CANTÀ: Cool Cafe Style in Nishi-ojima

Good news for cafe lovers: there’s a great new place near Nishi-ojima station! Koto-ku’s reputation of being the cafe centre of Tokyo increased further in February 2019 as CANTÀ opened its doors. On a recent warm and sunny day, ideal for cafe life, I popped along for a chat with the brisk and youthful manager Ms. Misa Hioka.

 

 

“We opened on Valentine’s Day this year,” says Ms. Hioka, laughing. Although CANTÀ is a branch of the renowned pizzeria (and Kotomise member) L’insieme, there’s no pasta or pizza on the menu. “Our menu is simple and straightforward; panino, quiche, baked goods and drinks.”

 

 

Ms. Hioka demonstrates her skills with this gorgeous doppio con ghiaccio (twice with ice) double iced espresso. All the usual favourites are on the menu: cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, and so. Those that aren’t, such as flat white, marocchino, and cortado, Ms. Hioka is more than happy to prepare.

 

 

Ms. Hioka demonstrates her skills with this gorgeous doppio con ghiaccio (twice with ice) double iced espresso. All the usual favourites are on the menu: cappuccino, macchiato, mocha and so. Those that aren’t, such as flat white, marocchino and cortado, Ms. Hioka is more than happy to prepare.

 

 

What to eat with your coffee? “I make panini with different fillings every day,” says Ms. Hioka. “Today is ham with cheese, other days will be with rucola or mini tomatoes. It depends on the season. Quiche is French style with ham and cheese or seasonal ingredients like new potatoes and bacon. I’m also making it with Japanese ingredients such as edible chrysanthemum greens (shungiku) and piquant burdock root with carrot (kinpira gobo)”.

 

 

Ms.Hioka makes all the baked goods and sweets herself. This blood orange tart looks mighty tasty.

 

 

As does this rum raisin cake. Ms. Hioka also makes a lemon tart with fruit from her home area of Hiroshima and carrot cake as well. From Italy there are the pretzel-like taralli and amor polenta, a rich afternoon tea cake. Yum yum.

 

 

CANTÀ also serves tea, sourced from a tea company based in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture. Assam, Darjeeling, and a camomile and verbena herb blend are on the menu.

 

 

Why not try a brutti with your tea? A kind of Italian meringue cookie, they look delicious, as do the peanut and oatmeal ones on the right.

 

 

The beans used at CANTÀ come from a specialist roaster in Kanagawa Prefecture. I enjoyed a very tasty iced Americano since it was a warm day. The coffee flavour was rich and deep without being bitter in any way. Very nice!

 

 

The hard-working Ms. Hioka opens the cafe at 8:00 am and does a brisk trade in panini and coffee for commuters. In the afternoon, a steady stream of customers filled the place for eat in or takeaway: homemakers taking a break from shopping, young mothers and babies, ladies on their way back from the sports club. CANTÀ sells alcoholic drinks too, wine, beer, grappa, amaro, vermouth, and the like.

 

 

Some of these drinks which Ms.Hioka picked up on her travels around Italy may well be unavailable elsewhere in Japan. Whatever your taste, it’s certain that there’s something on the menu at CANTÀ for you. Why not drop in and find out? If you visit on a sunny afternoon, you may well find yourself there for hours!

 

 

 

Story and Photos by Stephen Spencer