and mozzarella fior di latte) then drizzled with a truffle-infused honey, and the luxurious Porcini (¥2,500) topped with generous slices of the famous Italian mushroom. The dough of the Trapizzino (¥2,500) is baked into what looks like a thin focaccia bread, then sliced, filled with creamy mascarpone cheese, black olives and truffle essence before baking in the oven. We found it so delicious, we were back within the week to have it again.
Tokyoites are truly spoiled with some of the world’s best pizza at their fingertips, and The Pizza Bar on 38th has added yet another great spot for true aficionados to discover. Reservations are suggested as there are only eight seats at the counter—the only location this classic ‘za is served.