Food & Drink | Kanagawa Restaurants

Il Veliero: Pizza, woodsmoke and a cool sea breeze

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

The breeze off the bay ruffles the canvas parasols overhead. The soothing, constant lapping of the waves on the nearby rocks drowns out any shouts from the beach beyond. The aroma of woodsmoke wafts out from the kitchen. The oven is primed and ready to go at Pizzeria il Veliero Hayama.

The alfresco experience: Arrive early to snag a spot at one of Il Veliero's outdoor tables. | ROBBIE SWINNERTON
The alfresco experience: Arrive early to snag a spot at one of Il Veliero’s outdoor tables. | ROBBIE SWINNERTON

It’s no secret that this stretch of coastline on the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa Prefecture boasts some lovely beaches — in fact, among the finest within easy reach of Tokyo. What’s less widely known is that there’s plenty of good eating to be found here too. Il Veliero is one of the best of the recent arrivals.

The nautical name (“the sailing vessel” in Italian) is apt. Located at the base of a majestic, unspoiled forested bluff, this gleaming white, three-story house evokes the look of a ship’s superstructure. But in place of the captain’s bridge, it sports a terrace up on the second floor that commands an enviable view over the sea towards Isshiki Beach and the woods of the imperial villa behind.

Especially in the busy summer season, you will need to arrive in good time if you want to beat the locals to one of the four coveted alfresco tables up here. But it’s worth it, just to be able to sit back with a glass — a bottle, even, if you’re not driving — and drink in this exceptional vista.

Midweek, there’s extra incentive during the daytime, in the form of Il Veliero’s lunch special (¥1,950). Along with your pizza or pasta, this will include a small but excellent antipasto, perhaps some carpaccio or other seafood fresh from the nearby fishing port of Sajima, with salad and soup on the side and coffee or tea to close.

Otherwise, you’ll find half a dozen pizzas to choose from, ranging from a simple but well-constructed Marinara (¥1,250) to the house-special seafood Pizza Veliero (¥2,950). Whichever, they’re as good as you’d expect to find in Tokyo — OK, perhaps not at the very highest end but well above average — and certainly live up to the setting.

Picture perfect: Salsiccia pizza with a view of Sagami Bay. | ROBBIE SWINNERTON
Picture perfect: Salsiccia pizza with a view of Sagami Bay. | ROBBIE SWINNERTON

In the evening and on weekends, Il Veliero offers a compact but rewarding a la carte menu. As you’d expect, there’s a strong emphasis on the local fish and shellfish. But Hayama also has a strong reputation for its beef, as featured in a number of dishes, including the Bolognese recipe.

Obviously, there will be times when the weather is inclement or the wind is too gusty. However, it’s really not a hardship if you have to retreat inside to the dining room. The view is still the same, albeit through glass, plus you get to ogle the handsome pizza oven which was constructed to strict Neapolitan standards, with all the requisite tilework across its front.

Remarkably, this is far from being the only (or the best) ristorante in this locale. There is great Sardinian fare at nearby Il Rifugio, while down the road at the ever popular Piscaria the Sicilian specialties are as good as ever. Now, with its pizzas and prime location, Il Veliero adds a taste of the Amalfi Coast to this little enclave of Italian gastronomy looking out on the Pacific.

Isshiki 2389-6, Hayama, Miura-gun, Kanagawa 240-0111; 046-890-6357; pizzeria-ilveliero.com; open 11:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. (L.O.), 5-8 p.m. (L.O.); closed Wed. & 3rd Tues. of the month; pizza from ¥1,250, pasta from ¥900; weekday set lunch ¥1,950; nearest stations Zushi, Shin-Zushi; major credit cards; nonsmoking; English spoken