Al Camino's simple pizza offerings are hard to resist

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Special To The Japan Times

Pizza’s time has truly arrived. There are plenty of places where the pizza is more like a first cousin of that fried batter staple, okonomiyaki, meaning smothered in mayonnaise — but the true Neapolitan masterpiece also has a following here. If you’re in Kyoto, be sure to search out Al Camino.

It’s on the ground floor of an apartment block, alongside a bus terminal on the west side of the city, in a mostly tourist-free zone. Al Camino opened in 2008 and it is chef, restaurateur and Italophile Takemasa Watanabe’s third Italian restaurant, and his only pizzeria.

Despite making yearly pilgrimages to Italy, Watanabe held off on opening a pizzeria until he could find the right ingredients, pizza oven and staff. In the early years the oven was manned by an Italian chef.

The bulk of the pizza offerings are divided between rossi, a tomato sauce-based pizza, and bianchi, which is cheese-based and uses no tomato sauce. There are also a few outliers such as the pizza covered in Nutella and a fruit-topped pizza.

So how does Watanabe’s Neapolitan stand up? It has a thin crust, meaty around the crisp puffed-up edges, and in the center it’s exceedingly thin. The con panchetta, a very simple pizza, was magnificent: San Marzano tomato sauce, garlic and oregano, and crispy pancetta. Following that, I skipped the tomato base and went with gorgonzola and salami. When pizza comes to mind in Kyoto, so should Al Camino.

Japanese and English menu; Japanese spoken

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