I heard a rumor that there was a New York-style pizza shop in Tokyo Station that was importing water from New York City. That’s how hard they were trying to make their pizza taste authentic. This was exciting news: New York-style pizza, served by the slice with long trails of gooey mozzarella (and maybe a dash of parmesan or red pepper) is pretty much nonexistent in Japan.
The pizza shop in question is Famous Famiglia (www.famousfamiglia.jp). It’s part of KG’s New York Deli, a cluster of imports in the basement of Tokyo Station’s Daimaru department store that includes Ess-a-Bagel and something called SoupMan — an outlet of the place that inspired the “Soup Nazi” on long-running American TV show “Seinfeld.” (I guess he’s lightened up a bit?)
Never mind what the branding says: Famous Famiglia is not New York City’s favorite pizza. (Search online for Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” rant against Donald Trump’s visit there with Sarah Palin; incidentally, this video is also an excellent primer in how not to eat pizza like a New Yorker).
According to the young Japanese woman behind the counter, the dough is imported (and thus, by default, so is the water). The pies are assembled and baked at the shop, where they sit behind glass, the cheese congealing, because New York-style pizza is, apparently, not popular in Tokyo. This issue of turnover is the scourge of many things I love to eat that are not as popular in Japan as they are in America (notably, bagels).
Pizza-starved as I am, however, I thought it wasn’t that bad. It is definitely superior to mall-chain Sbarro (www.sbarro.jp), though that’s not saying much. Famous Famiglia also has a delivery-only shop in Minami-Azabu (03-3447-1898), serving neighborhoods such as Hiroo, Roppongi, and Shirokane.
The one place in Tokyo that truly nails it — not just in taste but also in heart and soul — is Rocco’s New York Style Pizza (1-1-24-101 Honcho, Oji, Kita-ku, Tokyo; 03-3906-9710; www.roccosnewyorkstylepizza.com). It’s run by an American guy and has red-and-white-checkered tablecloths. The slices aren’t quite fold-in-half big, but the crust has a nice bite to it and the cheese literally runneth over.
There are oodles of toppings to choose from (the Italian sausage is my favorite). Rocco’s also does white pizza (with a sauce made from ricotta cheese) and calzone (a filled pillow of pizza dough).
Why is this place not better known? Oji is far from the beaten path. But if you happen to live near Oji, Rocco’s also delivers.
Okay, so Tokyoites still need to travel to the ends of the Earth for a decent slice, but what we don’t have to do is wait in line for a cronut. What’s a cronut? It’s a meeting of the croissant and the donut, and my New York friends tell me it is the hottest thing to hit the city since cupcakes.
Japanese bakery Banderole (www.banderole.co.jp) has started making its own version of the cronut, supplying them to a handful of oddly unfashionable bakeries on the outskirts of Tokyo. They also don’t seem to be popular: When I trekked out to an Aeon mall in Minamisuna, Koto Ward, to try one, there was no line at all.