After all the magic of Japan’s traditional New Year’s food—the addictive mochi; the sweet-spicy otososan sake; the bento-like feasts my Japanese in-laws cook—I feel pretty satiated. My stomach is full, my cheeks aglow. T, my husband, even has a week off from work: time to lounge and giggle, to walk Osaka’s cold streets with his hand clutching mine, making me feel safe and warm. I have health, laughter, adventure, and love in this foreign land (plus the post-New-Year’s shoe sales starting any day)—everything a girl could ever want or need, I think gratefully.
Except one thing: pizza.
True, I’m in a country where pasta can be topped with shredded seaweed or some other incomprehensible garnish, where the pizza crust is often soggy, the cheese greasy. But I also live near Temmabashi, right around the corner from Pomodoro Rosso, where one bite can make me feel as if all is right in the world, or at least with Osaka’s sometimes-dire-seeming pizza situation. So the minute the New Year’s holiday ends, I announce to T that I have an important New Year’s resolution which I must see to immediately. I must usher in 2008 with an authentic Italian pie. At Pomodoro Rosso. Right now.
T, having been my ballast for four years now, knows exactly how to handle me in these situations. There’s only one way to deal with my food obsessions, one reaction to my mentioning, ten times by 10am, a particular meal I crave. When the restlessness starts and the sighing commences, he makes a reservation.
Reservations are not actually required at Pomodoro Rosso, and every time we’ve gone there, we’ve been able to get a table, but T’s taking no chances. The food is so good that there could one day be lines out the door, clamoring for what comes out of their huge, red-brick, wood-burning Neapolitan oven.
First, we order one of the special pizzas supplementing their regular menu (which features antipasti, pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes, and about two dozen bottles of wine, plus glasses of wine and beer). The chef rolls and kneads and tosses a fresh ball of dough, then spreads it flat and spoons tomatoes, sausage, ricotta, and mozzarella (all imported directly from Italy). With a flick of his wrist, he adds a handful of fresh basil, then slides it onto a huge wooden spatula and into the oven, where wooden logs burn their bright red glow. When the pizza is ready, it arrives steaming at our table, the thin dough lightly crunchy on the outside but soft within, the mozzarella rich and melting.
Eventually the tremors from my carb-and-cheese craving start to ease, so I chat with the chef and taste the pasta that T has ordered. Also from the seasonal menu, the fusilli is incredible, so I eat half of it before ordering my second pie. It mixes meaty tuna, salty capers, mozzarella and ricotta, tomatoes, and crushed almonds. As I wait for our next pizza—anchovy, olive, cheese, and tomato¾the chef explains that his pies’ distinction derive from both the dough and oven. The recipe for the former he will not divulge, except to say that all its ingredients hail from Italy and he has a special technique for mixing them. But the oven he is happy to explain at length: It’s a 2-ton cavern, stoked at 400 degrees Celsius, that heats food at the same level—as opposed to from below, as do most Japanese and Western ovens—and thus imparts its delicious, slightly smoky flavor and crisp texture. But it’s what comes out of it that moves me most: one more New Year’s blessing, round and fresh and hot, waiting on a simple plate in front of me.
Ristorante & Pizzeria Napoletana2-1-7 Koku-Machi
Chuo-Ku, Osaka, Japan
T/F: 06.6947.1541Lunch: 11:30-14:30 (L.O)
Dinner: 17:30-21:30 (L.O)
Menu in both Japanese and Italian, with some English spoken by staff