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Enoteca inspiration brings wine and food for Italophiles

by Robbie Swinnerton

Blink and you’re likely to miss Enoteca Cricca as you walk past. It’s one of those diminutive hole-in-the-wall restaurants that Tokyo does so well. With a low-budget, rustic interior — whitewashed walls, exposed brick and lots of simple, hand-finished woodwork — it’s clearly a labor of love and enthusiasm.

The young owners are Italophiles who love the whole food culture, especially the enoteca tradition of local wine bars that also serve a range of simple, honest, affordable cooking. This was the inspiration for Enoteca Cricca, which opened last December by the Ebisu 3-chome crossing.

The menu covers the length of Italy, from Sicily up to the Alps, including a number of regional specialties that are still little known here, such as piadina, the distinctive, chapati-thin flatbreads made in Ravenna and the Romagna region.

At lunchtime, this forms the basis for one of the set meals, along with generous amounts of salad and nourishing minestrone soups.

Almost uniquely for Tokyo, no pasta at all is served, even in the evening when the range of dishes is considerably broader. Nor does the menu distinguish between starters and main courses. All the food is intended to go with wine (a small but affordable list), and is served in portions easily shared between two people.

Casual and affordable, Cricca has the cheerful, occasionally noisy feel of a local wine bar. The word cricca means “clique,” and after a couple of visits to this excellent little place, it’s easy to start feeling that you too are part of that inner circle of cognoscenti enjoying the simple virtues of enoteca food and drink.

6-23-1 Shirokane, Minato-ku; nearest station Ebisu; open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. (closed Sun.); Japanese/Italian menu; credit cards not accepted; (03) 5422-9771