Once upon a time, you would probably have been laughed out of the room for trying to compare any pizza in Japan to those from the dish’s homeland. Now, Tokyo plays ready challenger, with enough great options to make writing a list of top pizza restaurants genuinely difficult.
Fueled by a wave of Japanese chefs who put in the hours in top restaurants in Italy, and Italian chefs keen to crack the Japanese market, the scene has matured into one that is truly first-rate.
Below is a list of five favorites, and a sprinkling of honorable mentions, where the pizza is superb whatever the occasion. All offer takeout or delivery, making them appropriate options for the #stayhome era.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele Ebisu
Ask any Italian and they’ll know of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Its shop in Naples is now over 150 years old and refers to itself as “the temple of pizza.”
Like the original, the Ebisu location’s menu is limited and simple. There are only two tomato-based pizzas — a margherita and a marinara — and the shop prioritizes high-quality ingredients over elaborate combinations. The base ingredients — the flour, the tomatoes and the mozzarella — are all imported from Naples. Unsurprisingly, the pizzas are delicious.
The Tokyo location is a short walk from Ebisu Station, and features an open, but crowded, dining room adjacent to the kitchen, which proudly boasts a rustic, blue-tiled, wood-fired pizza oven. Out front, the restaurant has a small area of alfresco seating for those wanting the outside air. Finish your meal off with some tiramisu-flavored Limoncello.
Ebisu 4-4-7, Shibuya-ku 150-0013; takeout and delivery available for lunch or dinner, order by web or phone; damichele.jp/tokyo
Patriotic Italians would sooner share their grandmother’s pasta recipe than admit to liking Pizza Slice, a New York-style joint with three locations in Tokyo. It feels risky including it in a list of best pizza shops in Tokyo — please address any complaints to the editor — but pizza isn’t all about the artisan, and sometimes you need something a little rougher around the edges.
The pizza is served — as the name suggests — by the slice in the well-established “big slice, thin crust” model and is (relatively) cheap, fast, filling and addictive in a problematic-for-the-waistline kind of way. It’s a favorite among Tokyo’s younger crowd and, pre-coronavirus, the Omotesando location (the largest of the three stores) frequently put on event nights — skateboarding film premieres, that kind of thing.
Pizza Slice has a core offering of six pizzas, from pepperoni and jalapeno to caramelized onion, as well as a slice of the day. It’s nothing to write home about, but when you’re looking for unpretentious, tasty pizza, it does the trick.
Three locations in Shibuya, Omotesando and Roppongi; takeout available from the Roppongi location from 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. (or until sold out), order via phone or Uber Eats; bit.ly/pizzaslicetokyo-ig
Pizzeria da Peppe Napoli Stac’ca”
If you’ve got anything against the S.S.C Napoli football team, Napoli Stac’ca” is not for you. Its Kamiyacho location, a short walk from Tokyo Tower, displays as much passion for the team as it does the pizza, from the Napoli-blue tiling around the pizza oven and restaurant to the noisy Italo-pop that blares from the speakers (it’s worth putting up with for the pizza).
Run by Naples native Giuseppe “Peppe” Errichiello, the restaurant’s signature pizza is the Don Salvo, which is shaped like an eight-pointed star instead of your classic round pie. The center is essentially a margherita with a sprinkling of extra Parmesan, but the magic lies in the points of the crust, which are stuffed with ricotta and spicy Italian sausage.
The selection of antipasti gives depth to the menu (the bruschetta plate is particularly good), and the tiramisu is abundant and delicious. The restaurant is usually packed with regulars, so reservations are necessary on any normal night.
Pizzeria e Trattoria da Isa
Da Isa is the top-ranked pizza shop in Tokyo on Tabelog, and had a pre-pandemic queue for seats to match. The shop is the child of Hisanori Yamamoto, and when it opened in 2010 it was the talk of the town; in the late 2000s, Yamamoto won the World Pizza Championship in Naples three years running.
Where many of the menus at Tokyo’s pizza shops are more limited, da Isa lists almost 30 pizzas on its menu, ranging from the humble margherita to my favorite, the capricciosa, which comes garnished with sliced artichoke hearts.
Located on the main boulevard running away from Nakameguro Station, the location is great, too, and on warm nights staff open up the shop front so that it spills out on the street beneath the yellow-and-white striped awning. Che storia!
Aobadai 1-28-9, Meguro-ku 153-0042; takeout available for lunch or dinner via phone reservation or at the store; da-isa.jp
I heard legends of Pizza Studio Tamaki within days of arriving in Tokyo, but I didn’t actually visit until its Roppongi branch began serving a tomato kakigōri (shaved ice) pizza — its monthly special last August. The restaurant’s reputation preceded it, yet the novelty of that pizza is what finally drew me through the doors.
How glad I am that it did. This paper has already called PST a challenger for the title of Tokyo’s best pizza, and there’s no hyperbole to that. What sounded like a gimmick ended up being one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten, hands down.
The rest of the menu maintains the same quality, even if the toppings are more conventional. The Tamaki is a variant of the margherita that boasts smoked mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and pecorino, and the Diavola is wonderfully piquant, just the right number of Scovilles shy of too hot.
There are two branches of PST, but the Roppongi one is where owner Tsubasa Tamaki seems to spend most of his time nowadays. The menu, top to bottom, is quality and the pizza is something to remember.
Locations in Roppongi and Higashiazabu; takeout options will be available shortly at both locations; pst-tk2-ad.com
Not on the main list, but looming large behind many of Tokyo’s best pizzerias, is Savoy, another restaurant serving up fine Neapolitan pizzas, and where PST’s Tamaki learned the ropes. Yet another progeny of Savoy is Shogo Yamaguchi, who trained at its Azabujuban branch before opening Frey’s Famous Pizzeria in the shadow of Roppongi’s Tokyo Midtown. The pizzas here are a little on the small side, so go for lunch, when the menu is a better value for money. However, arguably the most important restaurant to come out of Savoy is run by its founder Susumu Kakinuma, who reopened its original branch as Seirinkan, a truly excellent pizzeria in Nakameguro. If, after all this, you’re craving something heavier on the toppings, head to Pizzakaya, which serves Californian-style pizza (also with gluten-free options) in a diner setting with a selection of craft beers from the U.S.