Echi Ponte Vecchio a Osaka: Florence-inspired pizzeria with a view

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Contributing Writer

Chef and Italophile Daisuke Yamane has a thing for a particular bridge that spans the Arno River in Florence: the Ponte Vecchio. While the famous Italian bridge may or may not ring a bell, you’ll more than likely recognize it from a photo: a centuries old whimsical multi-story bridge with houses and shops built into it. The bridge also has a starring role in the 1986 film “A Room with a View,” occupying much of the aforementioned view.

Yamane is an Osaka native who has been awarded a cavaliere (knighthood) by the Italian government for his work in promoting the culture of Italy — especially its food — in Japan. His culinary company takes its name from the Florentine bridge and he’s bequeathed the name to each one of his upscale restaurants dotted across Osaka.

Echi Ponte Vecchio a Osaka, to give it its full mouthful of a name, opened with the renewal of Osaka Station back in 2011. At its core, it’s a pizza and pasta restaurant, but your local, cozy pizzeria it is not. Located on the 10th floor of Osaka Station, it looks down on, and out over, the city.

Make sure you wander over to the floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the views, especially as there’s a strong likelihood you’ve spent a good time waiting outside the restaurant with little for visual stimulus besides the deep-red glow of the pizza oven.

Pizza and pasta have the lion’s share of the menu, but there’s also a considerable antipasto selection. The starter — we couldn’t decide if it was a soup or salad, as it seemed to be both — was delicious: condensed Chinese cabbage served in tomato soup topped with grated Parmesan.

Echi makes good use of Japan’s bounty of fresh ingredients, especially with the fish and vegetable selection. Chef Yamane is not afraid to experiment with pizza toppings, and why not? As long as sweetcorn and mayonnaise don’t figure.

We start with a margherita (¥1,400), the Neapolitan gold standard. Yamane’s recipe doesn’t disappoint: It’s the right combination of a crust that’s baked full of pockets of air, with wood-oven charring on the underside and in a few raised spots along the face of the pizza. The pizza is topped with a light and an ever so salty tomato sauce and finished with buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves. It’s simple and satisfying.

The margherita is followed by a pizza that is far more Japanese: shirao (icefish) from Aomori Prefecture and nanohana (rapeseed) served in a lemon dressing (¥1,800). The dressing is a problem here; it contains too much lemon — a strong flavor to begin with — so much so that it is almost impossible to taste anything but the citrus agent. But the espresso, which closes out lunch, helps to wipe the palette clean.

Unsurprisingly, Tabelog — the restaurant review website — has Yamane’s pizzeria in its top 100 list of pizzerias in Japan. And, with its glitzy location and excellent chef, all the ingredients are there for great pizza, alongside a few that perhaps shouldn’t be.

Pizzas from ¥980: English menu; some English spoken