The summer beach season may be over, but we are already planning our return to the Shonan coast. Not for the sand and sea, though, but the promise of a meal at Il Rifugio Hayama, currently our favorite Italian restaurant in all of Kanagawa Prefecture.

The setting is fabulous: A traditional wooden house built over 70 years ago as a summer "cottage" for a member of the imperial retinue — the Emperor's villa stands close by, overlooking Isshiki Beach — it has been beautifully converted to accommodate tables and chairs.

But it's the food that makes the journey so worthwhile. Il Rifugio's young owner-chef, Akira Watanabe, has traveled the length of Italy, but the region closest to his heart and reflected most strongly on his menu is Sardinia. He worked for over a year at a small restaurant there and adopted its name in homage when he opened here last year.